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I don't think I've ever heard what I know as (musical) pointillism described as 'punctualism'. I am from the UK - maybe the term is in common usage in other countries, I don't know. I would suggest, however, that this article be renamed 'Pointillism (Music)'. (talk) 20:04, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

As the person who created this article, I take it to be my responsibility to defend my choice of term. It may be partly a matter of regional difference, though I do find examples from the UK, for example, in the New Grove article "Dynamics", by Matthias Thiemel, and in the second translation of Boulez's Relevés d'apprenti (as Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship translated by Stephen Walsh, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 16–17 and again on 151). As a matter of fact, I think the term entered English usage with the first translation of this same book, by Herbert Weinstock, in 1968, and it is difficult when translating French (as opposed to German) to use the originally French term "pointillisme" to render "ponctuelle". As alluded to in the article, "pointillism" was the (mis)translation of the German "punktuelle Musik" used in the 1950s and 60s, and it is still used by some reputable writers today. However, in the last 25 years or so, many careful scholars have avoided this word because of the inappropriate associations with the painting technique used by Seurat. Not all have opted for "punctualism" (as, e.g., Michael Hicks did in his 1989 article on Berio's Nones) as an alternative to "pointillism", of course. For example, M. J. Grant, in her recent book, Serial Music, Serial Aesthetics: Compositional Theory in Post-war Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2001), manages an entire chapter on "The Isolated Tone: Electronic and Serial Music, 1945–1954" without once using the term. Richard Toop has opted for "point music" in his 2001 New Grove article on Stockhausen and in his 2005 book, Six Lectures from the Stockhausen Courses Kürten 2002, and the article already mentions Edward Lippman's alternative. Markus Bandur, in Aesthetics of Total Serialism (Birkhauser, 2001) uses the original German term, with "pointillist music" in scare-quotes, in just one place (p. 42).
Turning to your proposal to retitle this article, this would actually amount to a new and much broader article, since the present topic actually involves only the two senses (a texture and a compositional technique) applicable to post-1945 European serialism, whereas the English usage of "pointillism" in connection with music dates back to 1897 (according to the OED) and has been applied (more appropriately) to the music of Debussy, Delius, and early Schoenberg, amongst others. It seems to me that the common description of Webern's orchestration of the six-voice Ricercar from Bach's Musical Offering as "pointillist" is also appropriate, in that it involves finely detailed, shifting coloration of the notes of recognizable objects, whereas the equally common application to the sparse and registrally separated textures of pieces like Webern's Piano Variations is not. Nevertheless, it was probably this Webern connection that facilitated in the 1950s the misuse of the French term "pointilliste" for the German "punktuelle".—Jerome Kohl (talk) 05:31, 4 January 2008 (UTC)


I notice that User:Hyacinth has added a musical example from Webern's String Trio, op. 20, with a linked sound file. Whereas the article does say that punctualism was "retrospectively attributed to the music of Anton Webern", I do wonder whether op. 20 is actually the kind of thing "they" had in mind. Certainly this particular example lacks most or all of the attributes in the quotation from Karlheinz Essl near the beginning of the article: "whose structures are predominantly effected from tone to tone, without superordinate formal conceptions coming to bear". Dynamics, for example, are applied to a minimum of two consecutive notes, which is a characteristic of "group forming", rather than punctualism. Articulations also collect notes mainly into pairs, and occasionally somewhat larger groups, and there are clear thematic elements in the recurring two-repeated-note pickup figures, which is contrary to the Boulez quotation, "What had brought this 'punctual' style about? The justified rejection of thematicism". I hesitate to simply remove this example, since the article really does badly need one, but I would like to know how this is meant to help, rather than confuse the reader.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 03:39, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Seriously? Assuming that it was added to confuse readers is bizarre. Hyacinth (talk) 23:07, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Indeed it would be bizarre, had anyone expressed that assumption. I certainly did not do so. What I asked was what this example was intended to help the reader to understand, since it appears to me to create confusion. (I'm sure this was not the intention.) Its placement without further comment suggests that the extract from Webern's op. 20 is an illustration of punctual music, which it is not, in multiple ways, as explained above. I have expanded the caption a bit, on the assumption that it illustrates what Boulez describes as the opposite of "punctual dynamics". However, it also illustrates the short (some of them two notes, others longer) motivic units characteristic of Webern's music, which Stockhausen believed had inspired Messiaen to reduce textures further: to single notes with no motivic implications whatever. If an illustration of punctual textures is desirable (and I think it is), an excerpt from Messiaen's "Mode de valeurs et d'intensités", from Goeyvaerts's Sonata for Two Pianos, or from the first book of Boulez's Structures for Two Pianos would be more apt. Selections from Stockhausen's earliest published scores would be more problematic (though the unpublished preliminary version of Kontra-Punkte would be ideal) since, as Hermann Sabbe says, ""Stockhausen never strictly speaking composed punctually", at least not in works that he allowed to be published. I suspect there might be copyright issues involved with reproducing excerpts from any of these compositions, but I would be happy to be proved wrong.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:46, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
I see that you have replaced the Webern example with the upper mode from Messiaen's "Mode de valeurs". That is much better, thanks. An example showing the texture in an actual composition would be better still but, as I already said, this might be prevented by copyright issues.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 04:08, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
I would go with {{Non-free fair use in}}. Hyacinth (talk) 05:33, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
OK. I shall have to look into this. I have no experience with that particular rationale.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 06:30, 29 July 2012 (UTC)