Schoenberg's Evolution toward Atonality

Bryan R. Simms

in The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg 1908–1923

Published in print November 2000 | ISBN: 9780195128260
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848843 | DOI:
                   Schoenberg's Evolution toward Atonality

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Schoenberg's adoption of the atonal style of composition in 1908 was a symptom of the larger historical evolution that engaged progressive composers throughout the world. The coordination of widespread but interrelated experiments suggests that the birth of atonality resulted from a deeply rooted evolution in musical structure and means of expression. After 1905, his production of new songs waned. However, his search for new expressive resources intensified, leading him to realize more fully the implications of his highly extended tonal language—to remove the arbitrary triad at the end of a piece, to eliminate the redundant key signature, to further suppress the now localized and almost insignificant references to tonics and dominants.

Keywords: atonality; Debussy; harmonic sequence; early atonal style; Wellesz; dissonance

Chapter.  8771 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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