Twelve-tone Technique

All 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another in a piece of music

"Twelve-tone Technique" is a compositional method in 20th-century modern music pioneered by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg. This technique is founded upon a series of twelve different pitches, referred to as a tone row, wherein each pitch appears only once, thus avoiding traditional tonal hierarchies.

The "Twelve-tone Technique" represents a revolutionary approach to composition, aiming to challenge traditional tonal systems and introduce new sonic structures. At the core of this technique is the tone row, a sequence of twelve unique pitches arranged in a fixed order. These twelve pitches are not repeated, meaning that each pitch appears only once within the tone row.

Composers use this tone row as the foundation for their composition, subjecting it to various transformations such as inversion (reversing the order of the tone row), retrograde (using the tone row in reverse), and transposition (shifting the entire tone row by a fixed interval). Through these transformations, composers are able to generate new melodies, harmonies, and rhythms while adhering to the structure of the original tone row.

The introduction of the "Twelve-tone Technique" marked a significant departure in modern music's approach to creation and musical structure. It shattered traditional tonal constraints, redefining principles of musical organization. This technique found extensive application in 20th-century modern music, with many composers utilizing the twelve-tone technique to craft compositions with distinct sonic qualities.

Although the "Twelve-tone Technique" brought revolutionary changes to compositional methods and musical structures, it also elicited varying opinions and controversies. Some praised it for introducing new possibilities in music, while others were more reserved about the new musical language it introduced.

Prominent composers who embraced the Twelve-tone Technique include Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern, collectively known as the "Second Viennese School". Their works, as well as those of subsequent composers influenced by this technique, contributed to the development of modern and contemporary classical music.

Example of Twelve-tone Technique

Schoenberg: Suite for Piano, Op.25 (Boffard)