Chapter 6.

Principles of TONL

What makes TONL different from other methods?

This is not another dissertation on atonality, or the 12-tone method.  TONL isn’t meant to be a method of analysis or deconstructing music as much as it is a way to approach and work with the 12-tone method in a new way.

TONL differs from other related serial and non-serial methods in a few key ways.  The first, and most easily dismissed is the similarity to free-atonality. While free-tonality and free-atonality interest me, and have influenced the development of TONL, by definition these two musical compositional styles are too free. TONL has rules, and follows them when needed.
The second comparison that is often made, is between TONL and Joseph Hauer’s trope technique.  Similar conjectures have been made citing Berg’s treatment of the 12-tone method in Lyric Suite and Lulu.  To briefly summarise Hauer’s trope technique we can say: Hauer divided the 12-tone row into two hexachords.  He allowed for the notes of each hexachord to appear in any order, but they would have to all appear before moving on to the second hexachord.  Owing to Hauer’s prolificacy it is very hard to make sweeping generalisations about his music.   

TONL’s approach has one intrinsic difference.  Hauer ‘...detested all art that expressed ideas, programmes, or feelings.’ ( Lichtenfeld 2001, 135)  TONL’s purpose is to express ideas, programmes, and feelings in the most accurate way possible. There are other aspects of Hauer’s music that TONL doesn’t share, namely Hauer’s usage of aleatoric compositional means.

Berg’s method and approach to using the 12-tone method particularly in his Lyric Suite and Lulu is quite similar to TONL.  Berg allowed his music to dictate his usage of the row, he constructed rows that purposefully contained tonal elements (ie. triads, seventh chords).  TONL also follows these rules, but with one added caveat: TONL embraces traditionally tonal elements and serial elements in a carefully weighed dichotomy where neither takes precedence over the other.

Throughout this explanation, where appropriate I will indicate how certain aspects of my method differ from those of other composers and their use of the 12-tone method.