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Topic: How to listen to atonality?

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  1. #81

    Re: How to listen to atonality?

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy
    I think, in the end, we are actually very much on the same wave length.

    The saddest thing is this (to my mind) erroneous jump from the *I* must strive to improve myself and move forward in my art, to this over-generalized notion that there is some sort of giant category "all artists" who must improve this vague monumental abstract entity known as "music".

    It is as if many historians/musicologists are trying to force us into a massive communist hive-mind of creative thinking. We all must work to "better" this entity of which we are all but little cogs and gears.
    I think we're totally on the same wavelength. Sometimes I just express things in completely the wrong way to start with.

    There's nothing sadder in music history than the angst in Brahms' writings, when he says he'll never be able to write a symphony with Beethoven breathing down his neck. I say he should have simply done it (thank goodness he eventually did) and worried more about entertaining his immediate audiences, rather than generations to come.

  2. #82

    Re: How to listen to atonality?

    I'm still sometimes taken aback by the number of people who think there are just two types of Classical music: Traditional and atonal/serial. It reminds me of that bar in "The Blues Brothers", where they played "both kinds of music: Country and Western".

    Please take a peek here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contemp...lassical_music

    A LOT has changed since the 1950's/early 60's.
    "An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have, but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them."

    - Andy Warhol

  3. #83

    Re: How to listen to atonality?

    Quote Originally Posted by klassical
    I'm still sometimes taken aback by the number of people who think there are just two types of Classical music: Traditional and atonal/serial. It reminds me of that bar in "The Blues Brothers", where they played "both kinds of music: Country and Western".

    Please take a peek here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contemp...lassical_music

    A LOT has changed since the 1950's/early 60's.
    While I get what you're trying to say, this is a slightly confusing post. There are only two types of music; Tonal and atonal (Actually it's more complicated than that, but I'll get onto that in a moment). They aren't styles. They are diametrically opposed properties of any music. Music must have a degree of tonality and atonality, in the same way that it must have a speed. The list at Wikipedia is a list of styles (which are just fictional groupings invented by historians), and within several of them are composers who write both tonal and atonal music. Arvo Part, for instance, is usually a strongly tonal post-minimalist (a term he objects to very strongly), whilst Louis Andriessen writes a very atonal brand of minimalism. Mark Anthony Turnage can sometimes give a strong impression of tonality, particularly when he is assimilating jazz elements, but often does the opposite.

    When we talk about tonality vs. atonality here, I don't think anyone is talking about particular schools of music (although there is much confusion amongst people with less music education. Many will assume, if you use the word atonal, that you are using it synonymously with Serialism).

    So I don't mind a discussion about tonality vs. atonality; I think it's a valid one. There are two things that irk me slightly though. The first is that many assume that atonal means 'dreadfully dissonant'. The second, which is strongly linked, is that many believe the two are diametrically opposed states which are switched on or off; music is either tonal or atonal.

    If we take the widest definition of tonality - i.e. music that creates a sense of one tone being centrally important - then I think music exists on a continuum between the two. In the same way that music is not either fast or slow, I don't think it has to be tonal or atonal. Take the music of Debussy for example. If we take the narrow view that music must be one or the other, then Debussy's music is very definitely atonal. He uses the elements of Beethoven's 'functional' harmony in a way that abuses their normal functions. For instance the dominant 7th chord usually had the function of defining exactly where you are tonally; Debussy will happily use 6 or 7 different 'dominant 7th' chords in a row, suggesting 6 keys in as many beats. Would you describe his music as atonal though? I wouldn't. Less strongly tonal than Beethoven, definitely, but Debussy somehow forces a sense of tonality to exist. Even in the Rite of Spring there are passages when a sense of tonality pervades. In medieval/renaissance music there are many pieces which are only very weakly tonal. 'Viderunt Omnes,' for example has the wierdest harmony and part writing, and only forces a sense of tonality by virtue of sitting on one harmonic field for the whole piece.

    My other peeve is when people assume that atonal means dissonant. Again I would point them to Debussy. There are piano preludes without any dissonances at all, but only a weak sense of tonality. Whereas there are moments in Bach more dissonant than anything Schoenberg ever wrote. It's how the dissonance is used. Challenging a chord, but then resolving it actually creates a massively stronger tonality than endless streams of undiluted consonsances.

    Anyway, I need to take my daughters to ballet now, so enough waffle...

  4. #84

    A response to Pinqu

    Well gee, Pinqu - If you're going to get all reasonable, knowledgeable, and intelligent on me, how are we supposed to have an argument?

    I agree that the tonal/atonal discussion is a valid one. It's important for people who consider themselves classical composers to think it through. As you point out, it's a continuum and the results need not be highly dissonant and incomprehensible. Debussy is a fine example.

    My concern, not only from this thread but from many others, is for the people who (because of inexperience or bad teachers) think there are only two choices: writing pretty melodies with traditional harmonies v.s. that "ugly, dissonant" music like Schoenberg. Worse, is when they say they feel pressured to write atonal music because it's the "in" thing.

    To those people, I want to say you are 'tilting at windmills'. While people like Boulez and Carter are performed and discussed all over the place, that's because they have become our old masters. But while they are basking in their 'Twilight of the Gods' moment, there are countless thousands of other composers who take their point of departure from the Minimalists, Neo-Romanticists, and many other sources. [Pinqu - While I agree that these terms are largely made up, they do help us discuss things.]

    The point being that you *can* write that lush, tonal, Romantic Violin Concerto you've always wanted to without worrying about what the critics will say. Just be sure you have your own, unique way of doing so.

    - k

    p.s. Check out Tom Myron's Violin Concerto #2 (~2006)--> http://www.broadjam.com/transmit/tra...888&yhgbndsq=3
    "An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have, but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them."

    - Andy Warhol

  5. #85

    Re: A response to Pinqu

    Quote Originally Posted by klassical
    Well gee, Pinqu - If you're going to get all reasonable, knowledgeable, and intelligent on me, how are we supposed to have an argument?
    LOL!! Why argue? - I think your point was great! I'm totally in agreement with you. This rather black and white view, which turns Atonality into a school, really, really bugs me. I used to have a head of department, who was only very vaguely aware of what was out there, and assumed that the words modern and atonal meant the same thing.

    I just hoped that noone here thought like that (though if you've found it in this thread then I'll quite happily concede that your post is thoroughly necessary).

  6. #86

    Re: How to listen to atonality?

    There are hardly any composers nowadays that make it a point to have no key center, and those are the people still doing serialism, which is in my opinion, pointless, it puts too much math into it, and takes away a lot of the human part of music. A failed experiment in my opinion, serialism that is, atonality has its place, especially in the music I write. I use it more as a tool to give the tonality more impact, which I assume is quite common. My favorite "atonal" piece would have to Wozzeck by Alban Berg, it shows a battle between tonality and atonality though, but the tonality is used more as a tool to build up tension (it works the opposite way here, since your ear is used to the atonal music, if you have a taste for it, by the time the tonality shows up)

  7. #87

    Re: How to listen to atonality?



    How to Listen to Atonality
    "An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have, but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them."

    - Andy Warhol

  8. #88

    Re: How to listen to atonality?

    Quote Originally Posted by pgfan92 View Post
    A failed experiment in my opinion, serialism that is, atonality has its place, especially in the music I write.
    I wrote a very similar opinion in an article recently, which you can read here: http://jamiekowalski.blogspot.com/20...s-correct.html

    I think "failed experiment" is a little harsh, but I agree that the 12-tone system lived long beyond its usefulness.
    - Jamie Kowalski

    All Hands Music - Kowalski on the web
    The Ear Is Always Correct - Writings on composition

  9. #89

    Re: How to listen to atonality?

    Serialism falls under the category I loosely refer to as algorithmic composition. Though great skill and attention to detail can be applied in 12-tone composition, the result is generally devoid of meaning to another human being simply because the composer is not able to impart much meaning to an algorithmic process. Disorientation seems easy enough to achieve, but things like joy, heroism, melancholy, deep sadness, etc. are quite difficult to render serially. As you indicate, serialism is just too small a subset of the vast palette available to the composer to be in use continuously.

    Where serialism is routinely atonal, tonal music can also be generated algorithmically, though obviously not serially, and the result will often be equally meaningless. Writing by formula will certainly generate "music", but the generated music will at best randomly reach a select audience because the composer is not communicating anything substantial, only that a fairly restrictive formal process was employed to generate a certain sonic effect. Certainly such an effect may be useful in a given context, but it is difficult to see how algorithmic methods can be the mainstay of an expressive artist.

  10. #90

    Re: How to listen to atonality?

    Hey everyone,

    Interesting topic. I thought I'd add my 2 cents.

    The whole point of serialism was to formalize the tradition brought on by extreme romantic chromaticists, like Richard Strauss. If you look at Shoenberg's serialsm, it is very dramatic and, in my opinion, definately portrays emotion. Serialm is music for music's sake. It wasn't meant to be accepted by everyone.

    Just my thoughts.

    Jonny
    For more information, check out www.jonathoncox.com/intro.html

    "The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music they should be taught to love it instead." - Igor Stravinsky

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