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Author Topic: The Father of atonality.  (Read 5571 times)
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BlueTrombonist
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« on: Apr 04, 2007, 09:35AM »

Who do you think should have this title? Schoenberg is definitely way too late.

Few (obvious) ideas that come to mind
Wagner
Debussy
Strauss (not really though)

Then again even earlier composers were experimenting with atonality and extensive use of non-diatonic notes (even Chopin comes to mind in a few pieces).

Not really looking for who was the first atonal composer as opposed to who was the first to really work with atonal concepts, seemed interesting to discuss.
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« Reply #1 on: Apr 04, 2007, 09:58AM »

The first Atonal Composer was named Og, and he accidentally had put the 2nd Granite Rock only 1/4 step below the 1st Granite Rock.  He liked the result and kept it.  This data was lost for many centuries until rediscovered by Gary Larson doing research for his Far Side series.

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« Reply #2 on: Apr 04, 2007, 02:09PM »

Don't confuse non-diatonic with atonal. Chromaticism still can be in a definite key center, although maybe just in passing. Ives was doing 12 tone stuff before Schoenberg, IIRC.
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« Reply #3 on: Apr 04, 2007, 03:00PM »

Do check out the last movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 40. If I'm not mistaken its the passage between exposition and the development that all 12 tones appear. I think this goes along with the idea that chromaticism can still have a definite key center, which Mr Walter Barrett suggested.
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« Reply #4 on: Apr 04, 2007, 03:45PM »

I agree atonality is the lack of (look at spacing) a tonal center. However Chromaticism and the use of non-diatonic tones form the basis for atonal composition. Mozart however was definitely NOT an atonal composer.
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« Reply #5 on: Apr 04, 2007, 04:39PM »

There is plenty of ambiguous tonality and frequently-shifting tonality in music prior to the 20th century.  The aforementioned Mozart symphony excerpt is an example of ambiguous tonality, which are legion in sonata-form movements during transitions.

I would point to the Italian madrigal composers, such as Monteverdi, Marenzio, and particularly Gesualdo, as good pre-Mozart examples of heavy chromaticism with tonal centers all over the map.
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Brian

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« Reply #6 on: Apr 04, 2007, 08:25PM »

Mozart however was definitely NOT an atonal composer.

Neither were Wagner, Debussy, or Strauss.
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« Reply #7 on: Apr 05, 2007, 12:42AM »

Listz
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« Reply #8 on: Apr 05, 2007, 01:37AM »

if you look at shoenberg (and his students berg and webern for that matter) the use of atonality is a definate movement towards the development of tone colour. Look for example at Webern's and Shoeberg's 5 pieces for orchestra. Both use a single movement where the instruments are used in a percussive way to show the idea of tone colour and rhythm as important (as strawisky did with his static harmonies in the rite). The main concern here is how do you define exactly what atonality is. Early on Shoenberg played with the ideas of static harmonies and built chords but still this gives us a tonal centre, this moved on to total atonality (and amotif works) then onto twelve tone.
Shoenberg aknowledges the idea of atonality and brought it to a major compositional movement through his students and further on to generations of composers. By creating pieces such as one of his piano sonatas (sorry can't remember which) that is given the key of DM then purposly moving away from this through accidentals he is bringing this idea to the forefront of twentieth centrury composition. Remember even is someone has used it before it is those who make the greatest use of it we remember (think of Alberti bass if you don't get this, not invented by Domenico Alberti but he got his own darn name to it)
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« Reply #9 on: Apr 05, 2007, 01:52AM »

Bagatelle ohne Toneart - Listz
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BlueTrombonist
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« Reply #10 on: Apr 05, 2007, 04:05PM »

Agreed Jeff, I'm saying that those people though employed techniques that would be expanded upon by "true" atonal composers.

Dombat Schoenberg is probably the most widely known atonal composer I can think of, but he also used other techniques like the twelve-tone system as well, which were in existanc before his time.

I think the question is where did all this start?
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« Reply #11 on: Apr 05, 2007, 04:23PM »

Well the 12 tone idea was created to force atonality, or equality of all the pitches.  I think you need to clarify your definition of atonal.  It seems to me like you are using atonal to describe anything beyond pure functional harmony, and I don't think of that as atonal.

A dictionary definition of atonal is "not written in any key or mode."  I can't think of anything in western music before Schoenberg that fits that definition.  So in terms of true atonality, it started in Vienna in the 1900's.

Now that was all done in reaction to Wagner/Mahler/Bruckner late romantic very chromatic stuff.  But all of that late romantic chromatic stuff was still tonal.

Now don't just take my word for it, my degrees are all in jazz studies.  Go read a couple of music history texts.
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« Reply #12 on: Apr 05, 2007, 04:46PM »

Bagatelle ohne Tonart - Liszt

I looked up some information on this one.  Sounds interesting; I'll see if I can find a recording.  The description I saw said that it is consistent with the style of Liszt's time, but maintains harmonic tension by avoiding anticipated resolutions.

There is a sonata by Biagio Marini that is written not to have a cadence.  It's fascinating (and frustrating) to listen to with that in mind.  I believe Bach wrote a cadence-free keyboard work, too, but I don't recall what it was.
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Brian

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« Reply #13 on: Apr 05, 2007, 05:18PM »

Atonality is lack of a tonal center.  This has nothing to do with "tone colour."  Schoenberg made liberal use of huge varieties of tone colour.  Listen to a recording of Moses und Aaron sometime.  Serialism and its subset, the twelve-tone row, generally prevent any sense of a tonal center.  I recall reading somewhere that the idea of using all twelve tones of the chromatic scale was not new with Arnold Schoenberg, but I don't recall the specific reference or references at the moment.  Nor do I recall if artificial scales preceded the idea of the serial row.  Artificial scales certainly contained the seeds of the idea of setting up an arbitrary row of tones that had to be used in a given order.  If any one composer needs to be credited as the Father of Atonality, however, I'd give the nod to Schoenberg.  In my listening experience, he seems to be the first to clearly reject the idea of the tonal center in any way, shape, or form.  And he was the first that I know of to actually accomplish that.
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John L. Bracewell
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« Reply #14 on: Apr 05, 2007, 08:28PM »

when i was talking about schoenberg's use of tone colour it was in reference to the use of his static harmonies to emphasise other points of the music. Yes, static harmony is not atonality but i'm just pointing this out as part of the development of style of the early 1900s
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« Reply #15 on: Apr 05, 2007, 09:55PM »

Atonality is the lack of a tonal center in my definition. I really can't think about any "true" atonal composer earlier than Schoenberg but many before him started "chipping away" at the tonal center. One person who comes to mind in that regard is Debussy.
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Nick

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« Reply #16 on: Apr 06, 2007, 12:41AM »

when i was talking about schoenberg's use of tone colour it was in reference to the use of his static harmonies to emphasise other points of the music. Yes, static harmony is not atonality but i'm just pointing this out as part of the development of style of the early 1900s

I think you're on to something with the distinction between tone color and tonality. They're not exclusive of one another. Still, some music seems to emphasize the subjective effect of the juxtaposition of different chords and tones, while other music emphasizes functionality.

It's the difference between the emotional impact of certain sounds, as opposed to the logic of harmonic systems that are (sometimes inadvertently) based around the natural harmonic properties of sound.
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« Reply #17 on: Apr 06, 2007, 06:24AM »

Do check out the last movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 40. If I'm not mistaken its the passage between exposition and the development that all 12 tones appear. I think this goes along with the idea that chromaticism can still have a definite key center, which Mr Walter Barrett suggested.
One of Milton Babbitt's favorite examples.
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« Reply #18 on: Apr 06, 2007, 08:25AM »

Schoenberg supposedly considered himself the successor of Brahms.  I've been told that you can "see" Brahm's influence when studying Schoenberg scores, but that it isn't something you can easily pick up with the ear.  I've never looked to try to make the connection, just passing on some second-hand information.
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« Reply #19 on: Apr 06, 2007, 10:26AM »

Schoenberg also considered his idol as a composer to be Bach  Clever however it's extremely difficult to see a connection there, except that they were both analytical in their compositions.
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Nick

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