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#2080106 - 05/10/13 12:30 AM Atonal Music  
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I don't get it. What am I missing?

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#2080110 - 05/10/13 12:41 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Look for colour rather than melody. For three flavours, try late Scriabin, Berg and Boulez. Scriabin's sonatas starting with no. 6, Berg's violin concerto, and Boulez's Derive I and Sur Incises are all good picks.


Approach it in a similar way as tonal music, in that there are climaxes and intense development of small motifs. However, melody and harmony, particularly in serialized works, don't play as much of a role, where the composer may be interested in more colourful effects. However, some composers do other things, like Takemitsu, where regular counterpoint and flow are instead exchanged for a 'soundscape', colouristic effects and sound objects.


Working on:
Chopin - Nocturne op. 48 no.1
Debussy - Images Book II

#2080121 - 05/10/13 01:12 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Very simple: wink

[Linked Image]

....and as per what Kuanpiano said, have you taken a whiff of this .... grin

Joel: It took me about 1000 years to start really getting it.
OK, maybe about 2. smile
Something that helped: Pieces that bridge the gap within themselves.
The first one that brought me toward something was Schoenberg's 2nd String Quartet, most of which is a bit like Brahms with pepper poured on it grin and with some excursions further into the new universe (and then back).

Last edited by Mark_C; 05/10/13 01:22 AM. Reason: at first I said 1st quartet by mistake, but I think it's true of that one anyway too
#2080126 - 05/10/13 01:44 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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In my book atonal music doesn't limit itself to the 8 notes in a fixed key ... by taking in the extra 4 notes, giving a palette of 12, Schoenberg and co., were able to
get some "Brahms with pepper poured on it" (thanks Mark).

I treasure my "Survivor from Warsaw" ... such stark reality ... not for the faint hearted

"I cannot remember everything. I must have been unconscious most of the time.

I remember only the grandiose moment when they all started to sing, as if prearranged, the old prayer they had neglected for so many years - the forgotten creed!

But I have no recollection how I got underground to live in the sewers of Warsaw for so long a time. The day began as usual: Reveille when it still was dark. "Get out!" Whether you slept or whether worries kept you awake the whole night. You had been separated from your children, from your wife, from your parents. You don't know what happened to them... How could you sleep?

The trumpets again - "Get out! The sergeant will be furious!" They came out; some very slowly, the old ones, the sick ones; some with nervous agility. They fear the sergeant. They hurry as much as they can. In vain! Much too much noise, much too much commotion! And not fast enough! The Feldwebel shouts: "Achtung! Stilljestanden! Na wird's mal! Oder soll ich mit dem Jewehrkolben nachhelfen? Na jut; wenn ihrs durchaus haben wollt!" ("Attention! Stand still! How about it, or should I help you along with the butt of my rifle? Oh well, if you really want to have it!")

The sergeant and his subordinates hit (everyone): young or old, (strong or sick), quiet, guilty or innocent ...

It was painful to hear them groaning and moaning.

I heard it though I had been hit very hard, so hard that I could not help falling down. We all on the (ground) who could not stand up were (then) beaten over the head...

I must have been unconscious. The next thing I heard was a soldier saying: "They are all dead!"

Whereupon the sergeant ordered to do away with us.

There I lay aside half conscious. It had become very still - fear and pain. Then I heard the sergeant shouting: „Abzählen!“ ("Count off!")

They start slowly and irregularly: one, two, three, four - "Achtung!" The sergeant shouted again, "Rascher! Nochmals von vorn anfange! In einer Minute will ich wissen, wieviele ich zur Gaskammer abliefere! Abzählen!“ ("Faster! Once more, start from the beginning! In one minute I want to know how many I am going to send off to the gas chamber! Count off!")

They began again, first slowly: one, two, three, four, became faster and faster, so fast that it finally sounded like a stampede of wild horses, and (all) of a sudden, in the middle of it, they began singing the Shema Yisroel."




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#2080129 - 05/10/13 01:50 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: btb]  
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btb: I know that piece too, and mostly for the same reason I know the quartet: from a course on Schoenberg. (Actually "Bartok, Schoenberg, & Stravinsky" but who's counting.)

And you sort of misspelled one of those words a little! It's more like:

Quote
....I remember only the grandi-oooooose moment....


It's a remarkable piece.

#2080134 - 05/10/13 02:07 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by JoelW
I don't get it. What am I missing?
The first thing that you ARE "missing" is the fact that actually most contemporary music is not atonal, but plenty of other things. The term 'atonal' is generally used for dissonant contemporary music, but that doesn't mean other than the fact that the user of the term has not done his research! wink sorry...

I will confess that I don't enjoy Boulez or Stockhausen too much... I do semi-understand what's going on, but I'm used to other styles of music. But it's not that I don't get it. I just don't enjoy it...

You need to check out various works, from various composers and see what's out there in order to try and "educate" yourself further. Little by little you may come to appreciate various things you thought would be impossible to like.

Take a couple of suggestions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0qoue0JbbU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k40HVQJZYLM (listen to this whole work... Try to see where he takes the various themes)...

__________________________

The idea is that tonality is too "small" or "confining them" for some composers, so they had to break free. Some used systems (Schoenberg) some others took various systems to the extreme (Boulez) while others just decided to do whatever the heck they decided (Schnittke for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vyCc_jFidw An awesome concerto in my book).

#2080135 - 05/10/13 02:07 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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I always take a stiff brandy before having the guts to listen to the piece again ... I'm fortunate to have the score to go with the music.

Again i come up with the trite saying ...
"man's inhumanity to man" ... as the Bard says
"the evil that men do, lives after them,
the good is oft interred with their bones"

PS The OP Joel will never get it about atonal music ... much too young and dizzy.

#2080140 - 05/10/13 02:25 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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For me flute music did the trick. I was suddenly fascinated by atonal music.



[Linked Image]

Music is my best friend.


#2080141 - 05/10/13 02:27 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Nikolas]  
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Originally Posted by Nikolas
Originally Posted by JoelW
I don't get it. What am I missing?
The first thing that you ARE "missing" is the fact that actually most contemporary music is not atonal, but plenty of other things. The term 'atonal' is generally used for dissonant contemporary music, but that doesn't mean other than the fact that the user of the term has not done his research! wink sorry...


There is a reason for why I used the word 'atonal' and not 'contemporary'. I know what atonal music is, Nik.

#2080143 - 05/10/13 02:29 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by JoelW
Originally Posted by Nikolas
Originally Posted by JoelW
I don't get it. What am I missing?
The first thing that you ARE "missing" is the fact that actually most contemporary music is not atonal, but plenty of other things. The term 'atonal' is generally used for dissonant contemporary music, but that doesn't mean other than the fact that the user of the term has not done his research! wink sorry...


There is a reason for why I used the word 'atonal' and not 'contemporary'. I know what atonal music is, Nik.
Ok. Count my post then as an impulsive reply to what I thought was clear... grin

Still though... Can you provide an example of an 'atonal' piece? Cause I'm not sure I can. I can provide plenty of twelvetone, or serial works, works based on quartal harmony, neo-classical and whatever in between but "officially" atonal works, I'm not sure there are too many around...

#2080144 - 05/10/13 02:33 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Nikolas]  
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Nikolas: I think you're getting too involved in the definition. Joel knows what he meant and we do too!
(Do you really not?)

Also it seems you have a narrower concept of the term than the usual understood meaning -- but it shouldn't keep you from knowing what people are talking about when they use the term this way. smile

#2080145 - 05/10/13 02:36 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Mark_C]  
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Very simple: wink

[Linked Image]

....and as per what Kuanpiano said, have you taken a whiff of this .... grin

Joel: It took me about 1000 years to start really getting it.
OK, maybe about 2. smile
Something that helped: Pieces that bridge the gap within themselves.
The first one that brought me toward something was Schoenberg's 2nd String Quartet, most of which is a bit like Brahms with pepper poured on it grin and with some excursions further into the new universe (and then back).


I thought we were going to start using avocados instead of dirt socks. smile

I will listen to that quartet. Don't know if I'll like it, but I'll listen. I've heard some things about Schoenberg. haha

Quick question:

I know you're a Chopin junky (like me). I assume you get really pumped up by his larger works as do I. Do you ever find yourself feeling that same way when listening to atonal music? The way you feel when listening to (or playing) the more intense parts of the 4th ballade and such...


#2080146 - 05/10/13 02:40 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Mark_C]  
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Nikolas: I think you're getting too involved in the definition. Joel knows what he meant and we do too!
(Do you really not?)
I'm not sure thus my question and my misguided post before that...

Quote
Also it seems you have a narrower concept of the term than the usual understood meaning -- but it shouldn't keep you from knowing what people are talking about when they use the term this way. smile
I'm honestly not trying to play a 'know it all' guy or anything like that. I started talking about various works of music with plenty of dissonance in, but after joels' comment I came back to realize that perhaps my post was wrong... that's all...

#2080147 - 05/10/13 02:40 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by JoelW
....I know you're a Chopin junky (like me). I assume you get really pumped up by his larger works as do I. Do you ever find yourself feeling that same way when listening to atonal music?

No.
But I get things from 'atonal' music that I don't get from Chopin -- it's different kinds of things. And similarly, I need to be in completely different kinds of moods to want to work on one or the other kind of music.
('quotes' around atonal for Nikolas's benefit) grin

Quote
The way you feel when listening to (or playing) the more intense parts of the 4th ballade and such...

.....speaking of which, the coda of that ballade (the first half of it) points a bit toward atonal music.

#2080150 - 05/10/13 02:49 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Mark_C]  
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Originally Posted by Mark_C

.....speaking of which, the coda of that ballade (the first half of it) points a bit toward atonal music.


True, but thankfully it resolves into something with a hummable bass-line. grin

I love to hum bass-lines.

#2080151 - 05/10/13 02:54 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Nikolas]  
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Originally Posted by Nikolas
Originally Posted by Mark_C
Nikolas: I think you're getting too involved in the definition. Joel knows what he meant and we do too!
(Do you really not?)
I'm not sure thus my question and my misguided post before that...

Quote
Also it seems you have a narrower concept of the term than the usual understood meaning -- but it shouldn't keep you from knowing what people are talking about when they use the term this way. smile
I'm honestly not trying to play a 'know it all' guy or anything like that. I started talking about various works of music with plenty of dissonance in, but after joels' comment I came back to realize that perhaps my post was wrong... that's all...


No biggie, Nikolas! Your knowledge of theory far surpasses mine and likely many members here on PW. You can't be blamed for the confusion. Communication error, that's all.

#2080160 - 05/10/13 03:46 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by JoelW
I don't get it. What am I missing?


One thing that is helpful is to remember that atonality evolved from late Romanticism. Romanticsm had stretched & expanded tonality, though hyper-chromaticism, to the point that it was barely recognizable as tonality. Think late Wagner, Richard Strauss, Reger, Scriabin, etc.

Viewed in this way, atonality really was the, or perhaps I should say a, next logical step. In fact (as I recall - haven't studied it in years), early Schoenberg (before 12 tone) was in much the same vein as late Wagner.

For these purposes, I think of atonality as the lack of a functional  key center and the system that implies: tonic, dominant, subdominant, etc. I agree with Nikolas that atonality and dissonance are not the same thing. I think it would be very difficult to have truly atonal music that is not dissonant, to at least some degree. I'm willing to be proved wrong on that.

By the early 20th century, tonality had been stretched so far, it had ceased to function. You either had to jump off the cliff (atonality), or retreat from it and find something else to explore (Stravinsky, Bartok, Hindemith, etc.).

Personally, it took quite some time of deliberate study before I could begin to appreciate the beauty of atonality on its own terms. I knew I had gotten there when I began to have atonal earworms! 


David M. Boothe, CAS
#2080162 - 05/10/13 03:58 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Mark_C]  
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
the usual understood meaning


Good morning. I'm not sure what the usual undertood meaning is. When Joel says "atonal music" I don't see what he means, what music he is thinking of.

Joel, can you explain what you mean, what music you are thinking of ?

Last edited by landorrano; 05/10/13 03:58 AM.
#2080173 - 05/10/13 05:16 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Yo Joel, I think Glenn Gould's one of the best ambassadors of this music. While, as with everything, his opinions are singular, his enthusiasm is pretty contagious. There's a good amount of discussion of Schönberg, Berg and Webern in the documentary, "The Alchemist." Aside from that, he wrote a bunch on the topic, again, very interestingly. Find that stuff in "The Glenn Gould Reader." Also, I'd get a translated copy of Schönberg's writings. There's a bunch of art and visual stuff that can help you get into an "atonal" sound world.

#2080175 - 05/10/13 05:21 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: ventil]  
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Originally Posted by ventil
I think it would be very difficult to have truly atonal music that is not dissonant, to at least some degree. I'm willing to be proved wrong on that.



A piece for un-pitched percussion would fill the bill, probably. Can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but I'm sure they are out there.


#2080189 - 05/10/13 06:08 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Mark_C]  
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Very simple: wink

[Linked Image]

....and as per what Kuanpiano said, have you taken a whiff of this .... grin

Joel: It took me about 1000 years to start really getting it.
OK, maybe about 2. smile
Something that helped: Pieces that bridge the gap within themselves.
The first one that brought me toward something was Schoenberg's 2nd String Quartet, most of which is a bit like Brahms with pepper poured on it grin and with some excursions further into the new universe (and then back).


It's not my style to use smily faces, but if I did, I would use one here. Hoo ha!

Tomasino

Last edited by tomasino; 05/10/13 06:10 AM.

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#2080192 - 05/10/13 06:23 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: ventil]  
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A couple of random thoughts:

Atonal does not mean serial/twelve-tone. Ventil is right - there are two aspects of tonality: a vocabulary and a syntax. The vocabulary of tonal music is harmony and melody based on major/minor scales. The syntax of tonal music is functional harmony and the importance of the dominant/tonic relationship.

In a very real way, much of Debussy is atonal. Even though he used the vocabulary of tonal music, he often deliberately avoided its syntax (no authentic cadences or standard bass/soprano counterpoint.)

In almost the opposite way, some Prokofiev is atonal as well. While there are definite moments where we sense a strong leading tone and contrapuntal motion towards a goal, the 7th sonata (1st mvt.) avoids the tonal vocabulary of major and minor scales.

Schoenberg is an interesting case, because while he avoided both the vocabulary and syntax of tonal music, he embraced its gestures. Schoenberg is like Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" - the words are made-up, the grammar is made-up, but the rhythmic flow of the words remains familiar.


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#2080207 - 05/10/13 07:07 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Kreisler]  
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
A couple of random thoughts:

Atonal does not mean serial/twelve-tone. Ventil is right - there are two aspects of tonality: a vocabulary and a syntax. The vocabulary of tonal music is harmony and melody based on major/minor scales. The syntax of tonal music is functional harmony and the importance of the dominant/tonic relationship.

In a very real way, much of Debussy is atonal. Even though he used the vocabulary of tonal music, he often deliberately avoided its syntax (no authentic cadences or standard bass/soprano counterpoint.)

In almost the opposite way, some Prokofiev is atonal as well. While there are definite moments where we sense a strong leading tone and contrapuntal motion towards a goal, the 7th sonata (1st mvt.) avoids the tonal vocabulary of major and minor scales.

Schoenberg is an interesting case, because while he avoided both the vocabulary and syntax of tonal music, he embraced its gestures. Schoenberg is like Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" - the words are made-up, the grammar is made-up, but the rhythmic flow of the words remains familiar.


I'm glad you mentioned Debussy - I think people often get too hung up on the Second Viennese stuff, and forget his contribution to all this. And then there is Abel Decaux, who some people say wrote the first real atonal piece.

I linked it elsewhere, but this very good documentary on Milton Babbitt is pretty wide-ranging and touches on a lot of this stuff, so I'll give the link here, too...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf_Zfpq3gqk


#2080215 - 05/10/13 07:29 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Kreisler]  
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
Schoenberg is an interesting case, because while he avoided both the vocabulary and syntax of tonal music, he embraced its gestures. Schoenberg is like Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" - the words are made-up, the grammar is made-up, but the rhythmic flow of the words remains familiar.

Jabberwocky

Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.

And by "gestures," I take it you mean the rhythmic flow of motivic development? The parallel makes good sense, but surely there must be more to it. Lewis Carroll's poem is a one shot deal, and is "useless" (to quote Boulez), beyond being an expose of the gobbledegook he was parodying.

How does Schoenberg's serialism get beyond this in a way the ticket buying public can understand?

Tomasino


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#2080248 - 05/10/13 09:04 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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I think the only works by Schoenberg that successfully reach a "ticket-buying" public are his programmatic ones with accompanying text - Pierrot Lunaire, second quartet, and Erwartung. (And Verklaerte Nacht, but it's tonal.)


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#2080262 - 05/10/13 09:24 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by JoelW
I don't get it. What am I missing?


If you want to understand, here's a good start: Leonard Bernstein answers Ive's Unanswered Question: Whither music.



Gary
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#2080266 - 05/10/13 09:33 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Great suggestion, Plowboy! That point Kreisler made (vocab, syntax) is well and thoroughly illustrated by Lenny in that lecture series. Also, his other point about Schönberg using gestures is beautifully expressed by Menuhin in conversation with Gould (again) about the violin sonata, relating it to Hamlet spoken in gibberish but with the same gestures, so that if you knew the play you'd still be able to follow it.

#2080270 - 05/10/13 09:43 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: Kreisler]  
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Noone has mentioned Liszt's Bagatelle sans tonalité (1885)? OK, it's not atonal in the same sense as some of Schönberg's music, but it's one of the earliest examples of a mainstream composer pushing chromaticism beyond the limits of tonality.

I think that these days, composers use atonalism as just a tool (among many others) to get the job done, not as an end in itself. Few works are composed in specific keys, or if they are, they don't necessarily end in the same key (or even in a related key) with which they began, which is against all the old rules of composition.

I also find it interesting that Schönberg ended his massive Gurrelieder with an emphatic (and prolonged) chord of C major, despite having already composed his atonal Op.16 and Op.17 by the time he returned to complete that cantata. And he remained proud of it throughout his life ("This work is the key to my development")........


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
#2080279 - 05/10/13 10:09 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: JoelW]  
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Nikolas Offline
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Nikolas  Offline
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You see this is where I get confused, if I may say so myself: A-tonal, is the opposite of tonal. It implies a lack of the tonal system (especially at the time that it was conceived) and this is what makes it different than other kinds of music. Cause if we look at it from a very broad view, anything that is not tonal (even modal music, for example) it is then atonal.

That's why I made the early (tiny bashful, but with respect to Joel) comment...

In the above sense, Prokofiev, no matter how far he goes in his chordal relationships, he never really left the triadic chord structure, in which case he remains chromatic at best (and, btw, I ADORE Prokofiev (and I think my music clearly shows that, so this is not a take against Sergei). Same goes for Debussy and his modal music. Even his Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, which quite a few argue is the beginning of the new era in music, with its ambiguous tonality, still stays very strong in modal realms...

No matter how dissonant a work may be, if there's a strong tonal centre (despite the sharp dissonances and clusters even) I'm not sure it can be called 'atonal'.

:-/

I hope this explains my earlier comments.

#2080293 - 05/10/13 10:33 AM Re: Atonal Music [Re: bennevis]  
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ventil Offline
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ventil  Offline
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Originally Posted by bennevis
I think that these days, composers use atonalism as just a tool (among many others) to get the job done, not as an end in itself. Few works are composed in specific keys, or if they are, they don't necessarily end in the same key (or even in a related key) with which they began, which is against all the old rules of composition.


An excellent point.

I had not really thought about it in this way before, but atonality can be useful to anyone, and can disseminate beyond what we think of as "classical" music. Off the top of my head: some late works of John Coltrane or Miles Davis. Also, Joe Zawinul/Weather Report and even some things from Josh Redmon.

I wouldn't necessarily call these guys "atonal" but atonality is useful to them, whether or not they use it consciously. (That I don't know.)


David M. Boothe, CAS
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