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Thread: I want to learn non tonal theory?

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    Default I want to learn non tonal theory?

    I have a project that I think it would be best suited not to be tonal but I don't know anything other than 12 tone theory as far as modern music theory goes, can anyone help me out?

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    There is no real comprehensive study, but there are books out there that deal specifically with post-tonal techniques such as those used by Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok, Schoenberg, and others. The problem is that none of this has come close to being systematized, and I'm not sure that we have a real working theory of how post-tonal music functions yet.



    Last edited by Mahlerian; Jun-23-2016 at 21:57.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Manok View Post
    I have a project that I think it would be best suited not to be tonal but I don't know anything other than 12 tone theory as far as modern music theory goes, can anyone help me out?
    The music of Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok, early Schoenberg, and others, are varieties of tonality, and show how tonality can be a matter of degree, and not an absolute term. Thus, tonality is an inclusive term, general, and does not have to describe music specifically, since the term is by nature general. If one must have specifics, then we can say that all tonal music has reference to a center, or centers, regardless of how tenuous or fleeting.

    If you want your project to be "not tonal," then you must use set theory, or ordered rows to achieve this, since "not tonal" or "atonal" are terms which are exclusive: they refer to any music in which a reference to a tonal center (or centers) is not used in its construction. Also, atonal music does not use tonal devices, such as scales.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jun-29-2016 at 20:04.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    If you want your project to be "not tonal," then you must use set theory, or ordered rows to achieve this, since "not tonal" or "atonal" are terms which are exclusive: they refer to any music in which a reference to a tonal center (or centers) is not used in its construction. Also, atonal music does not use tonal devices, such as scales.
    There's no such thing as music that doesn't use scales. The chromatic scale, microtonal collections, modes of limited transposition, all of these are scales.

    Also, the majority, if not all, of the music usually called atonal has very clear tonal centers.

    Post-tonal as a general term means post-common practice, and this is the accepted definition. It's unhelpful for you to jump in and start confusing someone who's trying to learn more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    There's no such thing as music that doesn't use scales. The chromatic scale, microtonal collections, modes of limited transposition, all of these are scales.

    Also, the majority, if not all, of the music usually called atonal has very clear tonal centers.

    Post-tonal as a general term means post-common practice, and this is the accepted definition. It's unhelpful for you to jump in and start confusing someone who's trying to learn more.
    The "chromatic scale," being an undifferentiated collection of all pitch classes, is not a scale in any meaningful sense, and statements like: "twelve tone music is like other music in that it too uses a scale, the chromatic scale," is just empty nonsense and obfuscation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    The "chromatic scale," being an undifferentiated collection of all pitch classes, is not a scale in any meaningful sense, and statements like: "twelve tone music is like other music in that it too uses a scale, the chromatic scale," is just empty nonsense and obfuscation.
    It's not all possible pitch classes, it's a particular set of pitch classes, just like any other scale. There are infinitely many pitches it does not include.

    I'm not trying to obfuscate, I'm trying to clarify. If you can come up with a definition of scale that doesn't include the chromatic scale, I'll be waiting.
    Last edited by Mahlerian; Jun-30-2016 at 03:00.

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    Edward, what privileges the completely equally spaced whole tone scale, or the transpositionally invariant octatonic scale, over the 12 tone chromatic scale? And who says that there cannot be more than 12 pitch classes regularly used, as in Harry Partch or Ben Johnston, or certain 19TET 16th century music, or Ives's 24TET piano duets, or a non-equally spaced 12 tone scale, as in La Monte Young, or just overtone chords as in Stockhausen or Georg Haas, or various other microtonal scales like Javanese Gamelan?

    What in the world makes the 12 tone chromatic scale non-specific, as if it doesn't have any particularities on its own? And why cannot there cannot be scales with more notes, or other notes? What makes the 12 tone chromatic scale a collection of "all" pitch classes, or all relative pitch classes? Why cannot there be more pitches, or other pitches?
    Last edited by SeptimalTritone; Jun-30-2016 at 04:52.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    There's no such thing as music that doesn't use scales.
    Well, to be fair some microtonal music that does not deliberately restrict itself to any partiular set of notes could be said to "not use scales".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    Well, to be fair some microtonal music that does not deliberately restrict itself to any partiular set of notes could be said to "not use scales".
    Yeah, and things like music for non-pitched percussion and such couldn't be meaningfully tied to a scale, like some electroacoustic music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    There's no such thing as music that doesn't use scales.
    A tone row is not a scale. A scale is, by definition, an "index" of unordered notes.

    The chromatic scale, microtonal collections, modes of limited transposition, all of these are scales.
    Also, the majority, if not all, of the music usually called atonal has very clear tonal centers.
    Whatever. If you hear tonal centers in atonal music, good for you.

    Post-tonal as a general term means post-common practice, and this is the accepted definition.
    No, post-tonal is not a chronological term. It refers to new practices, such as set theory, interval projection, interval vectors, etc.

    It's unhelpful for you to jump in and start confusing someone who's trying to learn more.
    Irrelevant ad-hominem statement.

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    From WIK: In music theory, a scale is any set of musical notes ordered by fundamental frequency or pitch. A scale ordered by increasing pitch is an ascending scale, and a scale ordered by decreasing pitch is a descending scale.

    Due to the principle of octave equivalence, scales are generally considered to span a single octave, with higher or lower octaves simply repeating the pattern. A musical scale represents a division of the octave space into a certain number of scale steps, a scale step being the recognizable distance (or interval) between two successive notes of the scale. [2] However, there is no need for scale steps to be equal within any scale and, particularly as demonstrated by microtonal music, there is no limit to how many notes can be injected within any given musical interval.

    A specific scale is defined by its characteristic interval pattern and by a special note, known as its first degree (or tonic). The tonic of a scale is the note selected as the beginning of the octave, and therefore as the beginning of the adopted interval pattern. Typically, the name of the scale specifies both its tonic and its interval pattern. For example, C major indicates a major scale with a C tonic. (end quote)

    So, as you can see from that last passage, a scale is an inherently tonal device, as its first degree implies a tonic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    The "chromatic scale," being an undifferentiated collection of all pitch classes, is not a scale in any meaningful sense, and statements like: "twelve tone music is like other music in that it too uses a scale, the chromatic scale," is just empty nonsense and obfuscation.
    That depends on context. If a drone bass note is placed under a 12-note collection, it begins to sound tonal, since every note is referenced to that bass drone. This is easily heard in later Miles Davis (Cellar Door Sessions, etc.) where the drummer and bass player establish a drone "groove" and whatever the soloists play on top of it, no matter how far "out," sounds rooted.

    I agree with what you said:: "...Statements like: "twelve tone music is like other music in that it too uses a scale, the chromatic scale," is just empty nonsense and obfuscation." since tone-rows differ from scales in significant ways.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    Yeah, and things like music for non-pitched percussion and such couldn't be meaningfully tied to a scale, like some electroacoustic music.
    True, but even in the context of the 12-note scale of specific pitches, music can be composed which does not use scales.

    If you can come up with a definition of scale that doesn't include the chromatic scale, I'll be waiting.
    This is putting the cart before the horse. A collection of notes must first meet certain criteria in order to be called a scale. A chromatic collection could meet these criteria of being a scale if:

    It is listed with a starting note.

    It covers an octave.

    It divides the octave into a certain number of steps, namely, 12.

    It is an "index" of unordered notes which one can select from at random, to create melodies and such.

    The "chromatic collection" could also be a set, which can be ordered. In this case, it is not a scale.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    A tone row is not a scale. A scale is, by definition, an "index" of unordered notes.
    Sure. But it's not an either/or proposition. A piece can use tone rows and the diatonic scale, tone rows and the whole tone scale, or tone rows and the chromatic scale, as is most common. There's no contradiction between the two, and although you keep asserting that there is, that's the whole extent of your argument, just "I said so."

    Whatever. If you hear tonal centers in atonal music, good for you.
    I've never heard any atonal music, so how could I hear tonal centers in it? Tonal centers in the extremely generalized sense you keep referring to are simply a product of any kind of relationship between notes. Why should it be surprising that something that is tightly organized in regards to pitch, as you yourself would acknowledge, produces audible pitch relationships?

    No, post-tonal is not a chronological term. It refers to new practices, such as set theory, interval projection, interval vectors, etc.
    Set theory is not a compositional practice, but a tool which was developed in order to analyze music that responded poorly to traditional methods. I didn't say that post-tonal was chronological, merely that it describes any post-common practice music, from Debussy on, where functional tonality is either rejected or ameliorated to the point of meaninglessness. Naturally, there was some common practice music written into the 20th century, but the vast majority was not.

    Irrelevant ad-hominem statement.
    This is a misunderstanding of what an ad-hominem statement is.
    Last edited by Mahlerian; Jun-30-2016 at 17:49.

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    Reading through this thread, which I actually find both interesting and fascinating, I am reminded of a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, which I have slightly altered. "Three people can discuss music theory, if two of them are dead!"

    Carry on chaps, I'm keen to see who caves first.
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