A 12 tone row

• Aug 14, 2023 - 20:04

Messing about with 12 tones. I know nothing about this but I vaguely recall a rule that says something like "No tone may be repeated until all 12 tones have sounded." Different interpretations of this rule can be conjured. I have not bothered to search the rules and it seems like a good enough rule to apply. And I like the limitations that this rule imposes.

One of the consequences of this rule is that the first tone cannot be repeated until the twelfth tone of the row has sounded. A strict interpretation of the rule means that the second tone in the row may not be repeated until the 13th (1st) has sounded again, and the result is an exact repetition of the twelve tone row. Quite an amusing predicament.

The solution?

I'd like to stay within the boundaries of this self-imposed rule for at least the introduction of the piece, before bending, rewriting or correcting the rule as it must have first been stated by Schoenberg. An equally effective rule would be to only allow any note to appear twice until the twelfth tone has sounded. The result is the same atonality. This rule contradicts itself though, does it not? I may apply this rule upon the composition as I go. It may pose an interesting dilemma. Do you see the contradiction? The other way to approach this is to read the book, but this is more fun and interesting.

Anyway, here's a file for you to work with, beginning with a twelve tone row in three measures or simple quarter notes. If you'd like, you may use a textbook rule or devise your own rule and apply it to the development of the piece. You can edit your copy and post here.

I have my own solution to the problem that does not require any alteration of the rule as I stated it. I'd like to see your solution also. Let's alter the rules every few measures or sections as imagination inspires the conversation.

Attachment Size
MfM_230814_12_tone_row.mscz 20.65 KB


In reply to by underquark

Hi. I can't read your file because I'm still on Musescore 3. BTW, can I change my settings to 24TET and copy this row into it?

To restate the problem. If the rule is that no tone may be repeated until all 12 tones have sounded, then the one and only tone eligible for the 13th position is the first tone. Likewise for the 14th position, the only tone available will be the 2nd tone in the row.

This rule is ingenious because it imposes order (sequential order) upon an otherwise chaotic situation, due to the lack of a dominant-tonic relationship. Any work of art must communicate both order and variety, so they say. The problem is to extricate ourselves in a Houdini-like fashion from such a strict order. The simultaneous sounding of the first two tones is probably our best option, but there are other means. Just repeating the row and altering the octave or the rhythmic values of the notes are two great options. The simultaneous sound of two or more notes throws some ambiguity into the mix because now it becomes highly questionable which tone is the "first" and which is the "second." But we might reserve this treatment for the development, giving this method a special section or movement of it's own.

I give four or five solutions in my file. I won't be able to comment on your file until I get around to installing version 4.

Attachment Size
230815_12_tone_row.mscz 15.04 KB

Twelve-tone technique
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Twelve-tone_technique
(Thus, for example, postulate 2 does not mean, contrary to common belief, that no note in a twelve-tone work can be repeated until all twelve have been sounded.)

But postulate 2 does say "No note is repeated within the row." Hmm. I guess that I have misrepresented this postulate. OK. I thought I might be doing so, but I was interested in what would be the consequences if the rule said that no tone could be repeated until all twelve tones had sounded.

In reply to by Rockhoven

The two postulates are the same. Since a row is a full phrase of all twelve tones and no tone is to be repeated then my "misstatement" was to say the exact same thing. OK. I have not had much time to work on this. I was thinking of doing a larger work of four movements. This file will be one of those parts. 230911 12_tone_row MfM.mscz

I rather enjoyed doing this, but I think it was beginner's luck. I don't hear any dissonance in this type of composition and I am led to believe that dissonance was created in the old diatonic system by the tonic itself. Through the elimination of the tonic, I now can hear all of the intervals on their own terms and they all sound consonant to me.

The row is as follows: 1F# 2A 3D# 4C# 5D 6G# 7F 8E 9Bb 10C 11B 12G. I just followed that order pretty strictly in the construction of the motifs, the counterpoint and all of the chords. Quite a jolly time! If my luck continues, I may complete this by the holidays.


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