Tone cluster

In music, the word cluster (English " group ", " heap ", " bunch ", " bunch of grapes ") stands for a sound structure, whose tones are close together. On keyboard instruments several neighboring keys are struck simultaneously, with five fingers, the thumb, palm or forearm; these tone clusters consist of pentatonic ( black keys), diatonic ( white keys) or chromatic material (black and white keys). In the interaction of orchestral instruments also closer intervals are possible, such as quarter tones; the same is true for vocal ensembles and choirs.

According to the composer Henry Cowell, who first prescribed cluster in his piano piece The Tides of Manaunaun (1912 ), this should be treated as " units ", that is, he saw clusters as single notes sound similar events, less than chords.


The name " cluster " explained by the fact that the traditional note written presentation of a grape similar to:

The most common modern form of notation looks like this:

- The cluster specified as MIDI for listening -

In doing so the black bars indicate the range of the cluster exactly. Describe the resolution and accidentals, whether white, black or all keys are to be used as on the piano.


Although the term " cluster " is much younger, tone clusters were used early on, such as a rhetorical figure in Baroque music ( eg to chaos or earthquakes represent plastic). At the beginning of the late romantic orchestral work An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) indicated a slight cluster to the subdued atmosphere at daybreak. In New Music clusters won structural significance. Composers such as Béla Bartók (1881-1945) and especially Henry Cowell (1897-1965) pioneered. In the sixties of the 20th century experimented numerous avant-garde with the so-called sound surfaces; was particularly influential with his orchestra György Ligeti piece Atmosphères (1961 ) - mentioned were also his choral piece Lux Aeterna (1966 ) and his orchestral work Lontano (1967). Also available in electronic ( pop ), music played a distinctive role cluster, so in the second half of the title electric cardiogram of the band Kraftwerk. The jazz pianist Cecil Taylor won his importance, not least with its many variants, rousing game cluster.