- Hardcover: 178 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; 6 edition (April 11, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520074300
- ISBN-13: 978-0520074309
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.4 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,364,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern 6th Edition
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"The best description in any language of twelve-tone techniques as developed by their originators."--"Notes
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Perle lays out some of the basic issues of organization that grew out of atonality and how the idea of sets or rows was used to provide order. He shows various kinds of serial organization including sets fewer than twelve tones, hexachords, and the full twelve tone set. He also does a great job in demonstrating the different ways composers implemented this organization principle. It is important to realize that the information here is really just what it says: an introduction. Composers have come up with many other kinds of implementations of the idea of serialization and sets. It is vital to keep in mind that there is no ordained way of composing with twelve tones. There are some basic postulates in the Schoenberg method, but no composer has to be bound by them other than by choosing to compose music that way.
Perle also shows the reader how composers use these rows and combine them in ways that create effects that are not a part of any of the rows including constructions that look like major and minor triads. Yes, your ear will pick them up quite readily, but the way the "move" is not tonal. However, they provide interesting color and a way for the composer to draw the ear to certain aspects of the composition.
There are also many other technical matters of the "standard" method of serialization that are not included here. But who would expect an introduction to be comprehensive?
However, for a contrasting point of view, I also recommend--with reservations--"Milton Babbitt: Words about Music", edited by Stephen Dembski. Like George Perle, Milton Babbitt is a prominent serialist composer. As it happens, I'm not a particular fan of his music, and I think his analyses tend miss the substance of the music he analyzes, but he is an influential, articulate, and intelligent exponent worth hearing out.
As a composer, I found this book helpful, but I would recommend Charles Wuorinen's SIMPLE COMPOSITION in addition.
My main problem with this book is Perle's consistent use of the word "atonal." This furthers the myth that there is such thing as "atonal music." First of all, serialist work is more accurately "pantonal;" it encompasses all tonalities, and implies all tonalities. Furthermore, it is a misleading term, as there is no music that uses no tones (all sounds have some frequency, and therefore some tone).
This edition is an improvement over an older one. The older edition, which I read, contained a section in the chapter on simultaneity which I thought was absolutely ridiculous. This edition omits the section.
For a contrasting point of view, however, I refer you to--with certain reservations--"Milton Babbitt: Words About Music", edited by Stephen Dembski.