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Schoenberg had this weird political idea that serial music was 'more democratic' than tonal music because instead of having a centre and a key note, all of the notes were equally important.

But instead of having a key note there's an equally rigid tone row, which gives the notes very little freedom of movement. The row is fixed and although you can do all of things to it - play it backwards, forwards, upside down, and so on - it's the one element that you're not allowed to change directly.

So it's not really free at all, and it doesn't sound democratic. Hardly anyone enjoys listening to it, because it usually sounds angular, ugly and sterile. It's more of a mechanised collectivisation of music - shifting blocks around for the sake of a process which most people can't hear directly.

I don't understand why composers didn't just cut loose and compose completely in freeform, where the notes could go wherever they wanted to go without that kind of arbitrary structure. But apparently composing without a predefined structure and method was too frightening, too much of a challenge and not nearly serious enough.

Which is odd, because it would have been much more 'democratic' than the tone row idea.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 05:20:54 AM EST
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