Webern. Yes, Webern

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Jim of Seattle
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Webern. Yes, Webern

Post by Jim of Seattle » Wed Dec 11, 2019 5:21 pm

I was playing a radio playlist in Spotify based on something I'd been listening to that day, and Webern's Symphony came up. For those of you who don't know him, Anton Webern is one of the "big three" 12-tone composers of the early-mid 20th century (along with Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg). 12-tone music being music based on a "12-tone row" which is a set of all 12 pitches arranged into a non-repeating sequence, so that no pitch is featured more prominently than any other. Since concert music had been getting more and more tonally adventurous for about 200 years, when 12-tone music came into being around 1920 or so, it was considered the logical next step in that development, and therefore the future of classical music. Of course, it turned out that people just didn't get it, and it hasn't been relevant in like 40 years.

I'm not usually much for the atonal 12-tone stuff, but I found myself actually kind of digging this. Of course, it's completely impossible to "follow", but unlike so much of that kind of music, it never assaults you with that "FUCK YOU I'M DISSONANT!!!" effect, and stays gentle and kind all the way through. So I've decided to put the first movement on repeat while I work all day. My hypothesis was that playing it enough times, eventually my brain would start to make sense of it and I'd recognize and maybe come to understand it. Not that I was expecting to be able to hum along mind you, but maybe I'd be able to recognize bits, say to myself "Here's the part that goes doo-dee-doo" or whatever. In other words, hear it enough times and eventually it would sound less like random notes.

It's taking way longer than I thought. Probably twenty times through, and while I recognize certain little bits here and there, I'm not anticipating them and it's not sounding much less random yet. BUT... i'm also not thinking "Oh f'r crying out loud ENOUGH". So that's promising.
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Jim of Seattle
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Re: Webern. Yes, Webern

Post by Jim of Seattle » Thu Dec 12, 2019 7:49 pm

Nothing but this first movement today. Probably got through it fifty times. Mapped out the sections on my tablet, started adding conventional harmonies to it on the keyboard. Trippy. The original piece itself is so coming alive now.
Here's my record label page thingie with stuff about me if you are so interested: https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/jim-of-seattle/
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Re: Webern. Yes, Webern

Post by Pigfarmer Jr » Fri Dec 13, 2019 5:32 am

I've toyed with tone rows in the past, but never managed to pull something together to the point that I would actually work on it in a song. But that was a past life. At the very least you've got me interested in listening myself.
Last edited by Pigfarmer Jr on Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Jim of Seattle
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Re: Webern. Yes, Webern

Post by Jim of Seattle » Fri Dec 13, 2019 12:34 pm

Hey, thanks for reading anyway. I didn't know if anyone would care about this, but I'm using this as a sort of journal of this interesting "Make a 12-tone piece sound normal" experiment. It's going well!

I'm toying with the idea of doing a "cover" of this Webern thing that takes out a lot of the weirdness. Slow going.

Also, I wrote a 12-tone piece for Songfight. It wasn't very good, but I wanted to see if I could make a 12-tone piece sound sort of like a tonal thing. http://www.songfight.org/music/from_thi ... e_ftdo.mp3
Here's my record label page thingie with stuff about me if you are so interested: https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/jim-of-seattle/
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Pigfarmer Jr
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Re: Webern. Yes, Webern

Post by Pigfarmer Jr » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:25 pm

Hey, that was cool. I wonder if that wouldn't be a cool (self) challenge. In the past I've always tried to hit all 12 tones before repeating one which makes it difficult. But after listening to your song, I think doing that as a main motif and then varying it as I will would be a cool way to make it... palatable to more listeners. I wonder how that would work if I combined it with my folkish singer songwriter style of late *ponder*. At any rate, I'm definitely interested in hearing more of what you do.
Evil Grin has an album: https://evilgrin.bandcamp.com/
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Ad astra per alia porci - Steinbeck
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