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Thread: Serial or free atonal? (Game)

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    Senior Member Albert7's Avatar
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    Default Serial or free atonal? (Game)

    Thanks to dim7's suggestion, this is a game. Serial or free atonal?


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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Lots of alternating between two notes, but as far as I understand that's normal in serialism. I'm gonna make the wild guess it's serial but I'm probably wrong.
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    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    I'm a ignorant and I can be wrong but listening to the first five minutes I'd say that it's definitely not serial.

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    It's probably the easiest to follow serial piece ever if it is serial.
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    Senior Member GioCar's Avatar
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    Possibly I'm wrong, but to me it sounds neither serial nor free atonal - if for "free atonal" we mean pieces such as the Schoenberg's ones preceding the serial ones.

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GioCar View Post
    if for "free atonal" we mean pieces such as the Schoenberg's ones preceding the serial ones.
    I think free atonal means any atonal that's not serial in this game.
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    Senior Member GioCar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    I think free atonal means any atonal that's not serial in this game.
    In that case I'd lean towards the atonal...

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    Senior Member Albert7's Avatar
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    Serial or free atonal:


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    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    It's probably the easiest to follow serial piece ever if it is serial.
    No, that's this, which is, after all, child's play:

    Last edited by Mahlerian; Feb-18-2015 at 18:03.

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    Senior Member GioCar's Avatar
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    Sorry, I still feel uncomfortable if I have to classify those pieces serial or free atonal...
    Crumb's music is not serial, and I wouldn't say it's free atonal either. To me, free atonality is a specific way of composing at the end of the 19th-century/beginning of the 20th-century which preceded the 12-tone technique and the serialism...

    Wozzeck is free atonal, Moses und Aron is serial (or better, written in the twelve-tone technique).

    Maybe a better question could be serial or not serial?

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    So was the first one serial or not?
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    Senior Member Albert7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    So was the first one serial or not?
    The first piece I believe is neither serial nor free atonal. Too bad I don't have the score so that I can look at it closely.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GioCar View Post
    Sorry, I still feel uncomfortable if I have to classify those pieces serial or free atonal...
    Crumb's music is not serial, and I wouldn't say it's free atonal either. To me, free atonality is a specific way of composing at the end of the 19th-century/beginning of the 20th-century which preceded the 12-tone technique and the serialism...

    Wozzeck is free atonal, Moses und Aron is serial (or better, written in the twelve-tone technique).

    Maybe a better question could be serial or not serial?
    Serial method does not automatically include atonality. Serial method does not automatically exclude tonality.

    There are now, over a quarter century after I trained, easily a half-dozen at least terms for the various "specified by a quality / method" types of atonality which are not serial, and of which "free atonality" is probably just one. There's the atonal of set theory -- which itself has several sub-genre formalist permutations and specifically 'qualified' kinds of atonality.

    Me, I'm waiting for the It is not tonal, it is not progressive tonal, nor is it any paricular stripe of formalist atonality because I started composing the piece on a wednesday mid-morning variety of atonality.

    I wouldn't then worry if such a general "free atonal" here means the non-formalist atonality of just the earliest part of the 20th century... i.e. I think it is here used as a blanket term for anything which does not sound -- irony bit here -- like early to mid-20th century atonal serialism.

    Many a contemporary composer has dropped interest in even defining the 'issue' or giving much lip service to naming a piece as tonal, atonal, etc. Thomas Ades has all the array of what has been done before him, as do other composers: they pick, choose, and pick, mix, and choose -- including bits of something by way of principle vs. actual strict adherence to any particular systematic M.O. -- and use whatever they wish however it suits them.
    ~ If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. ~

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    To me, "serial" implies a use of a method, using the full possible 12-pitch spectrum, which as a result avoids any feeling of tonality. It is therefore non-tonal.

    "Free atonality" is the result of increasing chromaticism, both in voices and in root-movement of chord functions, to the point where the tonality is ambiguous, and tonality is too hard to pin down. It is still the result of tonality.

    Since chromatic root movement is based on minor-second intervals, which correspond to movement by fifths via tritone substitution, freely atonal root movement is not "atonal" chromaticism (see interval projection, noting that the only two intervals which "cycle" through all 12 notes when projected, or stacked, are the minor second and the fifth).

    As long as a chromatic note can be related back to a root movement, it is not truly chromatic in a free sense; it is tonal.

    Therefore, we have to demonstrate the presence of root movement in order to call something "freely atonal." The root movement might be vague or ambiguous; in other words, the functions might belong to more than one possible key area, but nonetheless they are tonal because of vertical chord structure, which might be the strongest indication of tonality.

    Serialism, by contrast, will not have the same degree of vertical consistency, harmonically; it will be seen as confluences of separate melodic elements, not as aggregates of chords with functions.

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Funny thing about serialism, is that it looks like an incredibly restrictive system on paper. You've got basically just 4 different orders for the 12 notes plus the transpositions - almost like you have just 4 melodies or themes, though tone row is not exactly a melody.. its like somewhere between a melody and a scale. But the main complaint that most people have about most 12-tone music that it sounds "random" - the opposite of too predictable.

    You certainly can write otherwise quite traditional and lyrical 12-tone music, but I suppose in such context the method may seem like a straightjacket. Is this why the method is associated with those extreme leaps and jagged rhythms?

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