Twilight of the Twelve-Tone Gods

Marking the centennial anniversary of the most radical and significant development in twentieth-century music, the invention of the Twelve-Tone technique by Arnold Schoenberg in 1922, our project exhausts in a single work every possible permutation of the twelve tones of the chromatic scale: twelve equally tempered pitch classes representing all 479.001.600 possible sets. This project thus represents both the ultimate, final piece of Twelve-Tone music—containing within it every piece of Twelve-Tone ever composed or that ever will be composed in the future—and also, a matrix to mix sets and create new musical compositions, whether randomly or by design. The algorithmic (dis)order of the Twelve-Tone sets appeals to the element of chance, while simultaneously obeying the strict rules of tone and pitch set out by Schoenberg, subsequently elaborated by Alban Berg and Anton Webern, among many other great (if largely forgotten) composers of the Second Viennese School.

In this tonal artwork, content is generated on a smart contract on the NEAR blockchain. The smart contract runs an algorithm assembling notes based on principles of Twelve-Tone music. The same smart contract assembles lines from multiple poems to create a unique poem for each tone set. Every block in the blockchain represents a new tone set until 479.001.600 blocks have passed, at which point it restarts from the beginning. Accompanying the music and poems is a mathematically generated fractal landscape. Nothing is pre-recorded, all sounds and graphics, are synthesized in real time.

As there are 479,001,600 sets, it would be impractical to mint a single NFT for each one. Instead, we offer the ability for listeners to leave a message in each set they chance upon, and to do this they pay a small fee. Collectors can also purchase one or more of twelve shares of the contract and will then receive their relative share of the fees generated by the contract. The smart contract also provides a built-in marketplace to facilitate listing, buying, and selling the contract shares.

The poems were written by a human being but have been algorithmically dismembered and collaged together at random by machines, to create cyborg haikus which should be read as the music plays in the background.

The mathematically generated landscape, based upon the presence of the Fibonacci sequence in the Mandelbrot Set, is both infinitely mutable and rigorously bound to the sequence of nearly half a billion tone sets, harnessing their audible complexity to create a visible world of mysterious and unexpected fractal patterns.

Our hope is that this unusual project sparks a renewed interest in Twelve-Tone music a hundred years since its invention. Our aspiration is to offer a new way to appreciate this strange, challenging, yet beautiful musical technique, which may appeal to both afficionados and amateurs alike.