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.
Schönberg, A. Style and Idea. New York, 1958.
Rognoni, L. Espressionismo e dodecafonia. Turin, 1954. (Bibliography, pp. 355–95.)
Reti, R. Tonality, Atonality, Pantonality. London, 1958.
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Austin, W. Music in the 20th Century. New York, 1966. (Bibliography, pp. 552–662.)


References in periodicals archive ?
17) Allen Forte, The Structure of Atonal Music (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973).
Similarly motivated was the criticism of "artificial" atonal music.
In the end, Scruton believes that atonal music is kitsch in this same sense.
Most of the time, though, Ross confines himself to evoking the experience of hearing pieces rather than, say, the voluptuous malaise of the fin de siecle, or the social and spiritual ideals behind atonal music.
I won't especially berate you about your evident distaste for atonal music, since I shared that aversion during my years as a horn player and organist.
It includes such sketches as "Words, Words, Words" - the piece about the three monkeys - and "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread," which uses atonal music and repetitive language to mimic the music of minimalist composer Glass.
All three are quite listenable (conductor Jose Serebreier's liner notes make the case that in the '50s, atonal music was the rage, and music like this was simply overlooked), and indeed, more than that, they are quite rewarding to listen to.
He is known to be irritated that in the wake of his assassination, the media styled Lennon as the experimenting modernist, ignoring Paul's considerable dalliance with tape sampling, atonal music and the London art scene.
As a translator of Paul Hindemith's The Craft of Musical Composition and A Concentrated Course in Traditional Harmony, Allen Forte's The Structure of Atonal Music, and George Perle's Serial Composition and Atonality, he developed a keen interest in the structural interrelations of pitch-class space and collection classes.
It would be wrong to dismiss all modern "classical" atonal music as nothing more than a fire in a pet shop.
While Talgung's eighty-six chapters, without obvious linkage to one another, each bearing its own rhythmics, thematics, logic, and chronological order, could be mystifying to some, its complex structure, reminiscent of Arnold Schoenberg's atonal music with its twelve-tone "serial" technique, may be intriguing to others.
The 20th century was the age of atonal music and the age of rock star Buddy Holly and film director Steven Spielberg, two life-affirming and celebratory creators.