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Thread: 12-tone (dodecaphony, serial) help!!

  1. #1
    Registered User dmsstudios's Avatar
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    12-tone (dodecaphony, serial) help!!

    I've read about this a lot and I understand the terminology and how we arrive at the 479,001,600 possible permutations of tone rows.

    I need help improvising it!!

    I've listened to Schoenberg & Webern (which I think is mostly terrible music - makes me wanna scratch my eyes out.) However, I've heard people who could improv it and its awesome! I just dont get their method.

    There must be other paradigms than 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, etc.

    I've considered dividing the octave. I've considered a diatonic 7-note scale and then the 5 leftover pieces. I just cant get it to sound anywhere close to decent.

    I dont want to use 12-tone to compose - just to solo - and solo over popular (Western) music. There must be a way!?

    Please, if you can improv 12-tone (JonR, Poparad, etc) help must understand your method.

    P.S. I've already wiki-ed it plus about 10 other sources. It must be in the vault behind armed guards with the Coca-Cola recipe.

  2. #2
    Jazzman Poparad's Avatar
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    With the exception of the occasional 'outside' lick, playing 12-tone over a popular tune is going to sound like you're playing wrong notes 5/12ths of the time, if not more.

    Schoenberg and Webern were probably the best two composers who utilized this technique. If you think their music is terrible, then perhaps it isn't 12-tone that you're actually wanting to learn. Who are these players that you've been listening to who do use 12-tone techniques? I can't think of a single well known player who does.

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmsstudios
    I've read about this a lot and I understand the terminology and how we arrive at the 479,001,600 possible permutations of tone rows.

    I need help improvising it!!

    I've listened to Schoenberg & Webern (which I think is mostly terrible music - makes me wanna scratch my eyes out.) However, I've heard people who could improv it and its awesome! I just dont get their method.

    There must be other paradigms than 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, etc.

    I've considered dividing the octave. I've considered a diatonic 7-note scale and then the 5 leftover pieces. I just cant get it to sound anywhere close to decent.

    I dont want to use 12-tone to compose - just to solo - and solo over popular (Western) music. There must be a way!?

    Please, if you can improv 12-tone (JonR, Poparad, etc) help must understand your method.

    P.S. I've already wiki-ed it plus about 10 other sources. It must be in the vault behind armed guards with the Coca-Cola recipe.
    12-tone music is a different beast from tonal (7-tone) music. You can't impose one on the other. (Well, you can, but it would make no sense. Like trying to put wheels on a horse... )

    Popular western music is tonal. Therefore any improvisation over it is heard against that tonal background.
    That applies to all 12 tones - because all 12 notes are indeed usable in a 7-tone piece. It's just that the other 5 (the "chromatic" notes) are heard as sources of tension or contrast, "outside" notes.
    Applying tone-row concepts to improvisation over tonal music is meaningless, however. 12-tone music only makes sense when all tonal hints are removed - that was the whole point of serialism in the first place - to escape tonality.

    If you hate Schoenberg and Webern, then what you're after is not 12-tone music at all. The people you describe as "awesome" can't be using that method. They may well be using chromaticism within tonal music - that's quite different. (And it's something jazz players have always done.)

    You would have to give some examples of who you mean (with soundclip sources if possible) for me to guess what they might be doing.

  4. #4
    Registered User dmsstudios's Avatar
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    Poparad,

    A pianist I jammed with years ago turned me on to serialism, but I wasnt able to properly pick his brain at the time because I hadnt gotten my head around the idea yet. I know that Miles Davis & Thelonious Monk used partial serial rows a lot - which sounds great! Love those guys.

    Do you ever use serial or partial serial in your playing? What goes on in your head when you play it?

    Can we interpolate 5 notes into a mode - or would that not make sense?

  5. #5
    Registered User dmsstudios's Avatar
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    JonR,

    Yes, yes, and yes. I agree with all that - except the lack of tonal center. I understand that post-Schoenberg composers experimented with identifying a tonal center in 12-tone.

    Its all very theoretical which is why I'm confused with it.

    Ultimately, I want to know if you use it. Do you? If so, how and when?

  6. #6
    Jazzman Poparad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmsstudios
    I know that Miles Davis & Thelonious Monk used partial serial rows a lot - which sounds great! Love those guys.
    I don't know where you got that from, but they weren't using tone rows. The music itself was chromatic, by use of changing tonal centers, but it was still all tonal. If you randomly pluck out notes from the various tonal centers over a longer period of time, I suppose you could eventually end up with something that resembles a part of a tone row, but it's just coincidental. You could take every third letter I've typed here, and eventually a word or a partial word might form, but that doesn't mean I have an underlying hidden message in this post.

  7. #7
    Registered User dmsstudios's Avatar
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    I think that Bitches Brew contains elements of serialism. But, I think I jumped the gun there - they are using more chromatics & tone clusters.

    That aside.....

    12-tone. Can you help? Do you use it? Most people dont - I don't - yet.

    Also, can't we use 12-tone to present a broader view of the tonal center?

    Do you guys think I should shut up now?

  8. #8
    Mad Scientist forgottenking2's Avatar
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    Serialism and tone rows cannot be used in tonal music (read popular, jazz and just about anything besides 20th century classical music) in a musically pleasing way. Like others have already stated, it just sounds like you are playing randomly.

    If you are thinking 12 tone rows and serialism in an atonal way, there are VOLUMES on this subject and it's all very dense and mathematical. A book to get your feet wet on this is "Elements of 20th Century Music" (Kostka) There's another one I have... that looks like the bible... to be honest I have never gotten past the 1st chapter. I'll find out the author when I get home.

    I dabbed on that stuff a little bit but then I realized I don't like atonal stuff. Up until the Romantic period we're cool. Probably the only modern guy I like is Stravinsky (and he did a lot of tonal stuff... he just twisted it in a very cool way). I guess I am a very tonal kind of guy lol.

    Well, best of luck with that.

    -Jorge
    "If God had wanted us to play the piano he would've given us 88 fingers"

  9. #9
    Jazzman Poparad's Avatar
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    12-tone is an anti-tonal device. As JonR said, it was developed to break away from all hints of tonality. It's just not compatible with tonality, other than for the occasional 'outside' lick, which in that case it's just chromaticism. When 12-tone is actually used, it's going to end up sounding like Schoenberg and Webern.

  10. #10
    Registered User dmsstudios's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. None of this is helpful, but I appreciate the effort.


    It sounds like no one here messes with serialism. I fully understand that 12-tone is atonal 99.99% of the time, but the same way that contemporary mode theory developed from gregorian chants I believe that 12-tone is an underdeveloped system of music.

    If anyone has tips for 12-tone improv, please help!

  11. #11
    Jazzman Poparad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmsstudios
    Thanks guys. None of this is helpful, but I appreciate the effort.


    It sounds like no one here messes with serialism. I fully understand that 12-tone is atonal 99.99% of the time, but the same way that contemporary mode theory developed from gregorian chants I believe that 12-tone is an underdeveloped system of music.

    If anyone has tips for 12-tone improv, please help!
    I've studied serialism and written several pieces using it, so it's not like it's not a part of my vocabulary.

    The difference between modes and serialism is that modes are still tonal. They still function around a specific note in which the music resolves to. Serialism is a way to abandon that and create music which has no resolution and has no tonal center. Tonal music and atonal music are two system with completely opposite objectives.

  12. #12
    Registered User dmsstudios's Avatar
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    Hmmm, do you think my approach (of playing 12-tone over tonal music) is undoable? Perhaps so.

    Please make no mistake - I count on you guys as the last place to turn to for musical enlightenment. You've helped me out many many times (especially when I'm in lurker mode.)

    I just dont want us to mistake classical textbook theories with innovation and development. There's a guy just like you out there who will develop the musical version of the Elizabethan Sonnet from these concepts.

    I'll keep plugging away and I'll post any 12-tone epiphanies that I come across (if any.)

    Thanks again!

  13. #13
    The Riff Master zog's Avatar
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    If you want to really look into this then you need to check out the book The Craft Of Musical Composition by Paul Hindemith. He gets indepth into using the 12 tone approach.

  14. #14
    Jazzman Poparad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmsstudios
    Hmmm, do you think my approach (of playing 12-tone over tonal music) is undoable? Perhaps so.

    Please make no mistake - I count on you guys as the last place to turn to for musical enlightenment. You've helped me out many many times (especially when I'm in lurker mode.)

    I just dont want us to mistake classical textbook theories with innovation and development. There's a guy just like you out there who will develop the musical version of the Elizabethan Sonnet from these concepts.

    I'll keep plugging away and I'll post any 12-tone epiphanies that I come across (if any.)

    Thanks again!

    If you really want to give it a try, by all means (the Hindemith book is a good recommendation). It's just going to be very difficult to make anything that sounds half decent, and even then, it's still going to be rough to the ears.

    Here's an example of a semi-serial piece (the rows aren't strictly adhered to, and some tonal chords are mixed into it) using a rock quartet instrumentation:

    http://www.benmonder.com/excavation/hatchetface.mp3
    Last edited by Poparad; 05-03-2007 at 10:36 PM.

  15. #15
    Registered User dmsstudios's Avatar
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    Zog - thanks, I will check it out!

    Pop - thats a cool sample - and very atonal & chaotic. I see what you mean. Some systems work and some dont. I've been thinking about it for years now and garbage is STILL the only thing I can make of it. But, I'm not giving up yet.

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