The atonal form of classical music developed by him, includes the twelve-tone system
, which abolishes the key signatures that form the basis of Western music.
Ingenious as it is, Schoenberg's twelve-tone system
today seems like the musical equivalent of the Georges Perec novel written without using the letter "e"; you marvel at the execution and accomplishment, while wondering why so much ingenuity was put at the expense of such an awkward and self-defeating exercise.
Novak wrote his dozen Inventions in the twelve-tone system
in 1960 for the Brno harpsichord player Hana Slapetova--with explanatory and also almost onomatopoeic and witty subtitles in Latin (the composer was famous for being an ardent Latinist).
Arnold Schoenberg's Journey does not dwell on the procedures of the twelve-tone system
, although it provides a clear explanation of how it came about in Schoenberg's development and how it works.
He focuses all his energy on his conception of the new, important, and revolutionary: the twelve-tone system
, at the expense of everything else.
I would have tried to explain to him that my adherence to the twelve-tone system
did not represent a substantial change of aesthetic position nor of musical ideology and that I continued being one of his most faithful servants.
That Berg adapted the order aspect of the twelve-tone system
so thoroughly in a dramatic as well as a musical way to his language in Lulu is remarkable, but as Perle has shown, it is possible to find similar relationships - although not embedded in twelve-tone rows - based around multicyclic materials such as the "basic cells" of the opera as early as the opus 2 songs.
See Walter and Alexander Goehr, "Arnold Schoenberg's Development Towards the Twelve-Tone System
," in European Music in the Twentieth Century, ed.
Words about Music and A Life of Learning are but two items in what amounts to a Milton Babbitt "festival" that includes the recent publication of his dissertation (after so many years), The Function of Set Structure in the Twelve-Tone System
(Ann Arbor: UMI, 1992), and his article "On Having Been and Still Being an American Composer" (Perspectives of New Music 27, no.