This assignment is in three parts:
DUE FRIDAY 10/27
- creation of a matrix and charts detailing the application of the series to all parameters of the piece (pitch, duration, articulation, register, timbre, etc.) (33%).
- a 1-page composition for 2 instruments based on this material (34%).
- a brief (1 – 2-page) discussion of aesthetic questions concerning the piece itself and the process of composing it (refer to some analytical questions, below). This is in addition to your demonstration of how you got from the matrix to the music (i.e., "secret decoder rings", see below). (33%).
This sample project for Total Serialism is not intended to be a complete set of directions on how to do the assignment. Its purpose is to provide some information on how to approach the task. The sample project given is not complete, and there are many ways to arrive at the end product. You MUST create your own materials for the project. Do not use any of the specific materials or features found below in your own composition.
Begin by creating a row in the form of a number matrix. As an example, I am using the matrix described in pages 201 – 202 in Kostka 3rd ed. (194-195 4th ed.).
Make choices on which rows to use. In this case, I am using rows with combinatorial features (complementary hexachords).
Lay out the pitches of the rows you choose (in this case P.0 and I.7) on a sheet of manuscript paper. Assign instruments and diverse registers while doing this (As in Webern or Stockhausen, try to make the register a part of the structure. For instance, you might use 6 octaves and derive the octave values from the values of the row, etc.).
Assign rhythms based on values from the row. Here, each integer corresponds to compounded 16th notes (i.e., 0 = 16th, 1 = 8th, 2 = dotted 8th, etc.). I am using R.6 and RI.1 for my rhythms. Make the rhythms conform as closely as possible to the beat structure, and assign a metronome marking.
Assign articulations according to the row (here, RI.7 and R.0). Certain articulations will require a shorter note value; make the proper changes by shortening the note and adding appropriate rests following it. Other articulations (such as tremolo) may require some extended playing technique depending on the instrument you choose.
You can refer to Messiaen's table for Mode de valerus et d'intensites as a model.
Messiaen - Mode de valerus - analytical chart.pdf
Assign the dynamics according to the values of the row (here I am using I.1 and P.6). You can choose random dynamics for each integer or try to reflect the structure of the tone row in the dynamics. For instance, if your tone row is symmetrical you could have a symmetrical row of dynamics -- ffff ppp ff p mf sfp p<f mp f pp fff pppp.
Again, refer to Messiaen's table as a model:
Messiaen - Mode de valerus - analytical chart.pdf
In addition to the score and analytical charts, please answer the questions in the section titled "some analytical questions to ask yourself" at the end.
General requirements for assignment
It is important to make charts that detail the application of the series to all parameters of the piece (like Messiaen's chart or those in the Stockhausen handout).
You must provide your TA with these charts ("secret decoder rings") for all the parameters in the piece (it took music analysts over 20 years to decode Boulez's Le Marteau Sans Maitre).
The piece must be a polyphonic setting, more than one instrument playing different rows. The ballpark range for length should be one page of music, more than one row iteration.
For rhythm, use the Stockhausen as a model. Stockhausen basically chose a lowest common denominator (16th triplet) and assigned it as 1. However, you don't have to use a linear system as Stockhausen did. As long as your secret decoder ring shows specific duration values for each of the 1‐12 integers, you can use whatever system you want.
For dynamics design a decoder ring assigning dynamic values (p, f) for each integer 0‐11. You can make it ascend, descend, scrambled, etc.
Maybe it makes sense for all instruments to play the same dynamic row, but maybe that isn't what you want; in Stockhausen's piece the different fingers of the piano R.H. have different dynamics!
For articulation your choice of the number of distinct articulations will depend largely on the instruments for which you are writing. For instance on violin (sul ponticello, sul tasto, etc.)
If you can't think of 12 distinct articulations, consider assigning one articulation to more than one integer (e. g. 0‐2 = staccato, 3‐5 = marcato, etc.).
SOME ANALYTICAL QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
How does the interplay of your chosen rhythm, dynamic, articulation, etc. play out in the piece? Is it difficult to create some of the articulations at the given dynamic level?
How does the rhythm accentuate or downplay important pitches in the row?
Was there a fortuitous long note on the highest pitch, unexpected triads, etc.?
How is melody affected by all other parameters? Was the lowest pitch emphasized by the loudest dynamics, etc.?
How might switching the order of the operations have influenced your choice on what row forms to use? For example, what if you had done the dynamics before the rhythm or vice versa?
Do you like the composition does it sound like "real music"?
Adapted from content licensed under a Creative Commons License. © 2009 Phillip Magnuson.