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Key People:Igor StravinskyArnold SchoenbergAnton WebernAlban BergAaron Copland...(Show more)Related Topics:musicAtonalityBasic set...(Show more)

12-tone music, huge body the music, written about since human being War I, that uses the so-called 12-tone method or method of composition. The Austrian-born composer Arnold Schoenberg is credited with the creation of this technique, although various other composers (e.g., the American composer Charles Ives and the Austrian Josef Hauer) guess Schoenberg’s invention by composing music that in a few respects was similar technically to his 12-tone music.

Between 1912 and 1922 Schoenberg concerned realize that he was looking for a new an approach of composition the would administer a new basis for musical framework to replace the old communication of tonality, which the felt was being stretched and also distorted too much to continue to be a unifying structure principle. Rather of using 1 or 2 tones as key points of emphasis for an entire composition (as key centres in tonal music), Schoenberg said using all 12 tones “related only to one another.” In together a system, unlike tonality, no notes would predominate together focal points, no one would any kind of hierarchy of importance be assigned come the separation, personal, instance tones.


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The new unifying rule in composition would then arise native the details order provided to a arsenal of the 12 tones, an stimulate that would be different for each composition. The straightforward order for any one composition happened known together its an easy set, its 12-tone row, or its 12-tone series, all of which terms room synonymous. The basic set for Schoenberg’s Wind Quintet (1924) is E♭–G–A–B–C♯–C–B♭–D–E–F♯–A♭–F; because that his String Quartet No. 4 (1936) that is D–C♯–A–B♭–F–E♭–E–C–A♭–G–F♯–B.

The basic set is no a theme, because that it has no certain shape, rhythm, or loudness. That is a backbone, a music idea that permeates the composition in which the is used. Since of the various principles of composing and manipulating the basic set recognized by Schoenberg and also others, it is no often feasible nor even preferable to listen the basic set when the composition is performed. This case has led many world to assault Schoenberg’s an approach as unmusical and as mathematics madness. Together views it seems ~ unjustifiable, because, as Schoenberg spicy out, his technique specifies just a tiny fraction of the complete nature that a composition—certainly no more than composing v tonality specifies.


Schoenberg’s best-known pupils were the Austrian composers Anton von Webern and also Alban Berg, every of whom created 12-tone music. Neither supplied the idea the the basic collection in the exact same manner as Schoenberg did, and also their music differs greatly in numerous respects from each other’s and from Schoenberg’s. Other important composers encompass the Russian-born Igor Stravinsky, the American roger Sessions, the Austrian-born ernst Krenek, the Italian Luigi Dallapiccola, and also the German Hans Werner Henze. Many, such together Stravinsky (who had previously criticized the method severely) and also Sessions, started writing 12-tone music after composing lot non-12-tone music.

Some composers also have offered some that the notions behind the basic collection while simultaneously writing tonal music; among them are Schoenberg himself, the Austrian-born ernst Toch, the American Walter Piston, and the Russian Dmitry Shostakovich. The American composer Benjamin Johnston linked principles of 12-tone music v microtonality (use that intervals smaller sized than entirety tones or semitones). There room no sufficient analytic techniques used by musician in knowledge 12-tone music, which is partly why it continues to be not an extremely well taken as a total musical phenomenon through composers, performers, and also listeners alike. Twelve-tone music is an instance of serialism (q.v.

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) in music.