27 April 2010

Nature vs. Nurture

The first half of the 20th century saw a bitter feud develop between the two major camps of concert composers: the atonal group, led primarily by German composers like Schoenberg, Webern and Berg, and the tonal (or "neo-tonal" perhaps) group led by the likes of Hindemith, Copland, etc.

Hindemith argued that tonality as we know it was the natural result of the overtone series, and that our system has developed as a result of listening to Nature. Schoenberg felt that it was a matter of conditioning, that we were "trained" to hear tonality as normal and that 12-tone / atonal music would come to feel fully normal as future generations raised their children on it.

I'm not sure it's rigorously either of these, but nonetheless today, as a farewell to my recent 12-tone explorations on Allogamy, I have juxtaposed (admittedly rather banal) examples of both. If you hear it as traditional music, interrupted by the presence of a 12-tone row, I suppose you side with Hindemith. If you hear it as two simultaneous but otherwise equal pieces, I would guess that means you're in Schoenberg's camp ...

(Though there would be a 3rd option as well, right?)

I ran past these today, and I couldn't resist. Not a huge flower guy, but for spring, I make exceptions.

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