Skip to main content

What is Atonal Music? Music Theory in a Nutshell

What is Atonal Music? Music Theory in a Nutshell

The atonal system was a large break from the traditions of before. Western music first began with simple intervals in the time of Pythagorus. This system marked intervals like a unison and an octave as the most tonal and pleasing to the ear. In the middle ages, musicians used church modes. Monks even attributed certain religious qualities to specific music intervals like the fourth. In the Baroque Era, composers began to use what is now considered major and minor scales which escalated into the mathematical perfection or Mozart. True Western harmony was born.

The 20th century saw a break from traditional Western harmony. When Arnold Schoenberg experimented with atonality, he developed a complex musical and mathematical system. Essentially, a composer would arrange the twelve notes of a scale in a specific row, and then compose using those rows (in that order alone) to eliminate any sense of tonality. Eventually composers began creating complex matrices to develop these rows. Schoenberg's works were revolutionary. However, while contemporary composers learn this style of composition, generally, most composers do not use strict atonal music theory in their works.

While atonal music does seem arbitrary when you listen to it, the method to calculate the matrix of tone row lines is quite involved and exact. There are tools online now available that will help composers and music students develop the tone rows without having to worry about calculating them.

Here is one such site: http://composertools.com/Tools/matrix/MatrixCalc.html

By clicking on the image, you will see a dozen permutations of the line. A composer can take these lines and create music, always being sure to follow the order predetermined by the matrix.

Today the term atonal may refer to any sort of music that avoids a tonal center. Many works are atonal without using serialism.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Top 10 Mistakes When Writing for Percussion

Top 10 Mistakes When Writing for Percussionby Sabrina Young
10. Indicating the wrong mallets for an instrument.Brass mallets on vibes? Try a hammer on a violin!


9. Writing the glockenspiel part as heard.You shouldn't have to climb a ladder of leger lines to read a glock part. Keep it in the staff.

8. When in doubt, adding more suspended cymbal.This is a huge mistake made by arrangers. Yep, cymbals add automatic intensity to a piece, but so can a bass drum roll, a rousing hand drum part, exciting mallet licks, or a hundred other combinations. Well-written percussion parts stand out in the band and church repertoire.



7. Better means more complicated, right?This is my main mistake. A percussion part can be simple enough for a middle school, but it is the ability to use the different tone colors of the percussion palette properly that indicates a maturity in writing, not that impossible part for the timpanist that has them playing timpani, gong, crash cymbals, and triangle in the span of…

Music Industry Insider: 50 Ways to Make Money as a Musician

50 Ways to Make Money as a MusicianWant to have a musical career but not sure how to make money as a musician in today's market? Well, first you need to redefine your goals as a musician and realize that like any job, being a musician involves a lot of work, perseverance, and talent. And in today's Digital Age, you need to be able to combine your skills to help you make a living as a musician. You will probably need to select at least a dozen forms of income and micro-incomes in order to make a full time living as a musician or choose a primary steady gig and add on other projects (what most musicians have done for centuries). 

Each method of making money has a $, $$, $$$ or S for work that will make you a little pocket money ($), possibly significant money - hundreds to thousands ($$), at least part time or possible full time work ($$$), or is steady work (S). Notice that none of these options involve making millions of dollars so you can drive around in a diamond-crusted limo…

Top 5 Tips Submitting Your Indie Film to Film Festival in 2019

Top 5 Tips for Film Festival Submissions in 2019 You just finished your film! So now what? Sure, you can show your friends and family, even put it up on YouTube. But why don't you try getting it out to a much wider audience? Indie filmmakers and student filmmakers can have their movies shown around the globe at film festivals.

Film festivals run the gamut of red carpet affairs like Sundance and Cannes to more local events, online festivals, and university-led events. For example, in Buffalo, there are a number of incredible film festivals like the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival (a local film fest that has a special love for all horror and science fiction), the NCCC Film and Animation (a great venue for students and local film networking), and other film festivals like the Buffalo International Film Festival and the 48 hour Film Festival. 

The 48 Hour Film Festival is a worldwide phenomenon where filmmakers get together and create a film in, you guessed it, 48 hours! Best of …