Hey Millenials! You clarinetists who were born in the 1990's or later! You are growing up as musicians in the age of the Emancipated Dissonance!
That's what your ears seem to say when you hear some music. For example, Donald Martino's A Set for Clarinet.
Where's the melody? That's a melody?
Why does this sound so crazy? It sounds like horror movie music. . . or something.
This is a blog post introducing the concept of dissonance as not dissonant, not ugly, and in fact, learning to hear beyond the Major and minor tonality of what we call the Common Practice Period, (which extended itself through to rock and roll- which has very simple harmonic structure most of the time),
In the early twentieth century, Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) started to work not with scales as you know and practice them (Major and minor) but using a "row" or "set" of twelve tones.
In an article that he wrote entitled "My Evolution" he wrote:
"Let us not forget that I came to [harmonic organization of a twelve tone row] gradually, as a result of a convincing development which enabled me to establish the law of the emancipation of the dissonance, according to which the comprehensibility of the dissonance is considered as important as the comprehensibility of the consonance. Thus dissonances need not be a spicy addition to dull sounds. They are natural and logical outgrowths of an organism. And this organism lives as vitally in its phrases, rhythms, motifs and melodies as ever before."
To him, this new manner of composition was as natural an unfolding of advancement in musical thought as the revolutionary Third Symphony of Beethoven, of which a critic wrote, "If Beethoven continues on his present path, his music will reach the point where no one will find any pleasure in it." Of Beethoven's so-called revolutionary Third Symphony Schoenberg wrote, ". . .this music was distinctly a product of evolution, and no more revolutionary than any other development in the history of music."
He saw the Classical and Romantic periods (and later composers who remained in those practices) as a standstill to the progress made by Johann Sebastian Bach and other composers that took tonality to new extremes; to Schoenberg, it was a two-hundred year filibuster of ineffective composition!
Schoenberg shifted away from the organization of classical tonality to a tonality where the dissonance is not simply something to be resolved, but instead serves equal importance in the expression of musical ideas as the consonance. Schoenberg asserted that it is this equal treatment of the dissonance with the consonance that allows for a greater flexibility of expression in composition.
The presence of dissonant tones within a 'tonal' context existing only to be resolved instead of serving as an absolutely integral part of the melodic and harmonic structure, insofar as that if the dissonances are removed from a tonal composition, although the music loses much of its substance, there still exists the skeleton of a musical idea whereas it is impossible to subtract dissonances from a twelve-tone work without completely destroying it: as wordy as it is, this may actually serve as a kind of thorough definition of Twelve-Tone, or Post-Tonal music.