aton·​al | \ (ˌ)ā-ˈtō-nᵊl How to pronounce atonal (audio) , (ˌ)a- \

Definition of atonal

: marked by avoidance of traditional musical tonality especially : organized without reference to key or tonal center and using the tones of the chromatic scale impartially

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Other Words from atonal

atonalism \ (ˌ)ā-​ˈtō-​nə-​ˌli-​zəm How to pronounce atonal (audio) , (ˌ)a-​ \ noun
atonalist \ (ˌ)ā-​ˈtō-​nə-​list How to pronounce atonal (audio) , (ˌ)a-​ \ noun
atonality \ ˌā-​tō-​ˈna-​lə-​tē How to pronounce atonal (audio) , ˌa-​ \ noun
atonally \ (ˌ)ā-​ˈtō-​nə-​lē How to pronounce atonal (audio) , (ˌ)a-​ \ adverb

Examples of atonal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Most of the initial score's lyrics were from the Episcopal hymnal and the songs were atonal. Mark Kennedy, Star Tribune, 10 May 2021 The serenade moves from traditional harmonies to atonal stylings. Tim Diovanni, Dallas News, 21 Apr. 2021 The liveliness of the first movement returns in the atonal finale, with pitch slides and vocal gargling effects, fast tremolos in the cello and thwacking accents and flutter-tonguing for the clarinet. Tim Diovanni, Dallas News, 21 Apr. 2021 The sounds of the city — traffic, construction, voices, the muezzins’ calls to prayer — are deftly orchestrated and integrated with the exquisite, atonal soundtrack by Ali Helnwein. Peter Keough,, 24 Feb. 2021 The complicated and highly abstract music, often described as atonal, was mostly unknown and unrecorded in the United States and seemed to have no connection with traditional classical stylings. Washington Post, 5 Oct. 2020 As both pianist and conductor, Mr. Monod helped their work — difficult, complex, often atonal — gain wider currency outside the European continent. Margalit Fox, New York Times, 2 Oct. 2020 Also crucial is Murphy's particular knack for using music and color to convey the hothouse longings of her characters; heady metaphors served in the atonal jangle of post punk or the throbbing kaleidoscope of strobe lights at a house party. Leah Greenblatt,, 17 June 2020 This is part of a broader crisis facing modern (in the non-technical sense), atonal music: A group of styles originally designed to smash conventions and, so it was promised, free up artists have become rigidly conventional. Nicholas M. Gallagher, National Review, 23 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'atonal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of atonal

1911, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for atonal

a- entry 2 + tonal

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Last Updated

17 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Atonal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of atonal

music : not written, played, or sung in a particular key

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