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rg:
Well, I would say there's only so much freeform you can do with a piano--fixed notes--and Debussy, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky did what you describe--cutting loose and composing freeform--but composing rather than a live improvisation (a la Keith Jarret)--so I suggest they were completely free (or became free) to use sounds as they preferred.  

Debussy was famously fond of non-harmonic scales like the whole-tone, and his music is often constrained by that. Prokofiev and Stravinsky are closer to what I had in mind, and I think they were more successful because they're both listened to more than Webern is now.

But I think the problem with serialism was that it wasn't about structure, it was about structure which only existed on paper and had no acoustic justification. All of the other development until then had been about the sound, and about using tonality as a language for metaphors.

Serialism was about an idea which was divorced from the sound. It was a single method which didn't allow any freedom to include metaphor, but it was a metaphor, and if you used it there was only one thing you were allowed to say - which was mostly a tortured and angtsy squeak-bang-thud.

So music went elsewhere, to jazz, which was much more free harmonically while still having enough structure to be non-trivial.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 07:48:24 AM EST
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Debussy was famously fond of non-harmonic scales like the whole-tone, and his music is often constrained by that.

heh....I suppose each piece is constrained in some way if it has structure (even 4'33--which is time constrained)...I don't think of Debussy as constrained simply because he acted completely freely within the possibilities of (mainly that I've heard) the piano, but yeah, with his own constraint that he loved certain timbres, certain elegant effects--which I like too!  And I'm sure there are pieces of his that demonstrate the opposite of whatever another piece demonstrates.

it was about structure which only existed on paper and had no acoustic justification

That describes my feeling exactly, and yeah about the jazz break-off, in classical it's there with Ravel (and others of course, but I remember it specifically with Ravel's piano concerto)--

later on I'll post a piece of serialism written for the classical guitar, I do think timbre comes into it, and I suppose a composer could write dynamic markings onto their twelve tone series inversions etc. such that the notes are random (at least in the originating order) but the attack, forte piano, slurs etc. are set by the composer--

Still, it's not a natural sound world for my ears--I can maybe admire a piece and maybe find interesting dynamics, but my ears need some tonality--or maybe the one atonal piece, just to show it can be done, but not a series of them....

...I have friends, though (musicians) who very much appreciate, for example, Webern and Berg--so there's also a playability aspect--for some musicians there's an enjoyment in playing musical inversions, pallindromes etc.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 08:24:15 AM EST
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