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Guest John Pax

What's its purpose?

Why do you chose to compose this way?

Do some people relax/enjoy listening to it?

Do you (as a composer of serialist music) enjoy it?

Are the melodies supposed to be so.. rigid to listen to or do some people think they're pleasant?

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Don't take any of this a rude or a shot at serialist composers - These are just questions about the matter that answers I haven't come across.

:happy:

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Jeez John.

No, I'm not a serial composer and atonality has NOTHING to do with serialism. My works are not serialistic (?) or atonal.

I enjoy dissonance, I love working with dissonance, I love contemporary music as a whole. As a composer and as a listener.

The material you use is your own to choose. Berg was rather lyrical, Webern was rather dissonant in his tone rows.

Serialism and atonality are two things, not one, and are old... not new!

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What's its purpose?

That is more of an musical Existentialism there, don't you think. And could be applied to all music. To find what the purpose of serialism could be answered by either looking at serialism in historical context or answering that question as it applies to all forms of music.

Why do you chose to compose this way?

Its a style choice. Much like when people decide to make a rap song, or write in a heavy Wagnerian way, its all about aesthetics and what we as artist and composers choose to embrace.

Do some people relax/enjoy listening to it?

This is can only be answered if one assumes that the only reason to listen to music is for relaxation, or that we would all find the same things and activities enjoyable. That the way we listen to music is a whole other topic all on its own, so I am not going to diverge the original topic to go into detail about that.

Do you (as a composer of serialist music) enjoy it?

Yes I do, very much so, however I dont consider myself a seralist composer. It is just one of many compositional tools I practice in my music.

Are the melodies supposed to be so.. rigid to listen to or do some people think they're pleasant?

Again, this is about personal aesthetics. What one finds rigid other might find pleasant. Different stroke for different blokes as they say.

To fully understand serialism and its place in music, one needs to understand the composers who not only invented it but who championed it. One must also understand what presided it and other historical events that shaped it into being. As well, immersing yourself into the music itself will also help appreciate it more. This isnt to say that after you do all that you will love it, you might still find it unpleasing, however it will help you understand it more.

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ATTENTION: Huge post coming. Close your eyes if you can't take it!

I find it interesting that serialism still seems such a hot topic for those "new to it", even though contemporary serialist music is n rare thing. Much of that may have to do with the common misconception Nikolas just cleared up, that "atonal" (or at least not traditionally tonal) music is serial by nature.

No doubt though, serialism is an important thing to be aware of even today, for the influence it had on the ("academic") music of the 20th century - and also because many serialist composers were also rather clever minds who wrote things about music that hadn't really been voiced until then and which, IMHO, are still important for a composer to be aware of.

First of all, the term serialism: We need to establish what exactly we mean by it, since there are mainly two confliction definitions thereof. In english usage (I'm not sure whether it's generally english or just American) it often refers to all dodecaphonic composition, i.e. music composed with Schönberg's twelve-tone technique or derivations thereof. I'm also not sure if in the english usage of the term it also encompasses other original approaches to 12-tone composition, such as Hauer's method. I believe in french it's used similarly than in english, although I'm not entirely sure.

In the german usage of the term (and some other languages which I'm not sure about), "Serialismus" is used strictly to describe methods of composition where "all" parameters of a composition are organised in tone rows, while Schönberg's technique is simply called 12-tone composition or dodecaphony. (By putting "all" in quotation marks I mean that in truth there is no such thing as a fixed "parameter list" in music - you can call whatever you want a "musical parameter", so there's no such thing as "all musical parameters" in an objective sense. But certain things like pitch, rhythm, dynamics etc. are at least very broadly seen as "musical parameters", so that's what I'm talking about here.) This method was mostly developed by certain pupils of Messiaen (who himself had with one work laid out the foundation of this kind of composition), notably Boulez, Stockhausen, to some degree Nono and others. This was in the early 1950s and lasted only rather shortly, in this strict form. (I.e. those same composers already had distanced themselves from this quite a lot by the end of the 1950s, while keeping certain elements of it.)

Why am I placing such an importance of the distinction between those usages? Because I've often seen english-speaking people using the term in the english way (i.e. thinking of Schönberg's method), but associating the "control-fetishism", the number-games and the "academic dominance" of the german definition with it, which would be quite a mistake.

"Serialism" in the sense of 12-tone composition is a method, which describes certain techniques of controlling certain specific aspects of your piece in a limited way. It is not a fixed aesthetic however and neither describes how the music is going to sound, nor does it postulate a specific musical mindset as a whole.

"Serialism" as in the 1950s serialism on the other hand is not a fixed method at all. There is no manifesto that describes a certain technique (well, there's Messiaen's introduction to his "Mode de valeurs et d'intensités", but that's more a "proto-manifesto" that was taking as a common starting point for other composers). In fact, every serialist composer of this form of serialism pretty much invented a new technique with every new piece he or she wrote. It is however much more a general musical mindset: The desire to control all aspects of a composition systematically, and the desire of treating all aspects of the composition by the same principles (i.e. using the same processes for the rhythms as for the pitches etc.), seeing Schönberg's method as faulty in its sole focus on one musical parameter. It is this fundamental idea of a structurally unified music that this form of serialism establishes.

In any discussion about serialism, it should be made quite clear about what exactly we're talking about here.

Now, as to the questions themselves. The question of purpose is of course, because of the reasons Plutokat mentioned, very hard to answer. But of course there are reasons why Schönberg invented his technique and there are reasons Messiaen's pupils went for their own "doctrine". The latter, I already answered to some degree: The desire to bring all musical parameters together under one single governing idea. Historically speaking, this might be seen as a logical continuation of the Beethoven-Brahms line of motivic treatment, where the composers tried to derive all musical material in a piece from the same motivic core in order to create more unity. 1950s serialism simply takes this to a more abstract level, not using a concrete motivic core as the center of the piece, but a structural idea, from which everything is derived. The idea itself may never be actually audible, but everything -is- related by its childhood to this idea, which should, in theory, lead to an audible sense of unity and structure. (Of course Boulez would kill me if I called this a direct continuation of the Beethoven-Brahms line, hehe.) Another aspect is the distrust in the "composer's intuition". It was a time shortly after WWII and people wanted to make a new start, socially, politically and culturally. Indirectly, it may also have had to do with how the Nazis instrumentalised tonal-traditional music of their time, while banning those who diverged from it. In any case, those 50s composers realized that there was no way of breaking with the past as long as the composers allowed themselves to simply "write intuitively" - as all our intuition is based on what we know, what we've heard, and thus musical tradition. So they thought to get away with that by stepping back to a more abstract level as a composer, a level where the composer would only devise general rules and let them then enfold themselves unhindered according to a certain algorithm. This allows a composer somewhat more to "leave his prejudices behind" and delve into directions where he might never have ended up if he had composed every note "as he saw fit at the moment", allowing them to experience things they would never have experienced otherwise. (Of course it's clear that even this approach was far from being absolutely set apart from musical tradition: Most of this music still uses traditional instruments and instrumental groups, still uses the same forms of notation, and of course the structural rules themselves are still dependent on the composer's "intuition" and thus coloured by tradition.)

Schönberg's form of serialism on the other hand came out of necessity after having written freely atonal music for some time. He had realized that without any fixed tonality it was very hard to compose longer pieces without getting lost in musical details, since there was no unifying architecture to cling to. That's why he had in the meantime composed either short pieces, or pieces with texts (songs), where the text helped him to create larger forms. That's why he wanted to systematise his form of composition and ended up with his 12-tone-technique. Now, what exact properties did he want this technique to have? It is true that to some degree the rules of this technique served the purpose of avoiding certain tonal implications. It's not that he didn't like tonality (anyone who has ever listened to -any- Schönberg piece will see that this is clearly not the case), but much more that he was aware of the immense power that tonal implications have for a listener used to classical music, which automatically make the music heard in a very specific context, while making it almost impossible to hear the music outside of this context, making it impossible to hear the sounds merely as sounds, all with their own "colour", equal to each other in importance. That's why his rules lead to an approximately even distribution of pitches etc. - simply to avoid an implied functional context and let the individual sounds of the notes and note-constellations truly come out. In the end, these rules are similar than many classical rules, such as the avoidance of parallel fifths: Those were especially avoided because of their very specific power that makes them stand out in a way that rivals the aspects of music that were supposed to be the actual focus, i.e. in this case polyphony (next to the property of parallel fifths/octaves reducing the audibility of the individual voices, of course). Maybe most musical rules ever devised and broadly used had the purpose of reducing the influence of certain powerful effects that might otherwise "steal the show" so to speak, and distract from the actual musical intentions.

As to your second question: The question whether I or others enjoy "listening to serial music" is similar to asking whether people enjoy "looking at photographs": It's simply much too broad to be answered generally. In short: It depends on the person and it depends on the specific piece in question. I do, in any case, enjoy listening to a lot of serial pieces, encompassing both classical 12-tone pieces as well as pieces composed in the 50s vein of serialism.

Do I personally write serial music? No, and I've never done so and I quite possibly never will. But I have been heavily influenced by it and learned a lot from it. I do, for instance, sympatise with the idea of the 1950s serialism of basing an entire composition on one core idea (although for me those ideas can be much more "philosophical" and less technical than they used to be in the 50s serialism), and I also sympatise with creating structures that allow me to "leave myself behind" to some degree, i.e. working out processes that lead me to venture into things that are foreign to me, that let me experience things I wouldn't come up with by simply writing note after note without any plan, just following my intuition. I do also sympatise with a generally very planned approach, where I think a lot of what I want with a composition before writing the first note. But I clearly diverge from this form of serialism in a lot of other ways: I have no intention of leaving any traditions behind - actually, consciously playing with such traditions can be a major part of my compositions. I also have no intention of treating every musical parameter according to the same technical processes and frankly, I believe it to be a mistake to believe this is even possible. Dynamics simply are a fundamentally different thing than pitches, and treating them the same does neither of them justice. I also disagree with clearly splitting up the music into a clear set of parameters in the first place. Harmony can turn into timbre, rhythm into pitch, and so on - there are no clear borders there. (Of course I'm not saying the serialist composers weren't aware of that. Stockhausen even wrote a major text about the relationships of pitch and duration. But the core of 1950s serialism still relies on such clear separations.) Last but not least: I do not tend to follow through one single technical algorithm for a whole piece without concessions. I may have some rather firm "rules" and planned structures, but I consciously leave myself the possibility of certain spontaneous decisions, of intuition, etc. (This too was of course done by many of said serialist composers in the late 50s and later, but is a clear contrast to the "original 50s serialism".)

"Are the melodies supposed to be so rigid"? It depends on the composer whether there is even supposed to be a melody of some sort. It also depends on the composer whether the music is intended to be "beautiful"/sensual or has an entirely different aim. Schönberg definitely intended his music to be "enjoyed" in a similar way as people tend to listen to Schubert or Debussy. And I have no problem listening to it in the very same manner. For other composers (especially of the later brand of serialism), this is vastly different again - Boulez's "Structures" is certainly supposed to be "rigid" in a way - there aren't supposed to be "nice melodies" in there at all. Pleasure is not the main goal here, although "enjoyment" in a different sense may still very well be. Those different froms of "pleasure", "enjoyment" etc. are very hard to pin down though, since so many things can be meant by them. I'd rather not venture into that as well.

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What's its purpose?

I think others above, Gardener, have stated well it's purpose.

Why do you chose to compose this way?

I chose to explore this largely due to the pushing of others on this forum to explore and experiment with different aesthetics. I must say, though, after exploring for now what 3 - 4 months that I enjoy this aesthetic a little bit. While my works now aren't serial in their strictest sense - this style does push me to consider the possibilities of my material a lot more than I did before. Structurally, with this aesthetic you have a lot more to think about.

Do some people relax/enjoy listening to it?

What an odd question to ask. Do people enjoy sitting in a tanning bed? Do people enjoy walking on rocks? Do people enjoy anything?

Do you (as a composer of serialist music) enjoy it?

Yes, I do enjoy it. As I stated above, this aesthetic causes me to actually think more logically on what I want to write and where I want it to go. Without reliance on any key or harmonic progression in the typical sense, you are left with motivic development and usage. So, as a composer, you have a lot of work to do.

Are the melodies supposed to be so.. rigid to listen to or do some people think they're pleasant?

What consitutes a melody? I've heard many a piece that was tonal that had rigid melodies that were NOT pleasant to listen to. I think this is a very subjective question really...

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ATTENTION: Huge post coming. Close your eyes if you can't take it!

SUPER LONG POST!!!!!!!!!!!

I have to say man, that was the best and most informative post I've seen on YC in a long time. Well done! We still doing YC awards this year? I nominate this post for "Post of the Year!"

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Disclaimer: Before someone mistakes my opinions as fact, I say that this is my opinion!

What's its purpose?

Gardner laid out a lovely response to this. Indeed, its all about making a unified structure thingamabober.

Why do you chose to compose this way?

I don't. And I likely never will. Music is Math but Math isn't Music IMO. From music you can derive mathematical equations for certain things, but using Math to create Music loses the emotion and personality of the composer which is a mistake from an artistic point of view. If one removes the human aspect why not just have a computer write it? Funny thing is that in the 50s, they didn't have computers powerful enough to handle writing a serial composition, at least not efficiently. Today we do. So writing "algorithmic" pieces is a bit, well, passe IMO because it can be done in three seconds on a computer; just plunk in some parameters. Hence why true serialism is actually very rare in today's contemporary compositions.

Do some people relax/enjoy listening to it? / Do you (as a composer of serialist music) enjoy it?

I'm sure some do but I don't. Though some of it may be intellectually interesting for me, it's not aesthetically or artistically pleasing.

Are the melodies supposed to be so.. rigid to listen to or do some people think they're pleasant?

Gardener did a good number on this one too. I think true serialism naturally will have rigid "melodies" (if you can call them that) because you remove the human element that tempers the rigidity of logic and numbers. Whether its pleasant or not, eh, that varies on the individual person. For me its a no, as per above.

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In english usage (I'm not sure whether it's generally english or just American) it often refers to all dodecaphonic composition, i.e. music composed with Schönberg's twelve-tone technique or derivations thereof. I'm also not sure if in the english usage of the term it also encompasses other original approaches to 12-tone composition, such as Hauer's method.

In the german usage of the term (and some other languages which I'm not sure about), "Serialismus" is used strictly to describe methods of composition where "all" parameters of a composition are organised in tone rows, while Schönberg's technique is simply called 12-tone composition or dodecaphony...

Let me clear up some things about the definition of serialism in the U.S. Serialism is a broad compositional technique/method that involves the organization of parameters into rows (but not necessarily tone rows) and it is not standardized - the useage of the rows depends upon the composer. The term doesn't just refer to most 12-tone compositions or to compositions that use tone rows of any length. If nearly every parameter of a composition is serialized, then the compositional technique is a subset of serialism called total serialsm. Also, while I don't have an example, I'm pretty sure that while most 12-tone compositions are considered serial, not all of them are. Does a 12-tone composition need to have rows?

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Guest John Pax

Also, while I don't have an example, I'm pretty sure that while most 12-tone compositions are considered serial, not all of them are.

Yer - I was just making a very general umbrella for discussion which has turned out far more informative then I had ever thought it would be.

Props and thanks to Gardener - very good information mate, thanks - it helped a lot! :happy:

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Does a 12-tone composition need to have rows?

A 12-tone composition in the sense Schönberg coined the term definitely needs to have rows, yes. I don't know what might classify a composition as a 12-tone composition if not the usage of 12-tone rows.

Thanks for the additional clarifying statements on the U.S. definition of serialism. Apparently, in this usage of the term, methods of composition that use other systematical rows than pitch-rows still fall under the term serialism. This is, however, often a rather theoretical point, since I'm not aware of many compositions that used rows -without- also serialising pitches in some way, at least not in the time between Schönberg and what you call "total serialism". Obviously, -after- that there were tons of compositions that played with only certain serialised elements and might, for instance, merely serialise a sequence of musical gestures or "fields" without serialising individual notes. These later derivations of serialism must in most cases be seen as consequences of the 1950s "total serialism" however and generally aren't truly independent phenomenons. In this sense, the main distinction between Schönberg's method and the later serialist "maxim" still holds at a fundamental level.

But it's of course perfectly possible (even likely, to be honest) that there are a number of other pieces that used certain serial techniques independently of Schönberg or the "Darmstadt school" (I had already mentioned Hauer's technique, which was however still focused on pitches) and thus might rightfully be called "serial" in an entirely different sense again.

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What's its purpose?

For me, it's somewhat of a combine between canonic motion and a like for recombination.

Why do you chose to compose this way?
It settles one parameter for me -- it's one thing that's taken care of. And it's not like picking a given row is insignificant. But it's also because I like to hear odd timbres, chords, and sounds. And I'm really into looking at something and jumbling it and obscuring it -- and I think part of serialism is that.
Are the melodies supposed to be so.. rigid to listen to or do some people think they're pleasant?

Well, I think there's a lot more harsh music than serialism. And even with that, there is such control of that input that you have as a composer that one could make soothing serialist or algorithmic music, or even something that works as tonal -- I'm sure examples exist.

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I'm not quite sure that WWII had as much to do with the abandonment of tonal "culturalism" in music as much as it had to do with the medium of expression Serial music offered. There are tons of works that could really only express the degree of hopelessness and despair because of the dissonance offered by serial methods of composition. It's also clear that such methodology existed before either WWI or WWII. I happen to believe it wasn't such a clear-cut attempt to abandon tonal structure for the sake of shredding cultural norms as much as it was an attempt to explore expressing something that otherwise couldn't be expressed as well using formulaic tonal procedures.

But you tell me, Gardener. Where is that material coming from and how did this idea of Serialism come about that we started discussing it as this avoidance of human intuitive processes? Or rather, do you think we arrived at this understanding of algorithmic-like music, or do you think we consciously pursued it through philosophic contemplation? Maybe a little of both?

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Disclaimer: Before someone mistakes my opinions as fact, I say that this is my opinion!

Thank goodness you put this. I'm still going to comment though... to correct your assumptions.

I don't. And I likely never will. Music is Math but Math isn't Music IMO. From music you can derive mathematical equations for certain things, but using Math to create Music loses the emotion and personality of the composer which is a mistake from an artistic point of view. If one removes the human aspect why not just have a computer write it? Funny thing is that in the 50s, they didn't have computers powerful enough to handle writing a serial composition, at least not efficiently. Today we do. So writing "algorithmic" pieces is a bit, well, passe IMO because it can be done in three seconds on a computer; just plunk in some parameters. Hence why true serialism is actually very rare in today's contemporary compositions.

Lol, what? Yes, you use a matrix to assist in handling your rows, etc... but aside from that unless you serialize every aspect of your work - which, I don't by the way, the remainder of it is all up to you. The way you construct your material, dynamics, etc... are all at your discretion. The emotion that is in the work, as subjective as it is, is at your disposal as well... I can say, from experience now, that the serial music I've written is perhaps some of the most personal music I've written to date. Emotionally, again subjective term, I think it is quite emotional and 'expressionistic'. Again, the reasons for this are due to the fact that every nuance - I control! Every dynamic - I mull over and choose to MY liking... so there will be 'me' there throughout my composition. As for taking only three seconds, that is a horrible error and misjudgement on your part. Just because you have the matrix set up does NOT mean that you are finished with the work. That is a horrible misconception. My serial works are the first works that have ever required extensive notes and planning during the compositional process. My more tonal works, even, didn't include nearly as much forethought as I put into this aesthetic. The result of this is that it now takes me more time to complete works. So, it's not as easy as you make it out to seem.

Gardener did a good number on this one too. I think true serialism naturally will have rigid "melodies" (if you can call them that) because you remove the human element that tempers the rigidity of logic and numbers. Whether its pleasant or not, eh, that varies on the individual person. For me its a no, as per above.

Remove the human element? Lol, wut? Again, just because you can have a computer set up the matrix and so forth, does not mean that the work is done. I'm starting to think your not even talking about serialism here but instead are referring to alleatoric music itself - which, is completely different.

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I'm not quite sure that WWII had as much to do with the abandonment of tonal "culturalism" in music as much as it had to do with the medium of expression Serial music offered. There are tons of works that could really only express the degree of hopelessness and despair because of the dissonance offered by serial methods of composition. It's also clear that such methodology existed before either WWI or WWII. I happen to believe it wasn't such a clear-cut attempt to abandon tonal structure for the sake of shredding cultural norms as much as it was an attempt to explore expressing something that otherwise couldn't be expressed as well using formulaic tonal procedures.

But you tell me, Gardener. Where is that material coming from and how did this idea of Serialism come about that we started discussing it as this avoidance of human intuitive processes? Or rather, do you think we arrived at this understanding of algorithmic-like music, or do you think we consciously pursued it through philosophic contemplation? Maybe a little of both?

It's less WWII as a war, but what happened in the Third Reich of course. Just take Adorno's famous: "To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbarical." I'm not an expert on Adorno, so I won't go into an interpretation of this, but in general there are several aspects of why many (particularly European) artists felt unable to "just continue making art as if nothing had happened". Art had always stood in a certain relationship to society, maybe reflecting aspects of it, maybe putting forward certain visions, etc. It did this in a stylised, aesthetic form that was, in some form or another, intended to be "enjoyed". What happened in the Third Reich was, by those who witnessed it, often not just recognized as a "tragic incident", but seen as a failure of society, even humanity itself. Art, as an aspect and manifestation of society, was thus seen as irrevocably corrupted - and even more so in its practice of "reflecting reality in a beautiful way". Any "art created after Auschwitz" would, in this sense, either have to ignore this aspect of history and humanity and would be untruthful and false, or would have to reflect on said happenings in the only way possible for art: In a stylised, abstract way, that would never be able to do the horrors that happened justice and would actually desecrate those who suffered during that time, by the attempt of doing so.

If you held these views (and quite a few did, while others quite as vehemently opposed them), it was clear that the only way to continue creating art in some form was to sever art from its corrupted traditions, from the expectations of society, from the claim of "representing humanity" in any emotional form., and from the intention of "pleasing" aesthetically, but to draw back to a more abstract level where more "objective" processes (structures, numbers, techniques) that weren't so "laden with guilt" ruled. As weird as it may sound today, but some of those structural tendencies of that time had quite ethical reasons.

To even try to "express the degree of hopelessness and despair" as you mentioned would have seemed criminal (or, as mentioned, barbarical, for Adorno) for quite a few intellectuals and artists back then. This was certainly much less the case in some countries that were a bit more distanced to this, such as the U.S. and was, as mentioned, definitely not shared amongst all Europeans - but it may serve to explain why some went in the directions they did and were very polemical about this. Many people today, ignoring this general atmosphere in central Europe at that time, can not understand things like Boulez saying "Before me there was no music". But such phrases have to be read in a certain historical context.

And while I do of course now live in a different time and have quite different views on art, society, the value of beauty etc., I -do- definitely share the scepticism about works of art that seem to (often not even deliberately) exploit happenings such as the Third Reich/WWII to gain greater public effect. Penderecki's "Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima" first didn't have this title and Penderecki sent in his piece to several competitions without any success. After he had then given it that title, it immediately won a competition and was a quick success in public. Similar things can be said about Nono's "Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatto ad Auschwitz". And I'm in no way attacking Penderecki or Nono with that - just pointing out the implications such charged associations can have on a piece of art and its reception. And from this point of view I can definitely comprehend Adorno's criticism.

P.S. I'm of course in -no- way saying the 1950s serialism was a direct and only result from political and philosophical considerations. I just wanted to mention this aspect because it often seems to be lost amongst the more obvious technical considerations, i.e. the general modernist drive for exploration, for doing things in a new way. It would definitely be wrong to reduce the bloom of serialist composition to the discovery of techniques that made it possible however. Algorithmic composition is almost as old as composition itself. It always existed either as a structural aid, as a way of reflecting a "divine" non-human aspect in a piece of music as in many renaissance and baroque pieces, as an enjoyable "game", such as in experiments by Mozart and others, and so on. But it needed certain changes in society to really break through and become a value in itself, without the help of "nice c-minor triads". So sure, in reply to your last question: A little of both (and more), as almost always.

Oh, and Tokkemon: I don't think the fact that serialism has receded has anything to do with computers and new possibilities in algorithmic composition. Serialism by itself doesn't have to be complex at all (it's actually often very simple) and it certainly doesn't need to have anything to do with mathematics (just using numbers and structures doesn't really constitute a "mathematical" process). And obviously computers haven't lessened the impact of -algorithmic- or highly structural processes at all. Why should it matter how easy it is to do with or without computers? The only question we today have that we didn't have in the 50s is whether we want to use a computer in our compositions (algorithmic or otherwise). Both is done widely - but that's merely a question of work practices and efficiency, not really of compositorial aim.

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Something just to throw out there: Xenakis actually hated serialism. In his book Formalized Music, he rags on it multiple times and refers to the 'inadequacy of serialism' Why? Well, I'm not *entirely* sure so someone correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure it's because he actually thought it was too simple. He believed it was too simplistic of a way of solving complex problems.

Also, Xenakis wrote music based around complex mathematical processes his entire life up until his death in 2001 (though, I believe around the 80s, he went in favor of more 'free and intuitive' structures having gotten the sounds he wanted from rigid formulas) and I believe there's the whole spectralist movement that is now doing the same thing. All these people writing music well after computers are powerful to, as Tokke says, 'write this music for them' So, however you feel about serialism/mathematical structuring of music, the rise of technology is *not* the reason for its decline. In fact, to my knowledge, there has never been a single serious piece of serialized music where someone just plugged-in all the parameters and let a computer write it for them. If what Tokke were asserting was true, then you'd think at least *someone* would do it.

Also, as far as as math goes in music, composers as diverse as Bach, Mendelssohn, Debussy, and Bartok can be shown to have consciously structured their music in terms of the Golden Proportion. I read a whole book about fractal analysis in music (mainly pre-1900 music) a few months ago which was actually quite fascinating. Perhaps the most surprising bit being an analysis of a Chopin etude which showed that it was unmistakably structured in the form of a sine wave.

Just thought I'd open up that conversation point.

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Another aspect why Xenakis may have disliked serialism was that the serialists approached music from a very "notation-based" point of view, creating music out of notes, all with their respective properties, which then would in combination create a whole. It is, in its first forms, a bottom-up approach where a multitude of precisely controlled events makes up something larger.

Xenakis on the other hand tended to do the exact contrary. In his music, the individual note often doesn't really matter that much, it's just a particle in a big statistical field. He created large, often monumental structures top-down, often even dissolving the idea of "notes" altogether and going for more generalized sound events such as glissandi. Thus, his music generally is very "clear" and direct, with easily audible general properties and often a very "haptic", "natural" kind of sound.

And indeed, the fact that serial rows can often determine properties of individual notes to extreme degrees, yet create no clear sonic properties in a more general sense (mostly because many serialist approaches lead to uniform distributions of sound characteristics), was eventually also admitted by the proponents of serialism and many of those composers later incorporated more "statistical" properties in their works (such as in Stockhausen's "Gruppen") to counter this very problem.

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Ah, yeah. I think I recall reading all of that somewhere else before but thanks for clearing it up. But you bring up another interesting point; the fact that a single note really didn't have much meaning/function in a Xenakis work. I think that all kind of touches on the broader issue of an increasing attitude in the 20th century. The increasing disinterest in single notes/combinations of single notes. I think this attitude started with people like Cowell and Varese. Obviously, Cowell's extensive use of piano clusters took some of the importance/function away from single notes. Whether the clusters he called for were diatonic, pentatonic, or chromatic, the actual notes that made up the clusters weren't what was important so much as the range and density of the cluster. Granted, he did often use them in modal like applications so they basically functioned as an 'enriched' unison.

And then, obviously, Varese with his conception of 'sound masses; where actual notes didn't matter much at all so much as where they were located in an instruments range; what timbre and register they occupied; their intensity; their duration. And usually, single notes weren't even heard by themselves so much as they were just parts of note conglomerates.

Actually, now that I think about it, this could be traced back even further to Debussy with his use of 'chord planing.' Parallel octaves/fifths/triads everywhere. They didn't have any function in the traditional sense of the word but rather just functioned as 'enriched unisons.'

Now, I'm rather unclear on this but I believe this attitude even began to extend to the serialist schools of the 50s and on. Certainly, in some Stockhausen pieces, the single note itself doesn't have much importance. So, it brings up the issue, why use a method of composition that is concerned with ground-up construction for achieving desired results that are a much more macro level? And that's when I think serialism began being utilized on a more broad level but I'm not really clear on any of the specifics.

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  • 7 months later...

Why do you chose to compose this way?

I'm by no means the norm, but I enjoy the realms of atonality more than I do tonality. In that vein I very freely compose in a serialist style quite often. And when I'm stuck for musical ideas, I sit down and create tone-rows to be saved for later. I think it's truer to me than other musics.

Do some people relax/enjoy listening to it?

I personally do. Nothing is more relaxing for me hearing Webern songs.

I even go so far as to try ti sing the melodies as they happen.

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What's its purpose?

make the performers impossible to memorize their parts and make them read all the time so they don't start thinking in vacations.

a no ? :blink:

Why do you chose to compose this way?

I haven't chosen to compose that way.

Do some people relax/enjoy listening to it?

Sure, I know one called Bolas, or Bules :hmmm: aaaa is Boulez

Do you (as a composer of serialist music) enjoy it?

for 5 minutes, yes.

Are the melodies supposed to be so.. rigid to listen to or do some people think they're pleasant?

They aren't supposed to be anyhow, they are a method to compose when the composer is dry of true feeling-ideas,

:P

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