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Thread: I think that I will use the term non-tonal instead...

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    Senior Member Albert7's Avatar
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    Default I think that I will use the term non-tonal instead...

    Atonality isn't a good term for my usage. I will use the term non-tonal from now on.
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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albert7 View Post
    Atonality isn't a good term for my usage. I will use the term non-tonal from now on.
    In this context, I agree wholeheartedly. After all, we are just guests here.
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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Doesn't really change anything IMO.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Albert 7 still hasn't explained exactly why he will not use the term atonal, so I will provide some background.

    From the book Serialism by Arnold Whittall:

    [Attempts in recent decades to replace the negative term atonal (i.e. entirely lacking tonality) with the more constructive post-tonal have so far failed to provide a cast-iron defence of serial composition against its detractors.

    Even as a word, serialism can have unpleasant associations, to do with obsessive behavior, which can then be linked with the propensities of composers who prefer to work with arid calculation rather than expressive immediacy.]

    Hmm...so the word atonal is used to disparage the music, but it also has some historic resonance, all modernity thought to be 'degenerate' in Schoenberg's home country. So if we can get rid of that word, we'll be killing two birds with one stone.

    I'd never thought of the term serial in this regard, until I saw this in Whittall's book.

    Hmm, perhaps the people who like this music should start listening to it in secret, since I've seen it cause conflict now, and in the past, elsewhere.

    Or perhaps, as I've seen suggested several times, a separate forum could be created.

    But then, the criteria for what music is 'tonal' or not, would be of paramount relevance, wouldn't it? Suddenly, all of this talk of tonal/atonal would actually matter.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jul-11-2015 at 17:57.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    "Non-tonal" is not equivalent to "atonal," in that it might be used of music to which no one ever attaches the term "atonal."

    "Atonal" has come to apply mainly or entirely to music in the Western classical lineage using the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, but avoiding the traditional grounding of chromaticism in the diatonic hierarchical relations (tonic, dominant, subdominant, etc.) and consonace/dissonance hierarchy inherent in the acoustics-based triadic harmony of Western music, a grounding which remains important even in the highly chromatic music of late 19th-century Romanticism. Whatever "atonal" has implied to various people who have used it, that is the meaning it has carried for the people with whom I've associated during the fifty or so years of my musical lifetime.

    We can dislike the imprecision with which words are used, we can point out their etymological problems, and we can regret the negative connotations we feel attaches to them, but although the arguments for getting rid of the word "atonal" may be attractive, merely substituting another word for it won't necessarily make us happy. The first thing you know, people who don't like "non-tonal" music will give that term a "negative connotation" in the minds of people who do like it, and we'll be right back where we started.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jul-12-2015 at 01:43.

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    Senior Member Richannes Wrahms's Avatar
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    I'm not worried about 'atonal'. I'm worried about well paid imbeciles spreading hate of Wagner and Schoenberg and linking them to the Nazis and then saying The Beatles or whatnot pop saved 'old fashioned music', ignoring Darmstadt and promoting blandness. All that on TV, books and Universities.

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    I would have advocated "uncommon practice" except that it became relatively common during the last 100 years.

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    Senior Member Celloman's Avatar
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    I will use the term "atonal" unabashedly, even if it is a flawed term.

    I agree that the word is problematic. But there are many words in the English language that are not taken literally. Why should that keep us from using them on a regular basis?

    If most people use the word "atonal" to refer to music with a high level of chromaticism, then by gum, I will use it too.
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    I will use words that the composers themselves endorsed or standard music terminology that describes what music is rather than what it isn't.

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    It is one of those problematic words. Atonal means literally without a tonal center. Anything, even highly dissonant and chromatic music can be perfectly tonal. As an example Alban Berg's 12tone music was perfectly tonal much of the time, Webern's was not, yet we tend to use the blanket term of Atonal to refer to any dodecaphonism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rumleymusic View Post
    It is one of those problematic words. Atonal means literally without a tonal center. Anything, even highly dissonant and chromatic music can be perfectly tonal. As an example Alban Berg's 12tone music was perfectly tonal much of the time, Webern's was not, yet we tend to use the blanket term of Atonal to refer to any dodecaphonism.
    Why is it not? How is it less tonal than Berg's music?

    I think the problem with the word atonal is that it doesn't actually refer to music without a tonal center as the term might imply. I agree that Webern's music is less triadic than Berg's, though I wouldn't say that this makes it less tonal.

    I don't think there is such a thing as music that has no tonal center, unless we are talking about music which is not organized by pitch at all.
    Last edited by Mahlerian; Aug-14-2015 at 20:01.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    I don't think there is such a thing as music that has no tonal center, unless we are talking about music which is not organized by pitch at all.
    Then if you are going to say that, then how do you define music "with" a tonal center? How is it organized by pitch? Please be very, very specific and clear. I'd be interested in hearing how you define 'tonal center.'
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Then if you are going to say that, then how do you define music "with" a tonal center? How is it organized by pitch? Please be very, very specific and clear. I'd be interested in hearing how you define 'tonal center.'
    It is the pitch or pitches to which a piece gravitates or which its material treats as most important. It can be established in any number of ways, including emphasis or convention (such as hearing a dominant chord to establish a tonic, even when that pitch is not explicitly heard).

    At any rate, I believe that the music of Schoenberg and Webern has tonal centers because I can hear them, as clearly as in any other music.

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    "...then how do you define music "with" a tonal center? How is it organized by pitch? Please be very, very specific and clear. I'd be interested in hearing how you define 'tonal center."


    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    It is the pitch or pitches to which a piece gravitates or which its material treats as most important. It can be established in any number of ways, including emphasis or convention (such as hearing a dominant chord to establish a tonic, even when that pitch is not explicitly heard).

    At any rate, I believe that the music of Schoenberg and Webern has tonal centers because I can hear them, as clearly as in any other music.
    That's interesting. So a piece could be called "tonal" by your definition, and not have a definite tone center, but maybe just move through areas of harmonic tension and resolution?

    If this is so, then music can still have 'harmonic meaning and movement, goals, etc" and not have a strictly identifiable tone center.

    By this set of criteria, this definition of tonality expands way beyond what Woodduck has defined as the characteristics of his more academic tonality, and would include much of the music he has excluded as "atonal" and has characterized as being "less expressive."

    If we see tonality in its most basic form as being a "gradient" of sonance, going by degree, then we have a definition of tonality which is in agreement with the harmonic model of tonality, based on consonance/dissonance.

    Remember this chart:

    Most dissonant intervals to most consonant intervals, within one octave:

    1. minor seventh (C-Bb) 9:16
    2. major seventh (C-B) 8:15
    3. major second (C-D) 8:9
    4. minor sixth (C-Ab) 5:8
    5. minor third (C-Eb) 5:6
    6. major third (C-E) 4:5
    7. major sixth (C-A) 3:5
    8. perfect fourth (C-F) 3:4
    9. perfect fifth (C-G) 2:3
    10. octave (C-C') 1:2
    11. unison (C-C) 1:1

    So, using this, areas of relative tension and relative relaxation could be created, without the need for a single-reference tonal center or note.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-14-2015 at 23:43.
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    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Millionrainbows: "I'd be interested in hearing how you define 'tonal center.'"

    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    It is the pitch or pitches to which a piece gravitates or which its material treats as most important. It can be established in any number of ways, including emphasis or convention (such as hearing a dominant chord to establish a tonic, even when that pitch is not explicitly heard).
    But surely emphasizing a certain note to give it importance - whether by repeating it frequently or by making it louder or longer than other notes in a piece or passage - is not enough to establish it as a tonal center. A sense of tonality depends on the perception that other notes in the set (scale) being used function in certain ways in relation to that note. I presume that would be what you've identified as "convention," as in the case of the dominant chord having a relationship with the tonic. Without such conventional relationships, an emphasized note is just an emphasized note, not a tonal center, and there is not necessarily any sense of gravitation toward it purely by virtue of its prominence.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Aug-15-2015 at 01:52.

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