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Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory [Hardcover]

Joseph N. Straus
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

18 Aug 2004 0131898906 978-0131898905 3

For undergraduate/graduate-level courses in Twentieth-Century Techniques, and Post-Tonal Theory and Analysis taken by music majors.

A primer—rather than a survey—this text offers exceptionally clear, simple explanations of basic theoretical concepts for the post-tonal music of the twentieth century. Emphasizing hands-on contact with the music—through playing, singing, listening, and analyzing—it provides six chapters on theory, each illustrated with musical examples and fully worked-out analyses, all drawn largely from the “classical” pre-war repertoire by Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Berg, and Webern.


"Straus takes a paced, methodical, logical approach to each topic. He introduces it in context and – perhaps most significantly of all – uses language that's so transparent that merely to follow his descriptions, explanations and illustrations carefully is to understand each aspect of the theory under consideration."  Mark Sealey, Classical.net

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson; 3 edition (18 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131898906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131898905
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 16.9 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 271,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the Back Cover

Designed for a course in twenty-first-century techniques and analysis, this text offers a clear, comprehensive introduction to the basic concepts of post-tonal theory. Each concept is clearly explained and richly illustrated with examples from the musical literature. The text contains model analyses as well as carefully graduated exercises that involve playing, singing, composing, and analyzing.

The third edition stays abreast of recent theoretical developments by including discussions of transformational networks and graphs, contour theory, atonal voice leading, triadic post-tonality (including neotonality), inversional symmetry, and interval cycles. As a result, this text is not only a primer of basic concepts but also an introduction to the current state of post-tonal theory, with its rich array of theoretical concepts and analytical tools.

The third edition also features a wide range of composers and musical styles. Although the "classical" prewar repertoire of music by Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Webern, and Berg still comprises the musical core, theoretical concepts are now also illustrated with music by Adams, Babbitt, Berio, Boulez, Britten, Cage, Carter, Cowell, Crawford, Crumb, Debussy, Feldman, Glass, Gubaidulina, Ives, Ligeti, Messiaen, Musgrave, Reich, Ruggles, Sessions, Shostakovich, Stockhausen, Varese, Wolpe, Wuorinen, and Zwillich.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very straightforward especially if you have to hand in an analysis essay on atonal music the next day ;)

A bit pricey though, get it from the library
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars from the trenches 21 Jan 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This is simply the best introduction to musical set theory in print, and one of the most pedagogically sound theory texts available for any topic. Straus writes exceedingly well, and his organization and pacing are excellent. This is not "watered-down Allen Forte," it is a humane spin on rather abstract musical concepts in language musicians can understand. Forte's and Perle's works are invaluable to the discipline, but their books are almost unreadable.
Straus's revised edition expands the repertoire only minimally (more could be done here), but the new exercises (particularly the composition sections) are an excellent addition. An average undergraduate class can make it through the text in a single semester with plenty of time left -- about four or five weeks -- to cover additional repertoire and topics.
Dr. O
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uninformed reviewers 9 May 2004
By Luke Ma - Published on Amazon.com
Reviewers of such a book as Intro. to Post-Tonal Theory should know a bit about set-class theory before trying to discredit Straus's work. "A Reader"'s review (titled "Inaccurate") is itself blatantly wrong. Set [0,3,4,5,8,10,11], this reviewer proposes, does not yield prime form if one applies Straus's methods to it. What the reviewer doesn't seem to realize is that he has failed to apply the first rule of finding normal order, of finding the MINIMUM SPAN of a set, which Straus does tell readers to do. The aforementioned septachord must be put in normal order first with minimum span (that is, 0,1,2,7,8,9) before applying Straus's right-to-left rule. A review must be critical but such a mistaken reading must either be ignorance or willful malevolence, neither of which is appropriate here. "from the real world of music" is arguably a worse review, throwing up a veil of unnecessary "big words," to use the vernacular, to hide a critique based upon nothing. What abuses of terminology, what logical fallacies, and what errors does this reviewer refer to? And if Straus's book is "cliff notes", then what is the real version? I don't discredit these reviews from a difference of opinion on my part but rather I am disgusted by the ignorance present in these reviews.
Having said all that, is is no surpise that I firmly believe that Straus's text belongs at the top of a short list of anyone who wishes to pursue pitch class set theory. It is indeed designed as a text and as such is often times clearer and more practical than the Allen Forte original. He engages precisely the repertoire Forte set out to engage (the second Viennese school mainly) and supports his clear explanations with convincing musical examples and step-by-step analyses. The positive reviews here obviously outweight the astoundingly ignorant negative ones. As well, this book has the blessing of the majority of the music theory community behind it, and rightly so. This is a valuable book that deserves a place on any theorist's (or aspiring theorists's) shelves.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful 24 Feb 2003
By Paul Nelson - Published on Amazon.com
I like this book a lot. It is a practical, balanced, to-the-point guide. I have been composing for a long time (14+ years) but I've only been studying it full time for 3 years now, and I found that the book really helped to clarify a lot of my thinking about pitch collections, 20th century harmonies, and 20th century compositional techniques.
RE: The Prime Form debate. There are two methods for computing the prime form, the "Forte" and "Rahn" method. This book uses the "Rahn" method and is perfectly consistent throughout. While this is a minor issue, because it only affect 5 pitch class sets (of 200), perhaps it would be good to add a paragraph about the differences in a future revision to help beginniners avoid confusion.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to 20th Century Theory 23 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book is an excellent primer for the basics of twelve-tone and atonal theory. The book's biggest strength is its pedagogical approach and clarity of difficult concepts. One can attempt to learn atonal theory through Allen Forte's book (and many did), but much of his book is theoretical, not practical, causing difficulty in distilling the main topics. Fortunately Straus's book has been revised, so I hope the repertoire has been expanded a bit, to move beyond the canon composers (Bartok, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, etc). In short, if you're looking to understand the musical materials behind atonal music, this book is a fine place to start.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great, but no answers 9 Sep 2005
By Conductor Grrrl - Published on Amazon.com
This is a well-organized and thorough review of post-tonal theory. And there are great exercises, but there is NO ANSWER KEY! This was a great annoyance to me as I reviewed for an exam.
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