The Coming Self-Destruction of Atonalism

By Felix Dupin

Music is a language we hear and decipher unknowingly since the earliest period of youth.

Although expressing both passion and creativity, music is also made of rules and whether studied intellectually or not, it is perfectly comprehensible to the untrained ear and evolved organically transmitting both creative energy and lawful harmonies, consonances, tones and rhythms for thousands of years..

This organic evolution of music occured continuously until something very strange happened.

Sometime around the beginning of the 20th century, a new trend of musical composition was launched called “atonalism”.

Just as the Dada movement would derail literature and painting into an abandonment of its symmetries, coherence and reason, so atonalism did the same to music: deconstruct and willfully make incomprehensible the language of the Arts. It was no longer enough to have a split between “popular” and “higher-class” music. Music, from then on, was to become nothing but screeching sounds; notes bundled together in clusters or individually disorganized without aim or purpose and if you could not appreciate or accept that new reality… well, then music was not for you !

This new aesthetical movement was a self-defeating trend created to mislead and alienate people away from classical music and create a new species of “anti-high-class music”, which was, ultimately, simply anti-music ! 

As powerful as this new movement became during the 20th century (largely through vast sums of money poured into it from above and not so much from any actually organic support from the masses), don’t become demoralized. You have the power to understand why it is nonsensical and the ability to overcome the brutalizing effects of this mad and un-natural scheme. In order to recover sanity and enjoy even more music, here is a music class offering for you:

Give it to yourself and watch this classic December 20th, 2012 presentation by pianist and composer Jérôme Ducros. Invited to the Collège de France, Ducros delivered an hour-long pedagogical course where he masterfully presented the oddities of atonalism, and its theoretical and practical self-contradictions. This was a presentation which, evidently, was reviewed with anger by the high priests of modern musicology. This presentation makes it clear why music composition, to survive, must go back to the tonal (classical) tradition which is the one tradition which unites both creative passion, reason and lawfulness and which modernist movements suppressed long ago.

In this pedagogically brilliant presentation, Mr. Ducros shows with musical and literary excerpts why everyone can understand tonal music, and what is so wrong with 20th century atonalism . In the end, if a composition can be inaccurately played all throughout without anyone, not even the experts noticing, then there is something utterly wrong and useless about this language.

Have fun and enjoy this for an hour! Furthermore, make it a habit and challenge yourself to pick up the classical musical language (click below for english and french versions of this lecture). 

Here is the original french lecture:

Feature Image: Bartolomeo di Fruosino’s Inferno, from the Divine Comedy by Dante (1430-1435)


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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I thought the world got over atonalism by the 1950s…

  2. The world would undoubtedly be in a much better place right now if they had spat out the poison early on, but unfortunately it’s had a few decades to seep in and do a lot of damage.

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