Chapter 9.

Stability and Homogeneity

Row analysis, interval inventory, chord inventory

In the section ‘The Row’ the following conjecture is made:

The more that a row resembles a ‘tonal series,’ the freer we need to treat it.  The more a row resembles an ‘atonal series,’ the less free we should treat it.

This is directly related to the inherent stability or instability of a section of music. 

Another way of building stability is through limiting our pitch choice selection.  In other words we limit ourselves to using only a portion of the row.  By taking this smaller section of the row it forces the pitches within to become seemingly more important, their recurring presence brings about a kind of stability to the music.  We can think of this like we are writing some music along this nice 12-tone row when suddenly we get stuck in a smaller cell of the row.  This can be highly effective but we need to be careful not to allow the rhythms, and textures to repeat themselves within this section, otherwise a nearly opposite feeling of tension builds.

Without doing a comprehensive analysis of this short piece I’d like to point out a few things to aid in the clarity of understanding.  You will notice that all of the row is present from the opening until measure 8.  Starting from measure 9 we have removed the pitches A and C# from the row.  As we continue, the next phrase ending in bar 15 now has eliminated C and Bb from the row, leaving us with 8 pitches of the original row.  Next to go is G, followed by F#, D, and finally  E. 

By bar 23 we are left with only four pitches (Eb, F, Bb, Ab).  The moment that the E natural disappears from the texture we can feel a total calmness settle in the music.  I have purposely not added dynamics to this excerpt, but with their addition one could truly emphasise this settled feeling.  Of course other elements influence this feeling of complacency (the repeated Eb and F in the upper voice, entering a newly exposed lower register in the lower voice, the remaining 4 pitches make up a somewhat consonant pitch set), but the same could be achieved without these other factors at play.

This is not unlike Hauer’s Trope method whereby he allows himself to use pitches in any order from a given hexachord but requires that all pitches be used once before moving on to the second hexachord.  TONL is not nearly as unforgiving as Hauer’s method.  You might decide that a certain 4 note sequence inspired by the original row is worth repeating, or for that matter worth basing an entire passage of music on.  This approach is incredibly malleable and through experimenting and writing on your own you will find that this flexibility doesn’t reduce continuity but in fact heightens it.