#1
I know what it is and 12 tone theory, but I was wondering how any of you have gone about writing atonal music (if you have obviously). I'd love to hear some of yours. Also, I'd like some suggestions for some atonal music you know of that is not orchestra. I know it is very easy to find dissonant pieces from way back when, in fact, my AP Music theory teacher showed us plenty of it, but any modern atonal music you know of?

Any help is appreciated.
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#2
Quote by gatechballer
I know what it is and 12 tone theory, but I was wondering how any of you have gone about writing atonal music (if you have obviously). I'd love to hear some of yours. Also, I'd like some suggestions for some atonal music you know of that is not orchestra. I know it is very easy to find dissonant pieces from way back when, in fact, my AP Music theory teacher showed us plenty of it, but any modern atonal music you know of?

Any help is appreciated.

Schoenberg. He's the "creator" of what we know as atonal music.

And I've written an atonal melody. Never a completely atonal song (though, it could be argued that it's atonal). "Sewage Disposal Area" on my profile.

The way I did it (made the atonal melody) was I used an online random order generator. I gave each pitch a number starting from... Eb I think. And plugged in 1 - 12. that was now my order of pitches. I played it going forward once, and then in retrograde inversion, if I'm not mistaken.
#3
Hm....if you want atonal music, try John Cage, Schoenberg (mentioned above)....rock music wise, try Black Flag, The Mars Volta, Modest Mouse, The Velvet Underground. All of those bands incorporate atonal parts into some of their songs. Try a lot of free, modal, and avant garde jazz. John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler are great examples of jazz musicians who used atonal parts. Hope I helped!
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#4
Quote by drewkilljoy
Hm....if you want atonal music, try John Cage, Schoenberg (mentioned above)....rock music wise, try Black Flag, The Mars Volta, Modest Mouse, The Velvet Underground. All of those bands incorporate atonal parts into some of their songs. Try a lot of free, modal, and avant garde jazz. John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler are great examples of jazz musicians who used atonal parts. Hope I helped!



Yeah I definitely know John Cage.....But wow I never really thought about the atonal compositions Modest Mouse uses within songs.....I love Modest Mouse! Thnaks for the suggestion. I would've never thought to listen to Velvet Underground either. As far as I know, Coltraine never really had songs that were atonal, he just used and emphasized many notes that weren't in key. But then again, I am not all-knowing.


And to the first reply,^ that was pretty interesting, thanks.
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My cover of Manchester Orchestra's "I Can Feel Your Pain"
http://www.mediafire.com/?jfvt54j4mkiiq99
#5
Quote by drewkilljoy
Hm....if you want atonal music, try John Cage, Schoenberg (mentioned above)....rock music wise, try Black Flag, The Mars Volta, Modest Mouse, The Velvet Underground. All of those bands incorporate atonal parts into some of their songs. Try a lot of free, modal, and avant garde jazz. John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler are great examples of jazz musicians who used atonal parts. Hope I helped!

Can I please have some songs to listen to for this? I've never heard atonal parts in any of these bands...
#6
Don't really get Atonal, is it just music without a concrete tonal center? Or is it any music that isn't 'tonal' or westernized?
lol guitar
#7
Karlheinz Stockhausen, Alberto Ginastera and Béla Bartók are my favorite expressionist composers, but perhaps you aren't looking for that. Some examples of modern expressionist music I like (with links):

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso (Italian progressive rock)
Art Bears (avant-garde rock/RIO)
Thinking Plague (avant-garde rock)
Henry Cow (avant-garde rock/RIO)

Although none of these are truly atonal at all they have strong expressionistic elements. Check it out.

EDIT: Miles Davis also wrote some dissonant type music, probably most notably his piece Bitches Brew .
Last edited by Sóknardalr at Aug 11, 2010,
#8
Quote by Serpentarius
Don't really get Atonal, is it just music without a concrete tonal center?

This.

Schoenberg, if I'm not mistaken, likes to describe it as every having equal importance in being the tonal center. I like to describe it as every note NOT being the tonal center. But I've also years less experience in creating atonal music than he.
#9
I've recently gotten interested in atonal music, mainly listening, not playing yet. I've studied some Schoenberg and it's just crazy stuff.

@Sóknardalr - going through you links you posted, still on the first song and my head is sufficiently messed with.
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#10
Quote by TacoSaladMan
I've recently gotten interested in atonal music, mainly listening, not playing yet. I've studied some Schoenberg and it's just crazy stuff.

@Sóknardalr - going through you links you posted, still on the first song and my head is sufficiently messed with.


Thinking Plague is the definitely the most bizarre out of those bands.

Although, if you ask me it's completely pointless. That kind of calculated dissonance sounds just as great as some good dissonant improv most of the time. Compare something like Stockhausen's Kreuzspiel to King Crimson's Moonchild for lack of a better example. One of them is purely calculated and theoretically extremely complex and the other one is just pure ad-lib playing. I like the Stockhausen piece more actually but the point is there's really not a huge difference overall in sound. Learning how to deliberately avoid any sort of tonic like that just strikes me as extremely pointless and a bit anti-musical. Play what you think sounds super, and if it happens to not have a tonic then great, but I think some of these composers are doing nothing more than creating equations that have no solution, or better yet have a dynamic one, that changes. I don't see the point, other than to say "this piece has no tonal center". I still respect Stockhausen a lot because his music is awesome and theories are very interesting, not because he is great at having no tonic or whatever.
#11
Quote by drewkilljoy
Try a lot of free, modal, and avant garde jazz.
Modal jazz isn't atonal. The whole fact that it's modal makes it not atonal. Sure it's not tonal, but it's not atonal either.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
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#12
Atonalism is pretty much Schoenberg's creation, at least formal atonalism is (serialism and the 12 tone row). There are atonal concepts in Bela Bartok's, Scriabin's and Prokovievs works, but it wasn't perfectly atonal. Atonalism is actually one of the reasons minimalism became popular amongst some composers, turned out that such complex music was too complex to be self-sufficient, so composers went the other way. Personally, I enjoy atonal works, with all their chaos, much more than minimalist works (which I feel are almost emotionless).

The original idea behind serialism is simply to create something new. Schoenberg felt that serialism was his method to escape tonality, which he believed was a close to defunct system. Schoenberg was a big believer in "the emancipation of dissonance," where the conventions of use for dissonance in music (but not the dissonance itself) became less strict as societal norms became less strict. It's probable that Schoenberg felt he was pushing music along when he created atonalism, as if he was writing music that would one day in the future be normal and standard.

Quote by gatechballer
I'd like some suggestions for some atonal music you know of that is not orchestra
Atonalism is a pretty advanced concept and so it goes hand in hand with learned musicians. Due to the capabilities of an orchestra, many learned musicians only compose for orchestras. Therefore, it's difficult to find atonal music not for the orchestra. At most, Schoenberg, Berg and Webern (the latter two being students of Schoenberg's) had piano pieces that used atonal concepts.

Schoenberg's Op.42 is distinctly atonal, but at the same time doesn't sound too crazy. Definitely worth a listen.

Quote by gatechballer
I was wondering how any of you have gone about writing atonal music
I have thought about it, yes. It's not something I'm interested in though. My personal views on atonal music is that it's a dead end, I feel the goal of atonalism is inartistic. The purpose of music is to incite emotion through sound, not to show off your compositional skills by using the most advanced technique possible.

The main idea behind atonalism is pretty simple though: all 12 tones must be treated as equal. I've thought that just like other classical techniques, it could be applied only partially.

Quote by food1010
Sure it's not tonal

Don't be so sure. One of the things I've learned lately is that the distinction between modal and tonal music isn't exact, even in regards to medieval modality. Music sort of transitioned from one to the other.
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#13
Quote by demonofthenight

I have thought about it, yes. It's not something I'm interested in though. My personal views on atonal music is that it's a dead end, I feel the goal of atonalism is inartistic. The purpose of music is to incite emotion through sound, not to show off your compositional skills by using the most advanced technique possible.


It depends a lot on your approach. Some atonal music can sound very uninspired, but I find some very beautiful. This is one of my favourites, and I don't think it's inartistic, or devoid of emotion. Of course not all atonal music is good, but I think some is a lot more than just "showing off your compositional skills by using the most advanced technique possible".

Also, I think there are some misconceptions about atonality. It's not music with absolutely no tonal centre, as the ear is constantly trying to identify some reference point, even in atonal music. Tonal centres can be indentified in atonal music, it's just that they can be hard to pin down, and are surrounded by numerous ambiguities. The absence of tonality is not the same as absence of tonal centre.

I prefer to think of atonal music as an extension of late-Romantic highly chromatic music. Theorists have argued over the tonality of the opening of this for years, and there's still no definitive way of looking at it, because it is ambiguous by nature. You can easily see how that can develop into this, which is still tonal, but highly dissonant and ambiguous in terms of tonality. From this, atonal music seems like a much more natural development to me, a sort of logical consequence of heightening ambiguity in romantic music.

I prefer to think of atonal music as just being highly chromatic, so that any one tonality (not tonal centre) is impossible to pin down.
Last edited by National_Anthem at Aug 12, 2010,
#14
Quote by demonofthenight
Don't be so sure. One of the things I've learned lately is that the distinction between modal and tonal music isn't exact, even in regards to medieval modality. Music sort of transitioned from one to the other.
Ok, you have a point. Modal music still isn't atonal though, it has a tonal center. That was my point.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
#17
Quote by National_Anthem
It depends a lot on your approach. Some atonal music can sound very uninspired, but I find some very beautiful. This is one of my favourites, and I don't think it's inartistic, or devoid of emotion.
Is that really atonal though? It uses dissonance in a very free manner, I can hear that much, but atonal? I doubt it. By that logic, it's hard to say atonalism is Schoenberg's invention. Anyway, I think this thread is about serialism and the 12 tone row, judging by the original post, which most definitely is Schoenberg's invention.

Quote by National_Anthem
I think some is a lot more than just "showing off your compositional skills by using the most advanced technique possible".
It doesn't sounds like it, especially when modern composers do it.

Quote by National_Anthem
I prefer to think of atonal music as an extension of late-Romantic highly chromatic music.
There is a strong link between Romantic music and 20th century classical music, yes. The latter usually had skills in the former.

Quote by National_Anthem
Theorists have argued over the tonality of the opening of this for years
I have a book where there's a whole chapter devoted to studying that piece. From a quick skim, he (Felix Salzer) analysed it to be in C and use mostly 7-6 suspensions. I should probably analyse it myself.
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#18
sikth incorporate a lot of atonality into their music
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#19
Quote by demonofthenight
Is that really atonal though? It uses dissonance in a very free manner, I can hear that much, but atonal? I doubt it.


It's difficult to tell without having the score. You can hear very obvious tonal centres but I don't hear anything to indicate any real sense of any tonality. And yes, there is a distinction.
Quote by demonofthenight

By that logic, it's hard to say atonalism is Schoenberg's invention.


Atonality is definitely not Schoenberg's invention. He may have been the first person to write strictly serial music, but people were aware of 12 tone rows and extreme chromaticism for a long time before the 20th century. Bach wrote a fugue in which all 12 notes of the chromatic scale appear without repetition as the subject and answer of a fugue, and the recapitulation of the 4th movement of Mozart's 40th Symphony is a famous example of a 12 note row in classical era music. There's other moments in late Beethoven, and numerous other romantic examples. Lizst wrote music which could be described as atonal (it's pretty awful ).

Quote by demonofthenight
I have a book where there's a whole chapter devoted to studying that piece. From a quick skim, he (Felix Salzer) analysed it to be in C and use mostly 7-6 suspensions. I should probably analyse it myself.


I'd avoid anything that manages to reduce anything like that to such a simple analysis, even from such a renowned musicologist as Salzer. I think it's pretty clear that Wagner intended the ambiguities that can be heard in the music, and I think they should be considered rather than discounted.
Last edited by National_Anthem at Aug 12, 2010,
#20
Quote by National_Anthem
I'd avoid anything that manages to reduce anything like that to such a simple analysis
But... that's the point

Bach wrote a fugue in which all 12 notes of the chromatic scale appear without repetition as the subject and answer of a fugue
Eh? I'm interested.
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#22
Quote by demonofthenight
But... that's the point


Not sure about that one. It's certainly not C major the whole way through, and when it does sound like it could be C major, it could be something else.

http://imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/a/a8/IMSLP07135-Tristany1.pdf

Take the second phrase (measures 5-7): sure, it finishes on a dominant 7th in C major, but in a highly chromatic context, and with the absence of any resolution, it's highly ambiguous. It could easily resolve to an A minor chord, or several others. And it doesn't really get any clearer as it goes on.

Quote by demonofthenight

Eh? I'm interested.


I've forgotten exactly which one it is. Pretty sure it's in C# minor, and it's not one of the organ fugues, so that narrows it down quite a bit. It might not be without any repetitions of any of the notes, but there's definitely minimal repetition.