SMT-V: The Society for Music Theory Videocast Journal

SMT-V is the open-access, peer-reviewed video journal of the Society for Music Theory. Founded in 2014, SMT-V publishes video essays that showcase research in music theory in a dynamic, audiovisual format, presented so as to have the potential to engage both specialists within the field as well as interested viewers outside the music theory community. The journal features a supportive and collaborative production process, and publishes several videos each year. Read more about SMT-V here.

Latest Issue: 10.3 (May 2024)

“Directionality in Twelve-Tone Composition”

Christoph Neidhöfer (McGill University)


Link to bibliography

The equal representation of the twelve pitch classes in the twelve-tone row poses a particular challenge: how can a twelve-tone composition convey a sense of direction while constantly cycling through the aggregate, which, unlike diatonic and most other modes, has no intrinsic pitch-class hierarchy, since all pitch classes relate to each other in exactly the same way? This video illuminates how twelve-tone composer Julius Schloss (1902–1972) developed strategies to create directionality, that is, a clear sense in the harmonic, melodic, and phrase-structural organization of the music of moving from one place to another, thereby counteracting the “static” tendency of the twelve-tone method (Adorno [1949] 2006) with its commitment to the pitch-class equilibrium in the row.

Keywords: Twelve-tone music, serialism, directionality, form, Julius Schloss


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