Abstracts of issue 20 (2011)

Evangelia Mantzourani

Twelve-note compositional techniques in Nikos Skalkottas’ works

In his writings, Skalkottas declares that “the twelve-note harmony is strictly connected with the development of the themes”, while coherence and comprehensibility arise from “the frequent repetition of the same harmonic material, which gives the listener the opportunity to grasp more easily the musical meaning of the work”. These two precepts underpin his musical aesthetic. The technical devices he employs to realise this aesthetic include: a) the use of a modified version of the twelve-note method; b) various, predominantly motivic and harmonic, techniques to create integration and differentiation among the different sections of a piece; and c) the establishment of an analogy between “tonal regions” and twelve-note sets as a means to delineate form. Furthermore, Skalkottas’ adherence to tonal modes of construction and his desire to achieve unity and comprehensibility through continuous motivic repetition and formal synthesis dominate his approach to twelve-note composition. What distinguishes Skalkottas from Schoenberg and others is not his adoption or adaptation of the twelve-note method, but the idiomatic way that he deals with these fundamental compositional issues.

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