Atonal Music

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Atonal Music


a concept pertaining to music that does not have a tonal organization of sounds.

Atonal music arose at the beginning of the 1900’s and was connected with the work of a new Viennese school (A. Schönberg, A. Berg, and A. Webern). The basic characteristic of atonal music is the absence of a unifying correlation between tones and the main center of a key, the tonic; this results in amorphousness of musical discourse, disintegration of the structural functions of harmony, dissonance, and so forth. The lack of tonal and harmonic centers makes it extremely difficult to understand the music, although various major composers have at times created impressive atonal works. Particularly sharp, expressive timbre and rhythm, intense theatrical situations, and poetic texts are used in the monodrama Erwartung (1909) and the suite Pierrot Lunaire (1912) by Schönberg, the opera Wozzeck by Berg (1921), and other works.

In 1922, Schönberg devised a method of composition “with twelve tones which are related only to one another” (this was later called dodecaphony); its purpose was to introduce strict order into the anarchy of atonal music. Atonal music is the basis of many systems of composition that have entered the arsenal of avant-gardism. The aesthetic principles of atonal music are closely related to expressionism. The method, devices, and elements of atonal music are found among composers of different schools (C. Ivés, B. Britten, B. Bartók, A. Honegger, and others).


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Berg, A. “What Is Atonality?” In N. Slonimsky, Music Since 1900. New York, 1949.
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References in periodicals archive ?
17) Allen Forte, The Structure of Atonal Music (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973).
What's more, you're right to assume that I find atonal music distasteful, and for that matter I'm not a huge fan of purely abstract art or of the fractured prose of Joyce or Beckett.
This account makes it possible to clarify and indeed to quantify one of the deepest principles of aesthetics: the fact that people apprehending works of art are bored if there is too much simplicity (the kitchen chair, certain Gregorian chants), and overwhelmed if there is too much complexity (much atonal music, and pastiche Victorian furniture).
Over coffee in a downtown cafe, the affable and articulate Aziz later explained the thinking behind this unique merging of Handel's florid Baroque sounds with Schoenberg's atonal music.
A bohemian Swiss composer and conductor in the first half of the twentieth century, he espoused experimental, atonal music but wrote lyrical songs.
Moving to the visual realm, where I suppose the equivalent to atonal music is abstract art, it's striking how few gay artists went in for pure abstraction.
A far cry from his later atonal music, it owes something to Debussy and, to the modern ear, is no more radical sounding than late Mahler or Strauss.
3) Jung Hee Choi, Rice (MELA Foundation Dream House, New York) This video-sound work was presented in May at Dream House, the permanent installation of La Monte Young's atonal music and Marian Zazeela's magenta lights, and one of Dia founder Heiner Friedrich's other great legacies.
In the 1890s Schoenberg was laying the foundations, with his pupils Anton Webern and Alban Berg, for the atonal music which so disturbs the public even today.
Those who are fans of Weill's dark, almost atonal music won't be disappointed.
To violently atonal music (a computer treatment by Thom Willems of Stravinsky's Apollo) and the ticking of the clocks, the women perform seemingly random combinations of steps on different parts of the stage while a superb young musician, Maxim Franke, moves around and plays the complex score.
The narrative chapters, stemming as they did from previously published articles, only briefly touch on music-theoretical constructs, like Schoenberg's "tonal problem" or the function of inversional symmetry in atonal music.