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Twelve-tone music

Related: art music - classical music - music - serious - 1920s

After almost a century, serial twelve-tone composition has yet to catch on with the general music public, for all the enthusiasm with which some people have greeted it. Even so, twelve tone music was hailed as the wave, the only wave of the musical future. Crocker even put Anton Webern on a pedestal as the Omega Point of all Western Music. I think Anton Webern was a great composer, but to declare any one composer to be the Omega Point of music is bad theology (i.e., idolatry.) Theodor Adorno, the Marxist philosopher and musicologist, seems that have looked forward to the day when the Proletariat would march towards the Revolution singing the stirring tunes of Arnold Schoenberg. That did not happen and it probably won't. --http://andrewmarr.homestead.com/files/music/musicmystery.htm [May 2005]


Founded by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg around the late 1910s, the twelve-tone technique was used during the next 20 years almost only by the Second Viennese School (Alban Berg, Anton Webern, and Arnold Schoenberg himself), though was later taken up by composers such as Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Luigi Dallapiccola and Igor Stravinsky. Some of these composers extended the technique to control aspects other than the pitches of notes (such as duration, method of attack and so on), thus producing serial music. Some even subjected all elements of music to the serial process.

In practice, the "rules" of twelve-tone technique have been bent and broken many times, not least by Schoenberg himself. For instance, in some pieces two or more tone rows may be heard progressing at once, or there may be parts of a composition which are written freely, without recourse to the twelve-tone technique at all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_tone_technique#History_of_the_technique's_use, Feb 2004

The Second Viennese School

The Second Viennese School was a group of composers made up of Arnold Schoenberg and those who studied under him in early 20th century Vienna. Their music is characterised by atonalism and Schoenberg's twelve tone technique. The principal members of the school were Alban Berg, Anton Webern and Schoenberg, although there are lesser known composers who ought to be covered by the term, such as the Greek Nikolaos Skalkottas.

The first Viennese school, which is rarely referred to as such except in comparison to the Second Viennese School, is generally taken to consist of composers working in the late 18th and early 19th century, particularly Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Viennese_School [Oct 2004]

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