Listening to Taylor Swift and other popular music (and idiot-proof,  mass-produced consumer-grade pop), did you ever have a feeling that you can more or less predict how the next line will sound? This happens because most music usually oscillates around a tonal center. While most compositions (notice, i didn’t say music!) have their its tonal centers, Atonal compositions lack any such tonal center and are like a chaotic system. They do not come back to a predicted note, they meander in a seemingly random fashion. Evidently such compositions require great mastery of the form and a very clear farsight so that the compositions do not become random (key)strokes by toddlers!

Arnold Schoenberg is such a composer who extensively worked with atonal compositions. Hear this out:

Now, this atonality exists in almost all forms of art such as Mathematics, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Poetry and many more.

Interestingly, Schoenberg had a friend who later went to become one of the world’s stalwart abstract painters. Wassily Kandinsky made astonishingly chaotic paintings that seems like scribbles and random brush strokes, but as you stare at them and let the paintings guide your thoughts, you will hear music. Atonal music.


Composition VII – Wassily Kandinsky

Listen to Schoenberg’s Opus 10, movement 1-2 while watching the above painting. Now, from movement 3-4 in the same link, see the below image:


Composiiton VIII – Wassily Kandinsky

Kandinsky and Schoenberg, both inspired each other into creating beautiful, ethereal art that helped shedding the old-skin of Modernist art towards postmodernism.

Want to more about Atonality in other forms of art? I’ll discuss in the next posts to come!

See you soon.