Aaron Copland said that serialism is a “stimulus that enlivens musical thinking”. I think that this is the right way to approach to serialism. I’ve always been attracted by this elegant method of composition since I delved into Boulez’s totally serialized musical universe but I became to take an interest in serial composition after listening to some Arthur Berger’s works. I realized the expressive potential and aesthetic worth of this technique when it’s applied to tonal orientated material rather than simply chromatic rows. So I decided to put the principles into practice and design a simple serial outline.
First of all, I chose a nonstandard tone row of just three notes: F-B-E. Then, I designed five rhythmic patterns where lines stand for attacks and dots for sustains or silences:
A _ _ _ _ _ . . .
B . . _ . _ . _ .
C _ . . _ _ . . .
D _ . _ . _ . . .
E . . _ . _ _ . .
So I arranged these rhythmic patters (and their reversion, underscored) in three complex sets and assigned each one of them to a voice moving inside a specific octave and playing a specific sequence of transposed forms of the three notes row until the end of the rhythmic set:
The last instructions were not to duplicate the notes if the last and the first ones among two consecutive forms were the same and to respect the silence if there was a column of all dots in the alignment of the rhythmic sets. The evolution of the musical material is shown below (click image to enlarge).
The result was bizarre but not so bad. So I used this raw material and the method shown above to compose a four-voices piece. Here you can listen to the result, a (terribly) flat counterpoint with harmonic references to stravinskian neo-classicism!