Twelve-tone technique

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Twelve-tone technique (also dodecaphony, and in British usage, twelve-note composition) is a method of musical composition devised by Arnold Schoenberg. The technique is a means of ensuring that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another in a piece of music while preventing the emphasis of any[2] through the use of tone rows, an ordering of the 12 pitches. All 12 notes are thus given more or less equal importance, and the music avoids being in a key. The technique was influential on composers in the mid-twentieth century.

Schoenberg himself described the system as a "Method of Composing with Twelve Tones Which are Related Only with One Another".[3] However, the common English usage is to describe the method as a form of serialism.

Josef Matthias Hauer also developed a similar system using unordered hexachords, or tropes, at the same time and in the same country as Schoenberg but with no connection to Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique. Other composers have created systematic use of the chromatic scale, but Schoenberg's method is considered to be historically and aesthetically most significant.[4]


History of use

Invented by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1921 and first described privately to his associates in 1923,[7] the method was used during the next twenty years almost exclusively by the composers of the Second Viennese SchoolAlban Berg, Anton Webern, Hanns Eisler and Schoenberg himself.

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