Twelve-Tone Music

Music constructed according to the principle, enunciated by Hauer and Schönberg independently in the early 1920s, of 12-note composition. According to the Schönbergian principle, the 12 notes of the equal-tempered scale are arranged in a particular order, forming a series or row that serves as the basis of the composition. In Schönberg's "Method of Composing with Twelve Notes Which are Related Only to One Another", the note-row may be used in its original form, or inverted, or retrograde, or retrograde inverted; in each of these forms it may be transposed to any pitch (each note-row may thus have 48 possible forms). All the music of the composition is constructed from this basic material; any note may be repeated, but the order must be maintained. Octave transpositions are permitted. Notes may occur in any voice and may be used chordally as well as melodically.

Later developments of 12-note theory introduced the idea of using six-, four- or three-note segments of a row as compositional elements. As originally designed by Schönberg, the method was intended to preclude tonality, though later composers, notably Berg, found ways of using the technique in a tonal context - as indeed did Schönberg himself.

(see Serialism)