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Atonal set theory has a bad reputation. Like Schenkerian analysis in its earlier days, set theory has had an air of the secret society about it, with admission granted only to those who possess the magic password, a forbidding technical vocabulary bristling with expressions like "6- Z44" and "interval vector." It has thus often appeared to the uninitiated as the sterile application of arcane, mathematical concepts to inaudible and uninteresting musical relationships. This situation has created understandable frustration among musicians, and the frustration has grown as discussions of twentieth-century music in the professional theoretical literature have come to be expressed almost entirely in this unfamiliar language.

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