Twelve-tone row

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The twelve-tone row is any arrangement of the twelve different pitches of the chromatic scale in an equally tempered tone system . It forms the compositional core of works of twelve-tone music that began in the Second Viennese School .

For the composer Arnold Schönberg , who claimed to have "discovered" the twelve-tone series, two premises apply to the twelve-tone series as a new ordering principle in New Music :

  • A twelve-tone row must contain all twelve pitches of the chromatic scale, whereby enharmonic mix-ups and octavings have no meaning.
  • In a twelve-tone composition, a tone may only be used a second time after all the other tones in the series have already occurred.

For Schoenberg, this constitutes the totality of composing with twelve tones that are only related to one another , which then creates the emancipation of dissonance as a characteristic of “New Music”.

However, the twelve-tone row only determines the pitch sequence of a twelve-tone composition. The other parameters of the tone (tone duration, volume and timbre) remain unaffected in classical dodecaphony .

Row formation

A twelve-tone row is an arbitrary but complete arrangement of the semitones of the chromatic scale. Which arrangement a composer chooses from the 479,001,600 (= 12!) Possible permutations of the chromatic scale for his composition is an artistically far-reaching preliminary decision. The twelve-tone row is neither a composition nor a theme . Schoenberg calls it a theme form and understands it as an abstract structure from which themes can be derived.

From the chrome.  Scale for the twelve-tone row

An example of a vertical, chordal processing of a twelve-tone row are the first bars of Schönberg's piano piece op33a → sheet music example.

The four modes of the twelve-tone row

In traditional dodecaphony , two transformations (reshaping) of a twelve-tone row are considered proper.

  • Cancer formation : The cancer of a twelve-tone row is created by applying the original row backwards from its last tone. This transformation is also called vertical mirroring .
  • Inversion : The intervals of the original series are replaced by their complementary intervals , with the result that every interval that was directed upward in the original series is directed downward in the inversion, and vice versa. This is why this transformation is also known as horizontal mirroring .

With these two transformations, a total of four series can be formed from an original series: the original series and its inversion and the cancer of these two. In relation to this, dodecaphony speaks of the “four modes” in which a twelve-tone series can occur.

The four modes of a twelve-tone row

Another real transformation can be seen as a transposition of the original series and its modifications, which transposes the four modes of the twelve-tone series to the twelve different pitches of the chromatic scale.

This means that a total of 48 (= 4 × 12) rows (including the original) can be derived from most twelve-tone rows, which are available to the composer for a twelve-tone composition.

The transformations Cancer and Inversion are borrowed from counterpoint theory . In doing so, Schönberg sought to connect his twelve-tone theory to the strict rules of this compositional technique.

Special forms of the twelve-tone row

Among the ten million remaining twelve-tone rows - the 48 derivatives of each row are excluded - a multitude of row formations can be discovered which have special characteristics.

  • Symmetries (Schoenberg, piano piece op. 33a);
  • Internal relations of series parts, ( Anton Webern , Concerto for 9 instruments op. 24);
  • Echoes of tonal elements (major and minor triads in Alban Berg's violin concerto );
  • certain interval structures (third progressions in Anton Webern's 1st cantata op. 29);
  • extra-musical metaphors (the BACH motif at the beginning of the cancer form of the series from Schoenberg op.25 shown above)

So-called all-interval series, in which all eleven formable intervals are present in addition to all twelve semitones, became important. They also appear in the form of symmetrical all-interval series. → Main article all-interval series

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Arnold Schönberg: Style and Thought (= Fischer 3616). Edited by Ivan Vojtech. (Gudrun Budde's original English translation). 5th-6th Thousand. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-596-23616-9 , p. 75.


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