The 12-Tone thread

Discussion in 'Jazz, Acoustic, Classical & Fingerstyle' started by All_¥our_Bass, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. AugmentedFourth

    AugmentedFourth X:1 K:C [c^f]|

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    Oct 13, 2011
    Portland, OR
    This may be ever-so-slightly off topic, but one of the reasons I like dodecaphonics is that it partially reflects on how humans perceive 'meaning', as in...

    ...At what point does serialism [a given serial composition] no longer mean anything to a listener, or even a reader? As we start finding progressively trickier and more cunning ways to manipulate a single 'theme' (i.e., tone row,) at what point does the manipulation become too fiendish and obscure to even be possible to unscramble, to differentiate from a theoretically possible completely 'random' composition, (written by a human using pitches selected entirely from a natural source of stochastic noise)?

    (Not bashing random methods of composition, just saying that at some point, the line is blurred between that and serialized musics.)

    Obviously, with relatively little thought, one can easily think of ways to create a composition using a well-defined set of rules (serial) that uses methods of permutation that are, say, self-referential multiple times, and/or employ some [arbitrarily]† arbitrary but strict conventions such that the line is indeed blurred quite well, so that it may even take some heavy-duty statistics methods just to even tell that your piece is not stochastically (randomly) generated, despite the fact that you used well-defined, strict, serialistic rules. However, this is not really of any interest to anybody -- the question is, "when does a composition, or rather, a method of permutation get to this point?" Clearly this question, as I have just posed it, is fairly nebulous and kind of ill-defined and maybe doesn't to the idea as a whole justice, but still it is interesting to think of why some methods of manipulation seem intuitively more/less arbitrary.

    This is probably why I like it so much when people (such as some of the fine gents above) sort of mix in tonality with what otherwise is serialized, dodecaphonic -- and altogether atonal and sterile-sounding styles of composing, even though it may detract a bit from what some of the O.G.'s of 12 tone were thinking.

    Sure, people like Schönberg (might be a bit sketchy on my history, correct me if I'm wrong) liked 12 tone because it was the best way to get away from the extremely ingrained presuppositions about music people in the West (or anywhere else, for that matter) have, just from listening to music, whether it's in church, or a pop song on the radio. But, certainly there is no shame in introducing a little bit of tonality if it allows us to introduce more complex ways of treating music while still conveying an even wider range of emotions. Furthermore, there's no denying that while 12 TET is inherently 'imperfect' from a purely frequency ratio perspective in order to suit modulations and fun things like that, there is still an inherent 'specialness' [sic] about certain intervals and the way they fit together, e.g. a (perfect) fifth is 3/2, a (perfect) fourth is 4/3, etc. that still exists in 12 TET and can be acknowledged, through conventional tonality, or otherwise.

    †: Sorry about this phrase. It's the best way I could think to put it, but it involves the rather clunky use of the adverb 'arbitrarily' modifying its own adjective! More than one reading of the sentence in question may be required. :ugh:
  2. onefourn

    onefourn Regular

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    Jul 9, 2009
    This is my take on the circle of 12 tones.


    A, D, A#, C#, E, F, G, C, G#, D#, B, F#
  3. Fathand

    Fathand Tube Snake Boogie

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    Nov 14, 2011
    Although my knowledge of musical theory is pretty limited, I've always found the 12-tone and other different compositional techniques quite intriguing - whether it's composition or improvisation based, no matter. I just like the logic behind them all. :)

    The thing with 12-tone is that people usually link it with atonality (that's what usually do too), but I could see that even if you base your tune on 12-tone series you could create an impression of tonality with a combination of selective harmony and melody.

    But my view might be a bit narrow on this and I'm pretty sure someone has done it already - does anyone have any examples of this kind of "tonal" 12-tone?
  4. Given To Fly

    Given To Fly Contributor

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    Jul 15, 2004
    Tucson, Arizona
    Alban Berg is your best bet. Also, the Second Viennese School is where I would start if you have an interest in atonality.

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