arnold schoenberg’s 12 tone wheel chart


Arnold Schoenberg – 12 Tone Wheel Chart, hand drawing and paper cutting, (1934)

As far as I can tell, this chart is an early application of Schoenberg’s work with regions within his Twelve Tone system. This was his means to structure harmonic movement within a piece. He believed that a single tonality could include all twelve notes of the chromatic scale, as long as they were properly organized to be subordinate to tonic (the tonic is the pitch upon which all others are referenced, in other words the root or axis around which a piece is built). His Chart of Regions was a means to illustrate these relationships, though how this wheel works within the order of his constraints exceeds my basic knowledge. I came across it a while back, thought it was a thing a beauty, and a window into history worth sharing. I hope you enjoy it, and find it less confounding that I do. If you feel like putting some sounds to the puzzle, check out Pierre Boulez’s fantastic realization of Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942) with the Cleveland Orchestra below.
-Bradford Bailey

Arnold Schoenberg – Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942)

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