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Thread: ...How to Listen To and Understand Atonal Music?

  1. #31
    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    One book you should also read if you are interested in either analyzing or composing atonal music is The Structure of Atonal Music by Allen Forte. It explains the basic concepts, vocabulary, and language that analysts and composers of atonal music use. Pitch class sets, interval vectors, relations and set complexes. As an atonal composer, pitch class set theory has been extremely helpful in composition. The interval vectors not only show you what intervals occur in the pitch class set, but also the ones that do not occur and are not available. That helps you in designing the specific sound and character you want to achieve.

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  3. #32
    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    Lastly, I recommend the book Serial Composition by Reginald Smith Brindle. There are two chapters that may interest you. One chapter is about writing counterpoint (there are several chapters about counterpoint) but this one in particular is about two-part counterpoint and, while in a 12-tone context, discusses the importance of intervals and expression and how to write with a specific expressive goal in mind, even within the confines of a 12-tone row. Another chapter deals with how to write free atonality and analyzes two atonal pieces in great depth. It goes through a step by step thought process of how they were composed.

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  5. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torkelburger View Post
    Copland explains how each of these forms (except the modern forms I mentioned) presents an idea as a unique musical argument in a way the listener can comprehend. Now, as a composer, certain ideas will be better suited for a certain form over others and the composer must find the right one for this particular idea. For example, the rhythms in atonal music are often asymmetrical, with odd groupings, ties over the downbeat, complex rhythms, changing meters, and odd meters. An idea with those characteristics would probably not be well suited for a passacaglia and the composer would have to choose something else. You couldn’t relegate consonant intervals to weak beats as in your question, as the weak beats would always be changing and there may not even be an identifiable pulse to the music.
    Hmm, there is often identifiable pulse in Schoenberg, which Boulez famously attacked him for. (Or was it the fact that he abided to old forms?) But Schoenberg always denied that he (unlike Strauss in his mind) was revolutionary and emphasized his closeness to tonal contemporaries such as Max Reger.

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    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gargamel View Post
    Hmm, there is often identifiable pulse in Schoenberg, which Boulez famously attacked him for. (Or was it the fact that he abided to old forms?) But Schoenberg always denied that he (unlike Strauss in his mind) was revolutionary and emphasized his closeness to tonal contemporaries such as Max Reger.
    Yes, you're right. And I've always liked that about Schoenberg. I love both approaches, actually. But yes, I was referring to the style developed by his followers much later when atonality became popular and mainstream among composers around the late 40's through early 70's. Literally hundreds of composers could be named, but to my mind come: Luciano Berio, Mario Davidovsky, Luigi Dallapiccola*, Luigi Nono, Leon Kirchner, Elliott Carter...

    *(Actually, Dallapiccola had occasionally written some canonic material in extremely complex rhythm and mixed meters. Nothing like fugues or passacaglias that I remember, but some nice canons).

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