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  In fine art, pointillism is a method of painting using innumerable tiny dots of colour. Light is reflected from them to make the picture. The technique was perfected by the 1880s impressionist Georges Seurat. It is analogous both to a method of shading used by earlier painters, and to the process by which photographs were reproduced at the time in books and newspapers. Few other painters have taken it as far as Seurat: his La Grande Jatte is at once the justification and the apotheosis of the style.

In music, pointillism is a style introduced by Anton Webern in the 1920s, and used by his followers until the late 1960s. Instead of individual notes forming part of recognizable themes or chords, they appear to be isolated, to stand alone in the texture: a single crotchet from a clarinet, a few semiquavers from a flute, a semibreve from violins. In fact, as with all pointillism, this is an illusion: each individual note is part of a carefully ordered and intellectually coherent musical texture, which becomes ever more apparent on repeated hearings. To demonstate this, Webern once orchestrated a Bach fugue in pointillist style, and the result, though like listening to Bach through a kind of aural prism, is still quite clearly Bach. KMcL



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