The Top 4 Classical Music Composers of the Modern Era


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Classical music transcends through generations and is a genre that has influenced the style of many musicians throughout the ages. Even if you’re not someone who actively listens to it regularly, you’ve probably heard Beethoven’s 5th Symphony somewhere without even realizing it.

A modern classical music composer aims to keep this genre of music going while adding some modern elements to it. While some may move completely towards the digital music route, using hardware and software to create a composition, others experiment with different sounds and ambiances that add to the flair of their style of music. Whichever route they take, it is a form of constant experimentation that they hope will inspire people for years to come.

While the works of Beethoven and Mozart continue to stand the test of time, some compositions from contemporary classical music artists should not be ignored. Below we take a look at four modern classical music composers you should be listening to:

Peter Oundjian

As a Canadian-American violinist and conductor, Peter Oundjian’s career as a classical musician has led him to become one of the most influential music directors of the modern era, having conducted the symphonic orchestras of Detroit and Colorado.

He has also contributed to the revival of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra during his tenure there. His musical background has led to the success of various festivals, and since he is currently conducting at the Colorado Symphony, this would be a great opportunity to check out this classical music festival in Boulder and catch him in the act.

Steve Reich

Steve Reich is widely known for his contributions toward a more ‘minimalist’ approach to contemporary classical music composition. From composing film soundtracks in the 1960s to taking up various activities to perfect his craft, his most popular work comes from a piece of music titled ‘WTC 9/11’, which debuted in 2011 and is inspired by the events of September 11th, 2001.

It took him ten years to reflect and process the events of 9/11 to compose this piece for String Quartet and Tape. This piece included recordings of air traffic controllers and witnesses blended into the music to provide a haunting experience for those listening. It was performed by the Kronos Quartet.

Steve Reich has also influenced musicians from other genres, most notably the progressive rock band ‘King Crimson’ and the indie-rock band ‘The 1975’. Fellow composer Kyle Gann has also regarded Reich as being considered ‘America’s greatest living composer.’

Hildur Guðnadóttir

Even if you have not heard of Hildur Guðnadóttir, chances are you’ve probably heard her work before. Being a classically trained cellist and composer, she has provided the soundtrack for movies like Journey’s End (2017), Joker (2019), and the HBO miniseries Chernobyl (2019), for which she received an Emmy award, A BAFTA award, and a Grammy.

Her Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and BAFTA for Best Original Music makes her the first female composer to have won in both categories.

Hildur Guðnadóttir’s career still has a lot to offer her, but with so many accolades to her name already, it’s exciting to see what she works towards next.

Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho is a Finnish composer widely regarded as one of the most accomplished contemporary classical composers and is known for her opera arrangements. Two of her most popular pieces are L’Amour de Loin (2000), for which she received a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording and Innocence (2018), which is considered one of the most powerful works of her career spanning five decades.

Saariaho’s orchestral works were greatly influenced by her technique of developing computer-assisted compositions, which she was able to fuse into a tape and live electronics.

Developing this skill at an early stage in her career allowed her to set the tone for future compositions, and it set a standard for digital compositions as we know them today.


When we think about classical music as a genre, most of us keep going back to the works of composers from many centuries ago. While they did greatly influence the way music is created nowadays, there is no reason not to shed some light on composers who are making their own impact as classical composers of the modern era.

The advancements in digital music over the past 50 years or so have hit so many strides that you no longer need a full orchestra at your disposal. However, many would argue that there is nothing like being a part of an orchestra, whether you are a composer or a musician.

Experimentation is the hallmark of any art movement, and contemporary classical music embraces it rather than sticking to old methods. While they struggle to create their own identity and try not to remain in the shadows of the legendary composers of the generations gone by, there’s no denying the impact they are making in keeping the classical music genre alive.