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Thread: Why does this Schoenberg score visually group notes weirdly?

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    Default Why does this Schoenberg score visually group notes weirdly?

    The 12/8 bar is visually grouped as if its beats were asymmetrical: three 8th-notes, then four such notes, then five such notes. Why? Same happens after the change into 9/8 metre: each bar first has a group of 2 notes, then a group of 3 notes, then a group of 4 notes. Actually, one of the instruments is grouped differently, so the score doesn't even agree with itself on how to group the 8th notes. I was under the impression that the visual aspect of a score is supposed to reveal the structure of the music, rather than mislead about it. What am I missing here?

    (From what I find on the net, the 12/8 time signature should divide 8th-notes into four equal groups: four groups of three notes.)


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    As long as the notes are in correct relation, it doesn't matter if they are grouped in threes, fours, or fives; the grouping is based on the phrasing of the melodic lines, not on any division that the time signature is supposed to suggest. This music is not about staying 'on beat,' because there is no underlying regular pulse.

    The score does reflect the structure; if you count, there are 12 eighth notes, all evenly spaced; if a quarter note in the stave above that occurs, it is given its extra space, and notes in different staves occur on the same beat, and are written in the same 'grid.' I don't see any problem, except that this is not music you can tap your foot to.

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    Of course, I would never presume to say that Schoenberg did things 'weirdly;' I would simply assume that he was a master, and had reasons for doing things the way he did them. I always had faith in Schoenberg.

    What drives me crazy, in a similar way to you, is when I realize that Western time signatures, the whole system, is deficient, because we can't write a "3" or a "6" into the bottom of a time signature, because all the notes go by two's, so we can march to it. We can't even divide a beat into three, and write it down into the time signature. That's weird.

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    Thanks for the response.

    I'm still a little confused though. I would just like to know how I am supposed to mentally perceive this music. Am I supposed to mentally group these notes as written - so, 3+4+5 and 4+5+6? You did say this grouping reflected how the music is phrased. I would like to confirm, does this mean I'm supposed to 'hear' them like this - asymmetrically?

    I don't mean to pass judgement. I would find this irregular grouping interesting, and an opening of possibilities, if that is indeed how one is supposed to hear the music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chordalrock View Post
    Thanks for the response.

    I'm still a little confused though. I would just like to know how I am supposed to mentally perceive this music. Am I supposed to mentally group these notes as written - so, 3+4+5 and 4+5+6? You did say this grouping reflected how the music is phrased. I would like to confirm, does this mean I'm supposed to 'hear' them like this - asymmetrically?

    I don't mean to pass judgement. I would find this irregular grouping interesting, and an opening of possibilities, if that is indeed how one is supposed to hear the music.
    Well, yeah.

    This is not exactly Schoenberg's invention - you can find the same thing in Mozart.

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    Those markings above the notes indicate whether or not they should be accented ( ' means as if on a strong beat) or unaccented (the "u" symbol, as if on a weak beat), so yes, it is meant to be heard as asymmetrical. Schoenberg scores are usually written in common time signatures rather than switching frequently a la Bartok or Stravinsky, but running over the bar lines a la Brahms or Reger. This is true of Schoenberg's music right from the beginning.

    The accents aren't the same in the various instruments to create intentional cross-rhythms between the lines.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    Those markings above the notes indicate whether or not they should be accented ( ' means as if on a strong beat) or unaccented (the "u" symbol, as if on a weak beat), so yes, it is meant to be heard as asymmetrical. Schoenberg scores are usually written in common time signatures rather than switching frequently a la Bartok or Stravinsky, but running over the bar lines a la Brahms or Reger. This is true of Schoenberg's music right from the beginning.

    The accents aren't the same in the various instruments to create intentional cross-rhythms between the lines.
    Very eye opening, this whole thing. I used to just listen to this music without thinking too much about how the notes should be grouped, until I happened to look into this score and started puzzling over it. This opens up a whole new level of complexity.

    I have to start practicing my music reading.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    What drives me crazy, in a similar way to you, is when I realize that Western time signatures, the whole system, is deficient, because we can't write a "3" or a "6" into the bottom of a time signature, because all the notes go by two's, so we can march to it. We can't even divide a beat into three, and write it down into the time signature. That's weird.
    Not sure I get this. The bottom number is only the pulse. Don't think of the American quarter-note, eighth-note, just use crotchet, quaver. The time signature is about the bar (measure) not the beat itself.
    The beat is determined by the music, not the time signature. There are parts of Bruckner 6 I where while ostensibly written in 4/4, the entire orchestra is playing two triplet-crotchets in the bar (6 notes if you like), so our conductor beat in 6.

    You 'subdivide' a beat, not divide. I rehearsed the finale of Dvorak's violin concerto last night, most of which is in 3/8. And goes at a clip, so it's beaten one-to-a-bar by the conductor, with us sub-dividing in our heads as necessary. One 'beat', divided in three. If it was marked Adagio, it might be beaten in three, and we might subdivide in our heads to play semi-quavers (16th notes) in time, whether they were two per quaver beat, or sub-divided in three if they were triplets.

    There's only two or three in music, everything else is a combination of twos and threes.
    cheers,
    GG

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chordalrock View Post
    Thanks for the response.

    I'm still a little confused though. I would just like to know how I am supposed to mentally perceive this music. Am I supposed to mentally group these notes as written - so, 3+4+5 and 4+5+6? You did say this grouping reflected how the music is phrased. I would like to confirm, does this mean I'm supposed to 'hear' them like this - asymmetrically?

    I don't mean to pass judgement. I would find this irregular grouping interesting, and an opening of possibilities, if that is indeed how one is supposed to hear the music.
    I would have to hear it to give a good answer; still, I trust Schoenberg. Apparently he thought of the notes in this way for a good reason. Since they are repeated notes, this makes it less apparent, but perhaps this phrasing scheme was used later in a different form, and might make more sense. It's good that you are at least trying to figure it out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GraemeG View Post
    Not sure I get this. The bottom number is only the pulse.
    Not in the case of a blues shuffle. In a blues shuffle written in 12/8, there is a 'walking bass' which occurs on beats 1-4-7-10. This is felt as the 'main pulse.'

    Nobody playing bass or drums is going to count to 12, using 1-4-7-10.

    They're going to count 1-2-3-4, because that is felt as the main pulse.

    A shuffle, and jazz beats, are derived from Africa, and divide the beat into 3 parts.

    We can't write a 3 value into a time signature; we have to write it in 12/8, which is counter-intuitive, or write "shuffle feel" using a 4/4.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-05-2015 at 19:30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Not in the case of a blues shuffle. In a blues shuffle written in 12/8, there is a 'walking bass' which occurs on beats 1-4-7-10. This is felt as the 'main pulse.'

    Nobody playing bass or drums is going to count to 12, using 1-4-7-10.

    They're going to count 1-2-3-4, because that is felt as the main pulse.

    A shuffle, and jazz beats, are derived from Africa, and divide the beat into 3 parts.

    We can't write a 3 value into a time signature; we have to write it in 12/8, which is counter-intuitive, or write "shuffle feel" using a 4/4.
    I'm not seeing the problem either. Our notational system divides notes in half - whole, half, quarter, etc. There are no exact rhythms that can't be expressed in terms of this system. It's simple and elegant, using a minimal number of symbols. Obviously we can't notate in a precise numerical way every possible inflection of rhythm. Musicians - whether they're playing a Baroque overture, a Viennese waltz, or jazz - have always known this and modified the written beat according to the style of music they're playing. Adding more types of notes - having "third notes" or "fifth notes" at the bottom of the time signature - would only seem to complicate the system needlessly.

    If I'm a bass player playing a blues shuffle, I'm looking at a score with four dotted quarter notes per bar. This is not confusing. If I'm writing out a score and don't like writing dots I can just leave them out, as Baroque composers did, and everyone will still understand it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I'm not seeing the problem either.
    You wouldn't, would you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Our notational system divides notes in half - whole, half, quarter, etc. There are no exact rhythms that can't be expressed in terms of this system.
    Yeah, if you don't mind counting to twelve.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    It's simple and elegant, using a minimal number of symbols. Obviously we can't notate in a precise numerical way every possible inflection of rhythm.
    A blues shuffle is not an inflection; it actually divides the beat into three, and we can't notate that in a simple way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Musicians - whether they're playing a Baroque overture, a Viennese waltz, or jazz - have always known this and modified the written beat according to the style of music they're playing. Adding more types of notes - having "third notes" or "fifth notes" at the bottom of the time signature - would only seem to complicate the system needlessly.
    Yeah, then they'd have to count to three.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Not in the case of a blues shuffle. In a blues shuffle written in 12/8, there is a 'walking bass' which occurs on beats 1-4-7-10. This is felt as the 'main pulse.'

    Nobody playing bass or drums is going to count to 12, using 1-4-7-10.

    They're going to count 1-2-3-4, because that is felt as the main pulse.

    A shuffle, and jazz beats, are derived from Africa, and divide the beat into 3 parts.

    We can't write a 3 value into a time signature; we have to write it in 12/8, which is counter-intuitive, or write "shuffle feel" using a 4/4.
    Nobody counts to 12 in 12/8. I have no idea what you are talking about. It is standard to interpret 12/8 as 4 beats each divided into three parts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Nobody counts to 12 in 12/8. I have no idea what you are talking about. It is standard to interpret 12/8 as 4 beats each divided into three parts.
    Then they should simplify it to be a "4" number on top, if it's four beats. As it is, having a "12" is counter-intuitive, and would certainly confuse most novices.

    And if you write it in 12/8, it's very distracting to put all those dots in. It looks way too cluttered. and it looks even worse in 4/4, with a bunch of triplet brackets.

    You're not really thinking about this. This Western notation system was not designed for these types of rhythms, where the beat is divided into 3 parts. This stuff came from Africa.

    This concerns jazz and blues, and there are a lot of those players who are not used to seeing a 12/8 time signature, and knowing that it has four pulses.

    If it's so obvious, why do jazz arrangers frequently write jazz charts in 4/4 with the instruction 'shuffle feel?' Huh? Answer me that! Everybody wants music that is easy to read!

    No, this Western notation system is designed for divisions of two, as in "one-two-one-two-forward...march!" It was designed for imperialist domination.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-12-2015 at 20:27.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Then they should simplify it to be a "4" number on top, if it's four beats. As it is, having a "12" is counter-intuitive, and would certainly confuse most novices.

    And if you write it in 12/8, it's very distracting to put all those dots in. It looks way too cluttered. and it looks even worse in 4/4, with a bunch of triplet brackets.

    You're not really thinking about this. This Western notation system was not designed for these types of rhythms, where the beat is divided into 3 parts. This stuff came from Africa.

    This concerns jazz and blues, and there are a lot of those players who are not used to seeing a 12/8 time signature, and knowing that it has four pulses.

    If it's so obvious, why do jazz arrangers frequently write jazz charts in 4/4 with the instruction 'shuffle feel?' Huh? Answer me that! Everybody wants music that is easy to read!

    No, this Western notation system is designed for divisions of two, as in "one-two-one-two-forward...march!" It was designed for imperialist domination.

    I thought the Western notation system was primarily developed for church music, not military music. But it's true that it wasn't developed with the more complex rhythms that are more common in African music in mind.

    So yes, it gets a bit notationally complicated when you want to sub-divide by 3s, but then, if you had third notes, that would require yet another set of symbols (third note plus sub-divisions of thirds) -- so it would still add notational complexity to the system. I don't think there's any way around that; if you want your notation system to cover more different possibilities, it's going to have become more elaborate in some way -- whether that's dotted notes, triplet brackets, or tri-quavers.

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