The end of the research period...

I've recently been comissioned to write a 12 tone piece for orchestra by a teacher of mine; an oppurtinity I accepted with zeal. So, I've listened to the second viennese school, Rochberg, Wuorinen, Dallapiccolla and anyone else associated with twelve tone serialism to get a feel for what I want to create. I've spent time researching the system and assoiated techniques. I've prepared my row using derivation and have studied it's various qualities (combinatorality, row inbreeding, symetry etc.) and have written a short (40 bar) piano piece to get to grips with how to go about 12 tone writing. So I can safely say that I have well and truly finished my research. Trouble is, I'm now stuck on where to go. I want to write it using a classical form, but am struggling to think of one that would suite 12 tone writing (sonata form suggested itself, but how to go about writing a development without discarding the row became problematic). Does anyone have any suggestions on what form I could use as a scaffold for my work?

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  • Have you thought of using several shorter movements to form a sort of suite? Ive found this lends itself to 12-tone music as in music by Schoenberg. How long is the composition supposed to be?
  • I would just opt for a through-composed piece that has some kind of dynamic arc. Try to attach yesterday's forms to today's compositional techniques seems like an exercise in frustration.



  • Development by definition is exploring new combunations of the material already exposed. Here you should not be afraid of breaking the structure (series, mode sequences etc). You can even contrast some traditional harmony chords with heavy  dissonances and lead this to a new theme and/or to a main culmination. 
  • There's always good ol ABA!  You can still do sonata form too (which is really just a fancified ABA), nobody will know or care if you break the row.
  • I know it seems boring or frustrating to use older forms in newer music but I think that's what gives music its logic. If I am writing a larger work I often start with Sonata-allegro (adding a coda at the end makes it very interesting!) and go from there. Do you have a theme in mind? Another device that makes atonal/12-tone music more interesting is constantly changing the rhythm and meter, in which case the form isnt even that important. You may enjoy listening to Asylum by Thomas Ades.
  • You seem to have a 40-bar "theme" already.  Perhaps, write a set of variations?
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