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Related: music - harmony

People: Arnold Schoenberg - George Antheil

New tonality

While many regard the works of Schoenberg post 1911 as "atonal", see atonality, one influential school of thought, to which Schoenberg himself belonged, argued that chromatic composition lead to a "new tonality", this view is argued by George Perle in his works on "post diatonic tonality". The central idea of this theory is that music is always perceived as having a center, and even in a fully chromatic work, composers establish and disintegrate centers in a manner analogous to traditional harmony. This view is highly controversial, and remains a topic of intense debate. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonality#History_of_the_Term [Oct 2004]


Atonality describes music that does not conform to the system of tonal hierarchies, which characterizes the sound of classical European music between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Not only does it not conform to the common practice of this particular period, but it is noticeably divorced from the acoustical underpinnings of music going back as far as the scale systems of ancient Greece. This separation of traditional meaning to be found in melodic motifs throughout history, have left purely atonal music generally bereft of common emotional and spiritual meaning. With exception of a very gifted few, it is generally the purpose of the atonalist that his listener experience sound, rather than what could rightly be called music. Atonality usually describes compositions written from about 1923 to the present day, where the hierarchy of tonal centers, in some cases, may not be used as the primary way to organize a work. Tonal centers gradually replaced modal organization starting in the 1500s and culminated with the establishment of the major-minor key system in the late 1600s and early 1700s.

The most prominent school to compose in this manner was the Second Viennese School of Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. However, composers such as Josef Matthias Hauer, Béla Bartók, Aaron Copland, George Antheil, and others wrote music that is described as atonal, and many traditional composers “flirted with atonality,” in the words of Leonard Bernstein. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonality [Mar 2006]

Boulez: Pli selon Pli (1957-62)

Boulez: Pli selon Pli (1957-62) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Pli Selon Pli (Fold by Fold) is a portrait of Mallarmé, whose poems are set in fragmented fashion throughout the work's five movements, which Boulez rewrote and added to until they assumed final form in 1989. His 1969 Sony recording had an icy, frozen surface and a general air of impenetrability. Age may have mellowed the maestro, for this version, while still challenging, is more accessible. Textures are more finely drawn; the delicate colorations of winds and plucked instruments, including a mandolin, are more sensuous; and a traditional French sensibility is more obvious. The singer, soprano Christine Schäfer, is more communicative, too: her high notes are smoothly produced, her lines seamlessly woven into the orchestral fabric. The voice is effectively an instrumental line in the work's structure, and texts are fragmented into discrete words and syllables. For all their importance, they occupy a relatively limited portion of the piece's 70 minutes. The crack instrumentalists of the Ensemble Intercontemporain are masters of Boulez's style, and it's hard to imagine a better performance of this modernist milestone. --Dan Davis

Pierre Boulez (born March 26, 1925) is a conductor and composer of classical music. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre Boulez [Mar 2006]

See also: tonality - classical music - modernist music

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