Storing "atonality" music type for Works

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Question for classical-enclined editors: I was reading about 20th century classical music and realized we have a way to store information about tonal music (i.e. the main key used in the work) but not for atonal (or serial or dodecaphonic or…).

Should we? And how would we display it? I thought about adding this option in the Works Key attribute but it doesn’t look like a clean solution (“atonal” or “serial” or “A major” or “A minor” or…).

Any idea?


Arguably, the concept of keys is a passing phase, having started about 500 years ago and becoming less prevalent now. How would you classify modal music? The mode could be Dorian, Aeolian etc. Atonal doesn’t make much sense, any more than to say that a piece of music is “amodal”. I appreciate that this isn’t really an answer, but I would conclude that extending the Works Key attribute is the wrong answer.

We already do, we have dorian and mixolydian modes available for the keys, and I think the other modes were not added yet until the UI is simplified (STYLE-494 and STYLE-495)

I agree that atonal is too vague (and subjective?) to be added, but serial or dodecaphonic has a clear definition and IMHO it makes as much sense to store this info as the mode or tonality of other works.

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Hadn’t spotted that. But it doesn’t make sense to use the term “key” for them. “Mode” refers to the relative positions of the notes on the scale, not the home note. So major and minor are modes (Ionian and Aeolian).
If the use of the “key” field is to be extended (with which I do not disagree in principle) then a better term for it would help. I’m happy with “serial” etc. as it is specific, just not happy with atonal.

It would make sense to have ‘none’ as an option for ‘Key’ to express that a piece is atonal.

If we want to introduce ‘Mode’ as an attribute then logically it should include ‘major’ and ‘minor’, and the ‘Key’ attribute should be reduced in scope to specifying just the tonic: so a piece in ‘A minor’ would have ‘A’ and ‘minor’ as separate attributes; and one could also select ‘A’ / ‘mixolidian’ or whatever – though I think these other modes would get very little use, not because they aren’t common (even in modern pop music) but because they aren’t usually stated.