Modern Music – UPSC Notes – Art and Culture

Towards the close of the 19th century and the onset of the 20th century, a revival in Indian music unfolded. Rabindranath Tagore contributed uniquely to this resurgence of Modern Music with his compositions known as ‘Rabindra Sangeet.’ Additionally, the patriotic fervor of the early 20th century drew several musicians, including Kazi Nazrul Islam, Vishnu Digamabar Paluskar, and Subramania Bharati, into the freedom struggle.

Key developments during this period include:

  1. In 1901, Vishnu Digamabar Paluskar established Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Lahore to break the stronghold of gharanas on classical music and broaden its artistic base.
  2. Marris College of Music was founded in Lucknow in 1926 by Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande with the aim of reviving the art of music.
  3. An All-India Music Academy was established in 1919 to promote research, study, and a deeper understanding of the art of music in India.
  4. In 1928, the Madras Music Academy was established to rejuvenate interest in Carnatic music.

Modernism in Indian Music:

The traditions of Indian music were not immune to the global modernism experienced in various art forms. Modernism, characterized by diverse reactions challenging and reinterpreting older musical categories, led to innovations in organizing and approaching harmonic, melodic, sonic, and rhythmic aspects of music.

This artistic movement gave rise to new music genres such as Jazz, pop-music, freestyle, alternative R&B, etc. Cross-cultural collaborations emerged between Indian artists and those from around the world, resulting in the fusion of Indian classical music traditions with contemporary art forms. Notable instances include Jazz pioneers like John Coltrane and George Harrison collaborating with Indian instrumentalists in the early 1960s, and rock and roll fusions with Indian music gaining popularity in Europe and North America in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Influence of Western Music on Indian Music Traditions

The intersection of globalization, technological advancements, and the growing embrace of Western practices presents a dual scenario, offering both opportunities and challenges to the preservation of Indian musical traditions.


  1. Increased Recognition of Indian Classical Music Traditions: Evident in the global acclaim and respect garnered by artists like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussain, and AR Rahman.
  2. Revitalization of Indian Classical Music: Global interest in Indian classical music has led to a revival, with notable examples like Shankar Tucker, a renowned Western clarinet exponent.
  3. Expanded Livelihood Opportunities: Traditional artists in India are experiencing enhanced career prospects, fostering sustainability.
  4. Enrichment of Indian Musical Traditions: The infusion of diverse influences, exemplified by the emergence of genres like Indie-pop, contributes to the evolution and enrichment of Indian music.


  1. Preference for Western Music Among Students: Economic considerations are leading many students to opt for Western music over traditional Indian forms.
  2. Growing Popularity of Western Music: Western music is increasingly becoming the favored choice among the general populace.
  3. Challenges Faced by Traditional Artists: Traditional artists struggle to adapt to modern methods of composition and marketing, lacking resources available to Western counterparts.
  4. Threat to Livelihood in Rural Areas: The encroachment of Westernization into rural regions poses a threat to the livelihoods of local artists.
  5. Cinema Trends: Across various languages, popular cinema is exhibiting a concerning inclination towards favoring Western musical forms over traditional Indian ones in recent times.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Modern Music

Q1: What is modern Indian music?

Modern Indian music encompasses classical, folk, devotional, and popular genres, reflecting a fusion of traditional elements with contemporary influences.

Q2: How did Indian classical music evolve during modern times?

By modern times, Indian classical music had diverged into Hindustani and Carnatic traditions. The modern form of Hindustani classical music is represented by Khayal gayaki, evolving from Dhrupad.

Q3: What is considered modern music?

“Modern music” generally refers to contemporary or current music, spanning various styles like classical, jazz, and popular music from the late 19th century onwards.

Q4: Who is considered the founder of modern music?

Arnold Schoenberg, a Jewish-Austrian composer, is often described as the “father of modern music” for developing the Twelve-Tone Method of Composition.

Q5: What are three characteristics of modern music?

Modern music is characterized by unique rhythms, increased unpredictability of rhythm, and a focus on tone color for variety and continuity.

Q6: How do classical and modern music differ?

Classical music is associated with elegance and sophistication, while modern music is characterized by energy, simplicity, and emotion, representing distinct genres that have evolved over time.

Q7: What distinguishes traditional and modern music?

Traditional music reflects culture and context, while modern music integrates technology for effects on sounds and rhythms.

Q8: Can you provide a summary of modern music?

Modern music, emerging around 1900, is characterized by the dissolution of traditional tonality, exploring atonalism, polytonalism, or other altered tonalities.

Q9: What are the characteristics of modern music style?

Modern music often features blurred genre boundaries, social and political commentary, and innovations in rhythm, instrumentation, tone color, form, and performance techniques.

Q10: Who is considered the father of music?

Johann Sebastian Bach is often regarded as the father of music for his significant contributions as a composer and musician in the Baroque era.

Q11: Who is the father of modern sound?

Ben Burtt, known as “the father of modern sound design,” played a crucial role in reinventing science fiction movie sounds, notably through his work on “Star Wars.”

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