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Atonality describes music not conforming to the system of tonal hierarchies, which characterizes the sound of classical European music between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Atonality usually describes compositions written from about 1907 to the present day, where the hierarchy of tonal centers, in some cases, may not be used as the primary way to organize a work. Tonal centers gradually replaced modal organization starting in the 1500s and culminated with the establishment of the major-minor key system in the late 1600s and early 1700s. crap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ... Tonality is a system of writing music according to certain hierarchical pitch relationships around a center or tonic. ... Classical music is a broad, somewhat imprecise term, referring to music produced in, or rooted in the traditions of, European art, ecclesiastical and concert music, encompassing a broad period from roughly 1000 to the present day. ... (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... The term modal may refer to: Modal, a textile made from spun Beechwood cellulose Modal logic Modal verbs Mode Musical mode This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... In music, the adjectives major and minor can describe a scale, key, chord, or interval. ...

The most prominent school to compose in this manner was the Second Viennese School of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. However, composers such as George Antheil, Béla Bartók, John Cage, Carlos Chávez, Aaron Copland, Roberto Gerhard, Alberto Ginastera, Alois Haba, Josef Matthias Hauer, Carl Ruggles, Luigi Russolo, Roger Sessions, Nikos Skalkottas, Toru Takemitsu, Edgard Varèse, and others, including jazz artists such as Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Cecil Taylor (Radano 1993, 108-109), have written music that is described as atonal, and many traditional composers “flirted with atonality,” in the words of Leonard Bernstein[verification needed]. The Second Viennese School was a group of composers made up of Arnold Schoenberg and those who studied under him in early 20th century Vienna. ... Arnold Schoenberg, Los Angeles, 1948 Schoenberg redirects here. ... Portrait of Alban Berg by Arnold Schoenberg, c. ... Anton Webern (December 3, 1883 – September 15, 1945) was an Austrian composer. ... George Antheil (June 8, 1900 – February 12, 1959) was an American composer and pianist of German and Lutheran descent, born in Trenton, New Jersey. ... Béla Bartók in 1927 Bartok redirects here. ... John Cage For the character of John Cage from the TV show Ally McBeal see: John Cage (Character) John Milton Cage (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American experimental music composer, writer and visual artist. ... Carlos Chavez photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1937 Carlos Antonio de Padua Chávez y Ramírez (June 13, 1899 – August 2, 1978) was a Mexican composer, conductor, teacher, journalist, and the founder and director of the Mexico Symphony Orchestra. ... Aaron Copland Aaron Copland (November 14, 1900 – December 2, 1990) was an American composer of concert and film music. ... Roberto Gerhard (born September 25, 1896 in Valls, Catalonia; died January 5, 1970 in Cambridge, England), was a Catalan-born composer of classical music. ... Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (April 11, 1916 – June 25, 1983) was an Argentinian composer of classical music. ... Alois H ba (June 21, 1893 - November 18, 1973) was a Czech composer primarily known for his microtonal compositions, especially using the quarter tone scale, though he used others such as sixth-tones and twelfth-tones. ... Josef Mattias Hauer (March 19, 1883 – September 22, 1959) was an Austrian composer and music theorist. ... American composer Charles Sprague Ruggles (March 11, 1876 - October 24, 1971), better known as Carl, wrote finely-crafted pieces using dissonant counterpoint, a term coined by Charles Seeger to describe Ruggles music. ... Luigi Russolo ca. ... Roger Sessions (28 December 1896 – 16 March 1985) was an American composer, critic and teacher of music. ... Categories: 1901 births | 1949 deaths | 20th century classical composers | Violinists | Greek musicians | Composers stubs ... Tōru Takemitsu (武満 徹 Takemitsu Tōru, October 8, 1930 - February 20, 1996) was a Japanese composer of music, who explored the compositional principles of Western classical music and his native Japanese tradition both in isolation and in combination. ... Edgard Victor Achille Charles Varèse (December 22, 1883 – November 6, 1965) was a French-born composer. ... Jazz is an original American musical art form that originated around the start of the 20th century in New Orleans, rooted in African American musical styles blended with Western music technique and theory. ... Anthony Braxton (born June 4, 1945) is an American composer, multi-reedist and pianist. ... Ornette Coleman (born March 19, 1930) is an American saxophonist and composer. ... John Coltrane John William Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967), often known as Trane, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. ... Cecil Percival Taylor (born in New York City March 15, 1930) is an American pianist and poet now generally acknowledged to be one of the great innovative sources of free jazz (along with the better known Ornette Coleman). ... Leonard Bernstein in 1971 Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American composer, pianist and conductor. ...


History of atonality

While music without a tonal center had been written previously, for example Franz Liszt's Bagatelle sans tonalité of 1885, it is with the 20th century that the term atonality began to be applied to pieces, particularly those written by Arnold Schoenberg and The Second Viennese School. Portrait of Franz Liszt, painted in 1839 by Henri Lehmann. ... Bagatelle sans tonalité (Bagatelle without tonality) is a piece for solo piano written by Franz Liszt in 1885. ...

Their music arose from what was described as the crisis of tonality between the late 19th century and early 20th century in classical music. It was described by composer Ferruccio Busoni as the “exhaustion of the major-minor key system” [verification needed] and by Schoenberg as the “inability of one tonal chord to assert dominance over all of the others” [verification needed]. Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s As a means of recording the passage of time, the 20th century was that century which lasted from 1901–2000 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar (1900–1999... Classical music is a broad, somewhat imprecise term, referring to music produced in, or rooted in the traditions of, European art, ecclesiastical and concert music, encompassing a broad period from roughly 1000 to the present day. ... Ferruccio Busoni Dante Michaelangelo Benvenuto Ferruccio Busoni (April 1, 1866 – July 27, 1924) was an Italian composer, pianist, music teacher and conductor. ...

The first phase is often described as "free atonality" or "free chromaticism" and involved the conscious attempt to avoid traditional diatonic harmony. Works of this period include the opera Wozzeck (1917-1922) by Alban Berg and Pierrot Lunaire (1912) by Schoenberg. Wozzeck is the first opera by the Austrian composer Alban Berg (1885-1935). ... Pierrot Lunaire (Moonstruck Pierrot or Pierrot in the moonlight) is an important work of Arnold Schoenberg, a setting of Albert Girauds work of French poems of the same name (translated into German by Erich Otto von Hartleben) to music. ...

The second phase, begun after World War I, was exemplified by attempts to create a systematic means of composing without tonality, most famously the method of composing with 12 tones or the twelve-tone technique. This period included Berg's Lulu and Lyric Suite, Schoenberg's Piano Concerto, his opera Jacob's Ladder and numerous smaller pieces, as well as his final string quartets. Schoenberg was the major innovator of the system, but his student, Anton Webern, then began linking dynamics and tone color to the primary row as well, making the row not only of notes but other aspects of music as well. This, combined with the parameterization of Olivier Messiaen, would be taken as the inspiration for serialism. Combatants Allied Powers: British Empire France Italy Russia United States Central Powers: Austria-Hungary Bulgaria Germany Ottoman Empire Commanders Ferdinand Foch Georges Clemenceau Victor Emmanuel III Luigi Cadorna Armando Diaz Nicholas II Aleksei Brusilov Herbert Henry Asquith Douglas Haig John Jellicoe Woodrow Wilson John Pershing Wilhelm II Paul von Hindenburg... Twelve-tone technique (also dodecaphony) is a method of musical composition devised by Arnold Schoenberg. ... Lulu is an opera by the composer Alban Berg. ... Lyric Suite is a string quartet written by Alban Berg from 1925 to 1926 and (publically) dedicated to Alexander von Zemlinsky . ... Arnold Schoenbergs Piano Concerto, Op. ... Anton Webern (December 3, 1883 – September 15, 1945) was an Austrian composer. ... Olivier Messiaen. ... Serialism is a technique for composing music that uses sets to describe musical elements, and allows the composer manipulations of those sets to create music. ...

Atonality emerged as a pejorative term to condemn music in which chords were organized seemingly with no apparent coherence. In Nazi Germany, atonal music was attacked as "Bolshevik" and labeled as degenerate (Entartete Musik) along with other music produced by enemies of the Nazi regime. Many composers had their works banned by the regime, not to be played until after its collapse after World War II. Fingering for a first position C major chord on a guitar. ... Nazi Germany, or the Third Reich, commonly refers to Germany in the years 1933–1945, when it was under the firm control of the totalitarian and fascist ideology of the Nazi Party, with the Führer Adolf Hitler as dictator. ... Leaders of the Bolshevik Party and the Communist International, a painting by Malcolm McAllister on the Pathfinder Mural in New York City and on the cover of the book Lenin’s Final Fight published by Pathfinder. ... Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler and Adolf Ziegler visit the Nazi exhibition of degenerate art. ... Combatants Major Allied powers: United Kingdom Soviet Union United States Republic of China and others Major Axis powers: Nazi Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Harry Truman Chiang Kai-Shek Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tojo Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead...

In the years that followed, atonality represented a challenge to many composers — even those who wrote more tonal music were influenced by it. The Second Viennese School, and particularly 12-tone composition, was taken by avant-garde composers in the 1950s to be the foundation of the New Music, and led to serialism and other forms of musical experimentation. Prominent post-World War II composers in this tradition are Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Milton Babbitt. Many composers wrote atonal music after the war, even if before they had pursued other styles, including Elliott Carter and Witold Lutosławski. After Schoenberg's death, Igor Stravinsky began to write music with a mixture of serial and tonal elements. During this time, the chord progressions or successions designed to avoid a tonal center were explored and named, creating a vocabulary described as musical set theory focusing on pitch classes and pitch sets. Iannis Xenakis generated pitch sets from mathematical formulae, and also saw the expansion of tonal possibilities as part a synthesis between sound and science which he saw also in the music of ancient Greece. Serialism is a technique for composing music that uses sets to describe musical elements, and allows the composer manipulations of those sets to create music. ... Pierre Boulez Pierre Boulez (IPA: /pjɛʁ.buˈlÉ›z/) (born March 26, 1925) is a conductor and composer of classical music. ... Karlheinz Stockhausen (born August 22, 1928) is a German composer, one of the most important and controversial composers of the 20th century. ... Luciano Berio (October 24, 1925 – May 27, 2003) was an Italian composer. ... Krzysztof Penderecki. ... Milton Byron Babbitt (born May 10, 1916) is an American composer. ... Elliott Cook Carter, Jr. ... Witold LutosÅ‚awski at his home. ... Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (Russian: Игорь Фёдорович Стравинский, Igor Fëdorovič Stravinskij) (June 17, 1882 – April 6, 1971) was a Russian composer best known for three compositions from his earlier, Russian period: LOiseau de feu (The Firebird) (1910), Petrushka (1911), and Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) (1913). ... A chord progression (also chord sequence and harmonic progression or sequence), as its name implies, is a series of chords played in an order. ... Succession is the act or process of following in order or sequence. ... Musical set theory is an atonal or post-tonal method of musical analysis and composition which is based on explaining and proving musical phenomena, taken as sets and subsets, using mathematical rules and notation and using that information to gain insight to compositions or their creation. ... Iannis Xenakis Iannis Xenakis (Ιάννης Ξενάκης) (May 29, 1922 Brăila – February 4, 2001 Paris) was a Greek composer and architect who spent much of his life in Paris. ...

Atonal music continues to be composed, and many atonal composers of the late 20th century are still alive and active. However, serial atonal composition began to fade in the 1960s — where, on one hand, aleatoric music, spectral music, and electronic music demanded more and more attention and, on the other, musicians influenced by Eastern mysticism, modality, and Minimalism began writing music based on ostinato patterns. Aleatoric (or aleatory) music or composition, is music where some element of the composition is left to chance. ... As was the case with impressionism and many other labels for musical style, those composers whose music has been called spectral do not generally accept the label. ... Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features and core self expression. ... In music, an ostinato (derived from Italian: stubborn, compare English: obstinate) is a motif or phrase which is repeated over and over again at the same pitch [1]. Both ostinatos and ostinati are accepted English plural forms, albeit by different groups. ...

Controversy over the term itself

The appropriateness of the term "atonality" has been controversial. Schoenberg, whose music is generally used to define the term, was vehemently opposed to it, arguing that "The word 'atonal' could only signify something entirely inconsistent with the nature of tone. . . . [T]o call any relation of tones atonal is just as farfetched as it would be to designate a relation of colors aspectral or acomplementary. There is no such antithesis" (Schoenberg 1978, 432). For some, the term continues to carry negative connotations. Arnold Schoenberg, Los Angeles, 1948 Schoenberg redirects here. ...

"Atonal" developed a certain vagueness in meaning as a result of its use to describe a wide variety of compositional approaches that deviated from traditional chords and chord progressions. Attempts to solve these problems by using terms such as "pan-tonal," "non-tonal," "free-tonal," and "without tonal center" instead of "atonal" have not gained broad acceptance.

Composing atonal music

Setting out to compose atonal music may seem complicated because of both the vagueness and generality of the term. Additionally George Perle (1962) explains that, "the 'free' atonality that preceded dodecaphony precludes by definition the possibility of self-consistent, generally applicable compositional procedures." (p.9) However, he provides one example as a way to compose atonal pieces, a pre-twelve tone technique piece by Anton Webern, which rigorously avoids anything that suggests tonality, to choose pitches that do not imply tonality. In other words, reverse the rules of the common practice period so that what was not allowed is required and what was required is not allowed. This is what was done by Charles Seeger in his explanation of dissonant counterpoint, which is a way to write atonal counterpoint. George Perle (born May 6, 1915 in Bayonne, New Jersey) is a composer and musicologist who has studied with Ernst Krenek. ... Twelve-tone technique is a system of musical composition devised by Arnold Schoenberg. ... Anton Webern (December 3, 1883 – September 15, 1945) was an Austrian composer. ... In music the common practice period is a long period in western musical history spanning from before the classical era proper to today, dated, on the outside, as 1600-1900. ... Charles Seeger (Mexico City, Mexico, 1886 - 1979) was musicologist, composer, and teacher. ... Counterpoint is a very general feature of music (especially prominent in much Western music) whereby two or more melodic strands occur simultaneously - in separate voices, either literally or metaphorically (if the music is instrumental). ...

Further, he agrees with Oster and Katz that, "the abandonment of the concept of a root-generator of the individual chord is a radical development that renders futile any attempt at a systematic formulation of chord structure and progression in atonal music along the lines of traditional harmonic theory." (p.31). Atonal compositional techniques and results "are not reducible to a set of foundational assumptions in terms of which the compositions that are collectively designated by the expression 'atonal music' can be said to represent 'a system' of composition." (p.1)

Perle also points out that structural coherence is most often achieved through operations on intervallic cells. A cell "may operate as a kind of microcosmic set of fixed intervallic content, statable either as a chord or as a melodic figure or as a combination of both. Its components may be fixed with regard to order, in which event it may be employed, like the twelve-tone set, in its literal transformations... Individual tones may function as pivotal elements, to permit overlapping statements of a basic cell or the linking of two or more basic cells." (pp.9-10)

Audio examples of the role of dissonance and tonality claimed as part of our own physiological make-up (the ear) may be heard in the following links (which also are examples of the interaction and effect of consonance and dissonance upon each other). Click here The effect of context on dissonance, and here: The role of harmony in music. An experiment easily done on any piano can be found here: Experiment. Scroll down or search page for "experiment". In the content of those audios and critical arguments, a reader or composer may judge whether these perceptions are learned only by conditioning or are physically based.

Criticism of atonal music

Composer Anton von Webern held that "new laws asserted themselves that made it impossible to designate a piece as being in one key or another" (Webern 1963, 51), whereas musicologist Bob Fink has stated that all music is perceived as having a tonal center [verification needed]. Anton Webern (December 3, 1883 – September 15, 1945) was a composer of classical music and a member of the so called Second Viennese School. ... Robert Martin Fink (born December 29, 1935) is a Canadian/American musicologist, writer and artist. ...

Famous Swiss conductor, composer, and musical philosopher Ernest Ansermet, a critic of atonal music, wrote extensively on this in the book Les fondements de la musique dans la conscience humaine (Ansermet 1961) where he argued that Beethoven was unique in presenting the eternal ideal of the hero, his struggling and victory (the Fifth Symphony) and the typical Western universal ideal of a community of all social and loving humans (the Ninth Symphony) so forcefully and clearly. For Ansermet, the classical musical language was a precondition for that with its clear, harmonious structures. Tonality based on relatively simple interval relations is absolutely necessary in Ansermet's opinion. So the incomprehensible (to Ansermet) modern atonal music, by choosing interval relations seemingly at random, could not achieve such an impact, ethos and catharsis for an audience. Influential critic Theodor Adorno argued, however, that one could express anything from tragedy to a smirk in atonality, provided one had compositional ability [verification needed]. Ernest Alexandre Ansermet (November 11, 1883 – February 20, 1969) was a Swiss conductor. ... 1820 portrait by Karl Stieler Ludwig van Beethoven (pronounced ) (baptised December 17, 1770[1] – March 26, 1827) was a German composer and pianist. ... The coversheet to Beethovens 5th Symphony. ... The coversheet to Beethovens 5th Symphony. ... Max Horkheimer (front left), Theodor Adorno (front right), and Jürgen Habermas in the background, right, in 1965 at Heidelberg. ...

In the historical view, however, neither of the extremes of prediction have come about: atonality has neither replaced tonality, nor has it disappeared. There is, however, much agreement amongst many composers that atonal systems in the hands of less-talented composers will still sound weak expressively, and composers with a genuine tonal gift are capable of writing exquisite works using twelve-tone methods. Serialism itself has been taken up by a few tonal composers as a modest replacement for the common practice tendencies of certain traditional forms to conform to certain tonal expectations.

Composers of the American minimalist movement, such as are Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams, were reacting against what they saw as the stilted academicism of American university composition departments.[verification needed] The advent of eclecticism, particularly reflecting the absorption of world music and other so-called "popular" styles, continue to be at variance with anaytical and emotionally sterile mannerist approaches to art music.[verification needed] This article is about minimalism in art and design. ... Steve Reich Steve Reich (born Stephen Michael Reich, October 3, 1936) is an American composer. ... Philip Glass looks at sheet music in a portrait taken by Annie Leibovitz. ... John Coolidge Adams (born February 15, 1947) is an American composer, with strong roots in minimalism. ...

Also: serialism, Klangfarbenmelodie. Serialism is a technique for composing music that uses sets to describe musical elements, and allows the composer manipulations of those sets to create music. ... Klangfarbenmelodie (German for sound-color-melody) is a musical technique that involves breaking up a musical line or melody out from one instrument to between several instruments. ...

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

Image File history File links Wikiquote-logo-en. ... Wikiquote is a sister project of Wikipedia, using the same MediaWiki software. ...

See also

The emancipation of the dissonance was a concept or goal put forth by Arnold Schoenberg and others, including his pupil Anton Webern, composer of atonal music and the inventor of the twelve tone technique. ... For atonal pieces using the twelve-tone technique and serialism see: List of twelve-tone pieces and List of serial pieces. ...


  1. Ansermet, Ernest. 1961. Les fondements de la musique dans la conscience humaine. 2 v. Neuchâtel: La Baconnière.
  2. Beach, David, ed. (1983). "Schenkerian Analysis and Post-Tonal Music", Aspects of Schenkerian Theory. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  3. Fink, Bob (2004). "The false science of atonalist theories," Crosscurrents Journal... No. 196, Winter 2004.
  4. Katz, Adele T. (1945/1972). Challenge to Musical Traditions: A New Concept of Tonality. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc./New York: Da Capo.
  5. Oster, Ernst (1960). "Re: A New Concept of Tonality (?)", Journal of Music Theory 4, p.96.
  6. Perle, George (1962). Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07430-0.
  7. Radano, Ronald M. 1993. New Musical Figurations: Anthony Braxton's Cultural Critique Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  8. Schoenberg, Arnold. 1978. Theory of Harmony, translated by Roy Carter. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  9. Webern, Anton. 1963. The Path to the New Music, translated by Leo Black. Bryn Mawr. Pennsylvania: Theodore Presser; London: Universal Edition.

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  Results from FactBites:
Atonality - definition of Atonality - Labor Law Talk Dictionary (1158 words)
Atonality in a general sense describes music that departs from the system of tonal hierarchies that are said to characterized the sound of classical European music from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries.
The Second Viennese School's music described as "atonal" arose from what was described as the "crisis of tonality" in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century in classical music.
The word "atonality" emerged as a pejorative term to describe and to condemn music in which chords were organized seemingly with no apparent coherence.
  More results at FactBites »



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