It was a time of enormous contrasts. In the US there was the unbounded prosperity of the 1920's followed by the economic collapse of the 1930's. The hey day of the Twenties was "sobered" by an unenforceable Prohibition against alcohol that fostered a disdain for government - to be followed by a Thirties that "slaked the thirst" while using the power of government to save many from deprivation.
Originally Posted by blansky
Meanwhile, in Europe you had total economic chaos on the Continent as Germany attempted to use inflation to absolve its unbearable war reparation debts leading to the rise of Fascism even while in Russia (and thus the nascent Soviet Union) the Communists were proclaiming their own vision of a "new order" to society.
Lay on top of this an older European elite desparately trying to re-establish the pre-WWI order upon a world that they could no longer "control". The composer escapes me right now - but there is a famous "waltz" symphony written in the early 1920's that starts out very "formal" but slowly and inevitable "decays" to cacaphony - representing an ordered world that cannot be restored.
The 1920's and '30's were times of social forment - so it is not surprising that there was a flowering of new forms artistic endeavors.
They were echoed in the 1960's for different (but similar reasons).
What is more interesting is that since the latter era - the arts, and the society they reflect, have been derivative and quiescent. Perhaps there will one day soon be a volcanic explosion of both?