note row

Tone row

In music, a tone row or note row (German: Reihe or Tonreihe), also series and set, refers to a non-repetitive ordering of the twelve notes (pitch-classes in musical set theory) of the chromatic scale. Tone rows are the basis of Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique and most types of serial music. Tone rows were widely used in 20th century contemporary music.

A twelve-tone or serial composition will take one or more tone rows, called the prime form, as its basis plus their transformations (inversion, retrograde, retrograde inversion; see twelve-tone technique for details).

Initially, Schoenberg required the avoidance of suggestions of tonality—such as the use of consecutive imperfect consonances (thirds or sixths)—when constructing tone rows, reserving such use for the time when the dissonance is completely emancipated. Alban Berg, however, sometimes incorporated tonal elements into his twelve-tone works, and the main tone row of his Violin Concerto hints at this tonality:

This tone row consists of alternating minor and major triads starting on the open strings of the violin, followed by a portion of an ascending whole tone scale. This whole tone scale reappears in the second movement when the chorale "It is enough" (Es ist genug) from Bach's cantata no. 60, which opens with consecutive whole tones, is quoted literally in the woodwinds (mostly clarinet).

Some tone rows have a high degree of internal organisation. Here is the tone row from Anton Webern's Concerto:

B, Bb, D, Eb, G, F#, G#, E, F, C, C#, A

If the first three notes are regarded as the "original" cell, then the next three are its retrograde inversion (backwards and upside down), the next three are retrograde (backwards), and the last three are its inversion (upside down). A row created in this manner, through variants of a trichord or tetrachord called the generator, is called a derived row. The tone rows of many of Webern's other late works are similarly intricate.

The set-complex is the forty-eight forms of the set generated by stating each "aspect" or transformation on each pitch class .

See also

A literary parallel of the tone row is found in Georges Perec's poems which use each of a particular set of letters only once.

Tone row may also be used to describe other musical collections or scales such as in Arabic music.

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