End of the Line: Atonality
Equal Temperament is fake and worse! — Lou Harrison
In this chapter I return to the Western classical tradition and talk about how the 12-eq tuning system ultimately limited the harmonic territory that tonal composers could traverse. Eventually, twentieth century composers abandoned the idea of a tonal center altogether. Arnold Schoenberg had been exposed to 53-equal tuning but instead chose his dodecaphonic (12-tone) system, which has been soundly rejected by five generations of listeners and has now been at least partially abandoned by contemporary composers. In this chapter I talk about how atonality is indeed the “end of the line.” We have now moved so far away from the natural harmonics that guided the ancients that music sounds more like noise to most ears.
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