In music composition, developing variation is a formal technique in which the concepts of development and variation are united in that variations are produced through the development of existing material.
Though the term was coined by Arnold Schoenberg, inventor of the twelve-tone technique, he felt it was one of the most important compositional principles since around 1750:
Schoenberg distinguished this from the "unravelling" procedures of contrapuntal tonal music but developing variation may be related to other textures and to Schoenberg's own freely atonal pieces which employ a "method of atonal developing variation each chord, line, and harmony results from the subtle alteration and recombination of musical ideas from earlier in the piece" and Schoenberg describes its importance to his developmental of serialism.
Haimo applies the concept to vertical (pitch) as well as horizontal (rhythm and permutation) transformations in twelve-tone music on the premise of "the 'unity of musical space'" after suggesting that Schoenberg reconciled serial organization and developing variation in the twelve tone technique.
- Frisch, Walter (1984). Brahms and the Principle of Developing Variation, p.1-34. Berkeley. Cited in Haimo as developing from Schoenberg's work.
- Schoenberg, Arnold. Style and Idea, p.397. Cited by Haimo (1990).
- Schoenberg, Arnold. Composition with Twelve Tones (2), p.248. Cited by Haimo (1990).