Even though Schönberg, his pupils Berg and Webern, and dozens of others, tried to obliterate tonality by writing dodecaphonic works, our minds still relate any series of notes we hear to a key, or series of keys.

People who vehemently deny the existence of God will still vehemently deify and/or demonize something(s) or someone(s), plus there's still some sort of innate reaching towards that which is beyond our senses - witness the popularity of angels and psychic hotlines.

Tonality like the piano keyboard has been the instrument or tool with, and/or through which we have created joy.

But too much of any one sort of, thing, even one sort of joyful thing, can lead to boredom. Novelty, utility and unobviousness may well be the hallmarks of patentable things (except in the U.S.A., where utility is not necessary), but also of the things that bring us joy.

Certainly, this is the shock of the new as the art critic Robert Hughes has put it in his monumental television series, and book. Charles Rosen, and many others, have commented upon the fading power of certain music to move us. He refers to the common assumption that the keyboard has been overcomposed for. Maybe it IS true, that our minds still relate any series of notes we hear to a key, or series of keys, but is that where the joy of music originates?

Modes of compositions come and go as new practicioners arrive on the scene and feel that the old book has been closed. Stravinsky forcible closed one book with The Firebird, and buried it with Le Sacre de Printemps and Petrushka! (And there were riots!) Schoenberg also closed an old book with dodecaphonic music. They did this even as had Haydn and Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy and Ravel. We see this in so-called popular music as well, to differentiate it from so-called art music.

All music, as all art, and, indeed all life, is work in progress. For some of us, life, as art, and music, is like good dancing shoes. The felt on the bottom, which, by the way, is the same felt as on the hammers of a piano's keys, is what allows a dancer to use the ground. When scrapped with a metal brush, the felt is open and a bit sticky. Use flattens the felt until it is hard and slippery.

The best dancing is in the middle, neither at the sticky end, or at the slippery one. The best music, certainly the best improvisation (which maybe the key to it all), the best art, the best life is in the middle, between the sticky and slippery ends.

Those of us on the frontier understand this in our very being. As for angels, psychic hotlines and the existence of God--I accept that there is an innate reaching beyond, beyond what, I don't know, with what, I am not sure, to what, I cannot know.

Atonality I think begins with Schoenberg's twelve-tone system of composition, in which the twelve tones that make up an octave are lined up side-by-side, permuted into any one of the 12! =479,001,600 ways, and the number you need for the duration of the piece are selected and arranged in bars next to each other. Also, you can stack them on top of each other to make chords, add in dynamics and tempo for greater flexibilty, follow these rules strictly or go about it more relaxed, etc. The idea was to completely escape tonality by giving each of these notes an equal focus, and not prioritize any one note, which would lead to a flavouring of one key or the other.

 In a way, this is sort of saying that each note is equally important or relevant. In the most conservative version of tonality, the root note being the key that the piece is in is the most important note for that piece. For instance, say that note were an F, and were you to hit an E by mistake in such a piece, you'll get a very jarring effect, and your mistake will be very noticable to all. Notes in importance will be the A, then the C, in decending order of the order of harmonic overtones. All the way at the top you maybe have grace notes that you can even omit entirely without a great loss of quality, for instance Wilhelm Kempff's recording of the Goldberg Variations. In complete atonality, none of that matters - if you're me, you'll think it all sounds equally like noise and you'll have no idea what's a mistake and what's part of the composition. If you appreciate that stuff, you'll probably be more interested in the overall structuring of the piece, still be clueless about the resolution of chords, but you'll say that's a part of the experience, not knowing what comes next - it's exciting.

 Whatever. The point is, a piece of music is a bit like a society of notes, where each note has a role and importance in the piece, one is the king, some are the nobility, others upwardly-mobile guild-members, some are expendable foot-soldiers. Much like in the play that is life, the characters enter and leave at different points, but you still get a clear sense of who each person is, and their role in the grand scheme of things. So then after a fashion, atonality is like socialism, where everybody is (theoretically) equal. Given that socialism actively resists the notion of a god and religion, perhaps in a musical sense, atonality is a bit like atheism. On the flip side, in tonality where there is a single note that all others are subordinate to, one might see this as a form of monotheism for music. Bach tried to include a sense of his religious beliefs in his work, like for instance the further and further you got away from the key, the more distant you were from the ideal, and then when you are back in the home key, everything is safe again and in their right place.

A full examination of the rhetoric of tonality and its ability to convey a sense of ultimate direction for all notes, and perhaps atonality's inherent inability to do the same is something I haven't fully thought over, and is a such something I cannot speak on yet. But it is an interesting question that I will pose to the reader and conclude my writeup on.

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