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Well, I would say there's only so much freeform you can do with a piano--fixed notes--and Debussy, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky did what you describe--cutting loose and composing freeform--but composing rather than a live improvisation (a la Keith Jarret)--so I suggest they were completely free (or became free) to use sounds as they preferred.  

Especially, I think Stravinsky's use of horns is very free--I think of brass and woodwind as being less needy of exact tonal relationships (I don't know--because in themselves their sound worlds are fairly variegated--)

Then (in my theory) came WWI and tonality was frivolity was not understanding the depth of resonance--tonality was a pretending that there could be consonance in a world where--etc....

The next move was to use synthesised sounds (Messiaen's use of the Martenot)--and then...well...but yeah!  I think there is a wide space for compositions that experiment with the full range of tibral expressions available through whatever instruments can be brought together:

To get people to repeat the music at other moments and in other locations, it has to be created in a medium where re-production is possible--so there's a technical apsect--but anyways, I think the freedom to work without predefined structure and method arrived with (or just before) Beethoven.  For my ears, the serialist exercises sound much better played on a classical guitar--so timbre has a lot to do with it--

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 05:56:42 AM EST
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rg:
Well, I would say there's only so much freeform you can do with a piano--fixed notes--and Debussy, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky did what you describe--cutting loose and composing freeform--but composing rather than a live improvisation (a la Keith Jarret)--so I suggest they were completely free (or became free) to use sounds as they preferred.  

Debussy was famously fond of non-harmonic scales like the whole-tone, and his music is often constrained by that. Prokofiev and Stravinsky are closer to what I had in mind, and I think they were more successful because they're both listened to more than Webern is now.

But I think the problem with serialism was that it wasn't about structure, it was about structure which only existed on paper and had no acoustic justification. All of the other development until then had been about the sound, and about using tonality as a language for metaphors.

Serialism was about an idea which was divorced from the sound. It was a single method which didn't allow any freedom to include metaphor, but it was a metaphor, and if you used it there was only one thing you were allowed to say - which was mostly a tortured and angtsy squeak-bang-thud.

So music went elsewhere, to jazz, which was much more free harmonically while still having enough structure to be non-trivial.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 07:48:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Debussy was famously fond of non-harmonic scales like the whole-tone, and his music is often constrained by that.

heh....I suppose each piece is constrained in some way if it has structure (even 4'33--which is time constrained)...I don't think of Debussy as constrained simply because he acted completely freely within the possibilities of (mainly that I've heard) the piano, but yeah, with his own constraint that he loved certain timbres, certain elegant effects--which I like too!  And I'm sure there are pieces of his that demonstrate the opposite of whatever another piece demonstrates.

it was about structure which only existed on paper and had no acoustic justification

That describes my feeling exactly, and yeah about the jazz break-off, in classical it's there with Ravel (and others of course, but I remember it specifically with Ravel's piano concerto)--

later on I'll post a piece of serialism written for the classical guitar, I do think timbre comes into it, and I suppose a composer could write dynamic markings onto their twelve tone series inversions etc. such that the notes are random (at least in the originating order) but the attack, forte piano, slurs etc. are set by the composer--

Still, it's not a natural sound world for my ears--I can maybe admire a piece and maybe find interesting dynamics, but my ears need some tonality--or maybe the one atonal piece, just to show it can be done, but not a series of them....

...I have friends, though (musicians) who very much appreciate, for example, Webern and Berg--so there's also a playability aspect--for some musicians there's an enjoyment in playing musical inversions, pallindromes etc.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 08:24:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's the classical guitar piece:

The Atonal Space composition, I had composed back in 1988, when 25 years old, a time when I was studying music at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Atonality, music having no tonal center or key, brought forth by an ordered musical system, was fascinating to me. Just following the guidelines to achieve this "absence of gravity" in music will result in Atonality. This system was uncovered by Arnold Schoenberg, a composer from the early 1900's.

5:27



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 01:02:11 PM EST
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