Tone-row music and serialism

October 6 & 7, 1997

Boulez. In the article Schoenberg Is Dead Pierre Boulez makes the following points (among others):

In the article Incipit, Boulez contrasts Webern with Schoenberg and Berg who "allied themselves to the decadence of German romanticism". On the other hand, Webern:

Structures Ia. His own system: integral serialism. The main difference between row and series: the row is a "melody", the "series" is a series of proportions, another level of abstraction. Applying these proportions to all sound parameters. Boulez claims (in Boulez ON Music Today that this reflects the principle of relativity Physics deals with.

In Structures, Boulez uses a series of 12 pitches borrowed from Messiaen's Mode de valeurs et d'intensite, a series of 12 durations (borrowed from the same source), a series of 12 attacks, and a series of 12 dynamics. The result is a pointillistic texture in which each individual sound has its own characteristics or parametric values. The continuity of melodic lines is pretty much destroyed by the large intervals and ever changing dynamics, attacks, and durations.

Integral or Total Serialism. A trend in post WWII European music which promotes total controll over all sound parameters through the use of series. A more abstract version of the tone-row, a series is primarily viewed as a series of proportions. All sound parameters of a composition are serialized: duration, pitch, dynamics, timbre, articulations. Any other parameters the composer decides to work with are also serialized: the density of textures, location of the sound source, etc.

Stockhausen's article " time passes..." One of the most comprehensive and lucid presentations of an Integral Serialist composer's point of view. Starting with the terse statement: "music consists of order relationships in time", Stockhausen observes that both durations and pitch are part of the same continuum, both are ways of dividing the time continuum; it's only our perception that differenciates between these two.

Among many points Stockhausen makes in this article are:

These points represent only a coarse paraphrase of some ideas in this article. For a deeper understanding, please read the article on reserve and/or take Music 308 (second half of the 20th century) when I teach it.

Structuralism. A general tendency in Western thinking which flourished in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. More of a way of thinking than anything else. Promotes a rational, logical and analytical attitude in fields as various as: arts, medicine, anthropology, mathematics, linguistics, psychology, etc. Ferinand de Saussure's treatise on Linguistics, published in 1929 is sometimes considered the trigger of this movement. According to Piaget who performed ground breaking research in child psychology, a structure has the following attributes:

Integral Serialist thinking is typical for this analytical, systematic way of thinking.

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