An aggregate in music theory refers to a group of musical notes, usually all twelve notes in an octave, that are used as the basis for a composition or a section of a composition. This technique was pioneered by Arnold Schoenberg and his disciples in the early 20th century, and it has since become a staple of modern classical music.

The Basic Idea

The basic idea behind the aggregate is to use all twelve notes in an octave equally, without emphasizing any one note over the others. This creates a sense of equality and balance in the music that can be very powerful. The idea is similar to serialism, which uses a series of pitches or other musical elements as the basis for a composition.

How It Works

To create an aggregate, you start with all twelve notes in an octave (A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#). You then use those notes in whatever order you like, but you must use each note at least once before repeating any note. This means that there are many possible permutations of the aggregate.

Example

Here is an example of an aggregate:

This aggregate uses all twelve notes in the octave exactly once before repeating any note. You could use this aggregate as the basis for a melody or a harmonic progression.

Applications of Aggregate Technique

The aggregate technique has been used by many composers since its inception, and it has been adapted and expanded in many ways. Some composers use aggregates as a basis for entire compositions, while others use them as a way to add complexity and depth to smaller sections of music.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the aggregate technique is a powerful tool in the composer’s toolbox. By using all twelve notes in an octave equally, composers can create music that is balanced and complex, with a sense of unity that is hard to achieve with other techniques. If you’re interested in modern classical music, studying the aggregate technique is a must.