“Twelve Tone Girl”: A conversation with Kenneth Stewart about music’s most befuddling genre

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Nathans & Roncast
"Twelve Tone Girl": A conversation with Kenneth Stewart about music's most befuddling genre

What is twelve-tone music? Made famous by Arnold Schoenberg, Anton von Webern and Alban Berg, it was a new concept in how to construct music. It was developed roughly around World War I, and for a while was all the rage in conservatories and bastions of serious music. But it can be difficult to listen to, and as such made for a great topic for a (ironically) very tonal song, Aaron & Michael’s “Twelve Tone Girl.”

Kenneth Stewart
Kenneth Stewart

In this fascinating episode, we take a deep dive into twelve-tone music with Kenneth Stewart, a Durham, N.C.-based guitarist/cellist, conductor and composer. He considers music his life’s work. He started music from the age of 4, learning guitar from his record collector- and audio-engineer father. He began his cello pursuit in middle school and became a composer at 15 as part of the Tucson Symphony’s Young Composers program and had composed three orchestral pieces by the age of 18. He has a master’s and Ph.D. degree in music composition from Rice University and Duke University respectively. Kenneth shared the cello section with Michael Ronstadt in youth orchestra and as a performance major at the University of Arizona. 

For the last 15 years, Dr. Stewart has coached countless bands, independent musicians, teachers and artists while working with organizations such as ASTA’s Cello Congress, UNC’s Guitar Ensemble and Duke University, Kidznotes and the Durham Jazz Workshop, to name a few. He is actively engaged in advancing equity and inclusion. Kenneth is passionate about collaborations focussed on creating music through the lens of varied musical disciplines, and teaches accordingly.

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