Composition with Twelve Tones:
Chapter 9

The possibilities of evolving the formal elements of music – melodies, themes, phrases, motives, figures, and chords – out of a basic set are unlimited. In the following pages, a number of examples from my own works will be analyzed to reveal some of these possibilities. It will be observed that the succession of the tones according to their order in the set has always been strictly observed. One could perhaps tolerate a slight digression from this order (according to the same principle which allowed a remote variant in former styles) in the later part of a work, when the set had already become familiar to the ear. However, one would not thus digress at the beginning of a piece.

The set is often divided into groups; for example, into two groups of six tones, or three groups of four, or four groups of three tones. This grouping serves primarily to provide a regularity in the distribution of the tones. The tones used in the melody are thereby separated from those to be used as accompaniment, as harmonies or as chords and voices demanded by the nature of the instrumentation, by the instrument, or by the character and other circumstances of a piece. The distribution may be varied or developed according to circumstances, in a manner comparable to the changes of what I call the "Motive of the Accompaniment."