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Post-Tonal Affinities in Piano Works of Bartók, Chen, and Crumb

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Monica Kang

The book explores cellular pivots as a new means of progression, functional tonality having disappeared in much of contemporary music. Béla Bartók can be seen as a kind of father figure to the other two composers, Chen Yi and George Crumb, in terms of their stylistic, technical, and even philosophical connections. The musical affinities of all three composers reflect a larger body of post-tonal music. Cell constructions and their pivotal motions span the gamut from traditional/asymmetrical to more abstract/symmetrical formations. This study provides insight into universal principles of the post-tonal era and reveals a broader evolution of the musical language as represented by the three composers.
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Chapter 4 Toward Further Abstraction in Bartók’s Mikrokosmos

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Chapter 4Toward Further Abstraction in Bartók’s Mikrokosmos

In 1926, a prolific year for his piano compositions and the beginning of his last stylistic period, Bartók began to compose the Mikrokosmos. This collection of pieces is more abstract due to developing stylistic trends throughout the decades and also simply because not all pieces have a direct correlation to folk tunes as in the Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20. Besides folk associations, many pieces exhibit influences by other composers or are based on pedagogical goals, imageries, and compositional concepts like inversion or counterpoint. The overall title—Mikrokosmos—refers kaleidoscopically to many colorful worlds conveyed by the pieces, or “world of the little ones, the children”.1 The composition began when Bartók started sketching out exercises for his younger son, Pétér, and eventually took form into a pedagogical series. Mikrokosmos is not the first of Bartók’s endeavors in pedagogical writing. He had previously published Ten Easy Pieces (1908), For Children (1909–1910)—four volumes of short pieces composed from Hungarian and Slovakian folk melodies that combine simple melodies with more complex harmonies—and Piano Method (1913). The last consists of a total of five volumes, in which Volume 3 includes Bartók-edited pieces from Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. He also rearranged preludes and fugues from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier according to increasing difficulty and edited keyboard pieces by other composers including François Couperin, Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and...

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