"Serial music is doomed to the same fate as all previous sorts of music; at birth it already harbored the seeds of its own dissolution." ([Ligeti], p. 14)
Ideas inherited by Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Heri Pousseur, and other fellow composers in the 1950's, from earlier composers and teachers, like Arnold Schoenberg, Oliver Messiaen, and especially Anton von Webern, led to the style of compositional experimentation known in the literature as total, or integral, serialism. In ",,how time passes..." ([Stockhausen1957]), Stockhausen frequently speaks of "serial principles", or the application of the "serial system" to a given set of elements of musical material. Yet these principles, and this system, are never defined by him.
We deduce what he means by presenting some historical and theoretical background, culminating in the period of "total serialism" from 1949 -- 1953 ([Gibbs], p. 59) and the evolutionary aftermath, of which his article is an important landmark. The latter part of "...how time passes..." is devoted to finding a way of advancing beyond the limitations that this attempt at total control was found to impose on the music.
H.H.Stuckenschmidt, present at the West German premieres, in the early 1950's, of the important works in the "total serialist" or "pointillist" style, writes
"The impression made by all these works, even on a listener who had read the commentaries beforehand, was one of chaos. They put one in mind of multi-coloured oscillograms in which the traditional categories of melody and harmony had been suppressed in favour of shock effects of dynamics and timbre. The fact that these shock effects were organised according to pre-chosen series was only of theoretical interest." ([Stuckenschmidt ], p. 214)
With nearly 20 years of perspective to reflect upon since that time, Stockhausen said this, in 1973:
"Most American composers identify serialism with historical time. And this is really childish. Because serialism means nothing but the following: rather than having everything based on periodic values in any parameter, what we do is use a set, a limited number of different values -- let's say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. And a series which is based on a scale of different values is simply the permutation of these individual steps in a given scale. We have two conditions to follow. In order to have a serial sequence of individual values -- whether it's pitch, timbre, duration, the size of objects, the color of eyes, whatever -- we need at the base to have a scale with equal steps. If we leave out certain steps of a scale we get a modal construction, as in old folk music. Chromatic music is the most neutral kind because it doesn't seem to belong to any particular style, it incorporates all the other scales within itself -- you use all the steps with equal importance. In serial composition, we use all the notes within a given scale of equidistant steps. It could be 5, 13, 15, or 32 to an octave - 32 is an important scale. But we have to use them, statistically speaking, with an equal number of appearances so that there's no predominance, no one tone becomes more important than the other. And we don't leave out notes. I make a series, a particular order of these scalar steps, and use this as a constructive basic principle for certain sections of a composition......
"...So serial thinking is something that's come into our consciousness and will be there forever: it's relativity and nothing else. It just says: Use all the components of any given number of elements, don't leave out individual elements, use them all with equal importance and try to find an equidistant scale so that certain steps are no larger than others. It's a spiritual and democratic attitude toward the world. The stars are organized in a serial way. Whenever you look at a certain star sign you find a limited number of elements with different intervals. If we more thoroughly studied the distances and proportions of the stars we'd probably find certain relationships of multiples based on some logarithmic scale or whatever the scale may be." [Cott1973, p. 100]
Where did these ideas come from? To quote H.H.Stuckenschmidt:
"Schoenberg was one of the first musical theoreticians to discuss the properties of musical sound. In the `Harmonielehre' of 1911 he distinguishes three properties: pitch, colour, and intensity. He makes the point that until then only pitch had been measured, and that little attempt had been made to measure or in any way organise colour or intensity." ([Stuckenschmidt1969], p. 52)
"... Serial techniques are essentially a systematic transference of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique to elements of musical sound other than pitch. After frequency, the first element to which these techniques were seen to be suited was duration, i.e. the temporal dimension. Metre and rhythm are in fact the most important means apart from pitch of arranging musical sounds into organised shapes. A single note is not a musical element; it qualifies as a possible musical idea only when it joins company with other notes...." [ibid], p. 203
Schoenberg's twelve-tone system, of course, is his method of composition in which all twelve notes of the equal-tempered chromatic scale are given equal prominence, so that no rules of tonal harmony govern the choice of pitches in musical material. The twelve tones in this system nowadays are sometimes called "pitch classes", to emphasize that they each refer to all possible octave displacements of their particular chromatic scale degree (i.e. "C" refers to the entire class of all possible "C" notes on the piano), because their placement in different octave registers is not fixed until later.
The twelve pitch classes are arranged into a specified order called a "tone row" or "series", which is then used to generate all pitches of a given composition. The intent is to produce "... all the effects of a clear style, of a compact, lucid and comprehensive presentation of the musical idea." ([Schoenberg1975], quoted in [Gibbs] p.1) This clear style is to be contrasted, evidently, with the free atonality of Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire" period, 1912 -- 1921 ([Stuckenschmidt], p. 91).
Variations of the initial row are obtained by the combinatorial permutations called "inversion", "retrograde", and "retrograde inversion". But once the basic row and its variations are established, the twelve-tone system of composition requires the composer to use the pitch classes in the order (with limited variations) given by these rules. And "[a] fundamental law of the twelve-tone method, which Schoenberg himself did not follow, is that no tones are to be repeated until the series is completed...." ([Gibbs], p. 4). This contradiction, between the fundamental law against repetition and the actual practice of the rule-maker himself, reminds us that music is definitely not a scientific discipline!
Schoenberg's twelve-tone method does not encompass all the parameters of the compositional process. Once a pitch class is chosen by the twelve-tone method, the choice of octave register, moment of onset, duration, timbre, even the choice of whether the note sounds alone or as part of a chord, are not specified by the method. Thus it is not a complete system of composition; structure and form have to come from elsewhere. And this is a shortcoming, in the eyes of Stockhausen and his generation in the 1950's, who wanted all parameters of a composition to flow from an initial set of governing principles, a more general series that could be applied in as many places in their music as they could find to apply it (the story of total serialism is, in a sense, a quest for musical parameters to control, and principles that may be used to control them) .
Oliver Messiaen, on the other hand, who numbered Stockhausen, Goeyvaerts, Boulez, and others including Xenakis among his composition students, does not employ the method of composing with all twelve tones of the chromatic scale. But he does set up rows of values for duration, mode of attack, and intensity in the Modes de valeurs et d'intensites, composed at Darmstadt in Cologne when he took the ailing Arnold Schoenberg's place at the annual summer institute ([Stuckenschmidt1969, p. 213). According to ([Gibbs1985], p. 5), concerning the Modes, "In this work, which is not serial, there are three strands of pitches, referred to as modes, each assigned specific registers, rhythms, dynamics, and attacks. This is the earliest instance of a work composed with such a strict application of parameterisation."
Messiaen had students study the talas of Indian music, repetitive rhythmic cycle structures, which he mentions in his Technique de mon language musical of 1944, along with his notion of "non-retrogradable rhythms" which are the same forwards and backwards. His organizational structures do not use every possible value of the given parameter, which is why they are considered, by him and by the serialists, as modes, rather than series. But his attempts to organize the non-pitch aspects of his compositions, and his suggestions that his pupils should carry this investigation further, influenced the serialists. Boulez's Structures 1a for piano, considered the cornerstone of the small collection of "total serialist" works, uses, as pitch material, the first one of Messiaen's pitch modes from the Mode de valeurs et d'intensites ([Gibbs1985], p. 9).
Schoenberg's pupil Anton von Webern, in his twelve-tone music, also to use more restricted principles of organization. In his Concerto for Nine Instruments of 1934, for example, all the pitch material is derived only from the three-note series B-Bb-D and its three mirror forms (retrograde, inversion, retrograde inversion). His systematic principles of organizing duration, attack, register, intensity, etc. actually give his music its form and structure, unlike Schoenberg's, and the serialists often write of Webern as their main source of inspiration.
Their attitude is evident in the following description. Herbert Eimert founded and directed the Electronic Music Studio at the radio station in Cologne, West Germany where Stockhausen produced his electronic music, and Eimert required that any work in his studios adhere to the serial system of composition ([Heikinheimo1972], p. 35, also [Stuckenschmidt1969], p. 183).
"Just as in dry climes the sculptural qualities of plants emerge, so does the interval-object win, in the brittle, hardened material-atmosphere of Webern, so high a degree of plasticity that its qualities are transformed into new music, perhaps the most important between the emancipation of the dissonance and musicians' discovery of the sinus-tone. With Webern's liquidation of the form-breeding, form-inflating ego-experience, music could again be grasped at its central point -- form: palpable, 'animated' form, such as Webern described, on a historical level, in the balanced, measured hovering of the voices in Ysaak's chant-settings." ([Eimert1955, p. 31)
Note Eimert's highly negative reference to the "form-breeding, form-inflating ego-experience". It seems that he is expressing strong emotions, in a reaction against emotionalism in music! In post-World War II Germany, perhaps the vehemence of the aversion to thematic form in music is added to by the desire to avoid the egos of the past. H.H. Stuckenschmidt later wrote "There is no doubt that the subjective factor that dominated music for so long in the name of 'emotional expressionism' is now close to extinction...." ([Stuckenschmidt1969, p. 178)
The admiration of Webern by serialists is not limited to Germans. Pierre Boulez also finds the systematic aspect of Webern's music attractive:
"Schoenberg employed the series as a smaller common denominator to assure the semantic unity of the work, but ... he organized language elements ... by a pre-existing rhetoric, not a serial one.....With Webern, ... the SOUND-CLARITY is achieved by the birth of structure out of the material ... the architecture of the work derives directly from the ordering of the series" ([Boulez1968], p. 274, as quoted in [Gibbs], p. 2).
Webern's atomization of the theme in his music is also important to Stockhausen:
"... technically speaking, Webern reduced the themes and the motives to entities of only two sounds -- the interval. That was almost an atomization of the thematic concept: single ascending or descending intervals really were meant to replace an entire *theme* of classical music. So you have to listen very carefully to these two sound intervals in his music: they're the smallest possible entities of musical composition.... and that's why we could start with Webern's concept in order to go in a new direction....([Cott1973], p.224).
The notion of thematic composition (except in its "atomized" form as treated by Webern) becomes something to avoid:
"...All the early twelve-tone composers treated the series as a *theme* to be developed. They transposed it, added sounds, showed it in mirror form, but they always had a thematic concept. And composers like Boulez, Pousseur, and myself criticized this when we were young, pointing out that though the serial concept might have given birth to a completely new musical technique -- by getting rid of thematic composition -- composers like Schoenberg and Berg still couldn't get away from it. " ([Cott],p. 225)
The implication is that Webern, unlike Schoenberg and Berg, has managed to "get away from" thematic composition. Instead, the concept of proportions assumes the position of greatest importance in the new serialist style:
"My greatest musical experience was my meeting with the music of Webern.... In Webern's work we realise for the first time the necessity of a system of proportion, in fact, for what we have called a standard. Webern's music is not serial, but it is on the way to being so in its limitation of itself to a single system of proportion in a composition. Webern was a twelve-note composer, but that is only of secondary importance. For him the important thing was the relationship of intervals. Fundamentally there is no great difference in the manner of composition between those of his works written before 1912 and his later twelve-note compositions...." ([Gredinger1955], p. 40)
Deriving structure from proportion is of even greater importance than Schoenberg's method of using twelve notes! Stockhausen even writes
"In reality, it is less interesting, when listening to series, that at some time or other all the chromatic steps should appear (this is true of every series), than which proportions are chosen between durations or notes, and how these proportions are distributed, how they are composed in relation to each other." ([Stockhausen1957], p. 23)
This concept of proportions is crucial to Stockhausen's new music:
"What I said then was that in traditional music you always see the same object -- the theme or the motive -- in a different light, whereas in the new music there are always new objects in the *same* light. Do you understand? By the 'same light' I meant a set of proportions -- no matter what appeared in these proportions: the relationships became more important than what was being related. In this way you could constantly create new configurations by working with a series of proportions and, as we've said the other day, the proportions could be applied once to time, once to space. This created completely different musical figures, allowing us to move away from the thematic concept...."([Cott1973],p. 225)
We see in this passage that Stockhausen is interested in setting up and then applying a series of fixed proportional relations (the "same musical light") successively to different musical parameters (the objects viewed in that same light). The hope is that the proportions themselves will be perceived by the audience, apart from the individual parameters that they are applied to (much as we can hear that two notes are separated by a frequency ratio of 2:1, an octave, regardless of their register or actual pitch). And this series of proportions, to be applied successively to different musical parameters (like pitch intervals, note durations, timbres, degrees of loudness, etc.) is what he tries to replace the thematic concept with, in his serial system. This is not an easy task, and the difficulty of finding the right way to apply proportions systematically to duration and rhythm is one of the themes of the article.
As an example of Stockhausen's use of generalized proportions, he wants to establish a series of proportional values (e.g. 4:3, 5:4, 2:1, etc.) which are then applied repeatedly starting from an initial pitch (say, A 440), to obtain a row of pitches, but are also applied repeatedly to an initial duration (say, 1 second) to obtain a row of different durations, to an initial loudness to obtain a row of different loudnesses, to an initial timbre or spatial location to obtain a row of different timbres or spatial locations, etc. and this is then used in the selection of the values given for each successive musical event in a composition.
Taken to its extreme in a brief period of experimentation in the early 1950's, application of the serial system to all parameters, in a total avoidance of thematic composition, came to be known as total, or integral, serialism. "Total serialism might be regarded as the use of a series and its permutations to generate all aspects of a musical composition. In a strict sense this is an impossibility as it [has] not been conclusively determined what constitute the elements of music. A more practical view would include the serialism of pitch, rhythm, and `other sound aspects (dynamics, tempo, timbre/attack/instrumentation), etc.' " [Gibbs1985], p. 1,)
According to Gibbs ([Gibbs1985], p. 4-5), three important concepts arise from total serialist thought: "First is the division of musical sound into separate parameters (pitch/frequency, rhythm/duration, loudness/intensity, etc.) .... This is evident from Stockhausen's examination of Webern's opus 24 (in Die Reihe) where he considers several sound attributes individually. This tendency towards the organization according to individual components of music was also encouraged by the availability of electronic musical equipment enabling composers to study the physical aspects of isolated sounds."
Gibbs' second concept, already mentioned earlier, is the avoidance of repetition (which, as we already pointed out, Schoenberg himself did not follow in his twelve-tone compositions!)....."A further aspect of this nonrepetition is the avoidance of periodicity. In serial composition, there is an interest in continuous renewal and variation of material."
"A third supposition in serial music is the use of precomposition in the creation of a musical work." (op. cit.) This means that a serial composer cannot sit down with a blank sheet of manuscript paper and begin writing down notes. First, some preliminary decisions must be made, and combinatory permutations and arrangements must be carried out as a consequence. The determination of exactly which elements to serialize, and in what manner, becomes an essential part of the compositional process, and the eventual filling in of the actual notes on the page is almost an anticlimax (at least, in the opinions of the critics of total serial music, whom we will hear from shortly).
Note that John Cage, in his chance music around the start of the 1950's, was already making similar pre-compositional decisions - what elements to subject to chance operations, and in what manner. Stockhausen claims that he first heard ofJohn Cage's work from Dr. Warner Meyer-Eppler in 1955, after the period in question ([Cott1973], p. 68), and was therefore not affected by Cage quite yet. John Cage did perform 12' 55.677" for two pianists and Williams Mix, two chance pieces, at the Donauschingen festival in October 1954 ([Stuckenschmidt1969], p. 218) In "...how time passes...", Cage's graphic notation is discussed, and Stockhausen also introduces a concept of performance variability which he does not wish to have confused with Cage's indeterminism. Pierre Boulez, apparently in a reference to Cage's music, wrote of "the adoption of a philosophy tinged with orientalism serving to mask fundamental weaknesses of compositional technique" ([Boulez1958], quoted in [Stuckenschmidt1969], p. 218).
The new music of proportions did not find favor everywhere, and the anointing of Webern as the patron saint of total serialism also was greeted with skepticism. Roger Sessions, after the peak of the total serialist period, when translations of the German journal Die Reihe had begun to circulate in the United States, cautions us:
"It is of course fashionable to regard Webern as the patron saint of the dominant contemporary trend, and to invoke his name as a rallying point for all that is most aggressively anti-traditional in contemporary music. As is so apt to be the case, there is a discrepancy at many points between Webern the symbol and Webern the actual figure. The latter, however individual his musical style, was of course as deeply rooted in the Viennese tradition as Schoenberg himself, and probably more narrowly; and without in any sense meaning to detract from his musical stature, one can say that he remained a loyal disciple to the extent of being more Schoenbergian than Schoenberg himself. Above all, and most important, he was a musician of the ripest culture, at once the most daring and the most realistic of artists..." ([Sessions1960], p. 166)
Peter Westergaard, in 1962, when the music and thoughts of the total serialists, at least according to their detractors, had reached the status of a "slogan", write:
"In one sense of the phrase a Beethoven symphony is 'totally organized'; that is, all the characteristics of sound that Beethoven could notate -- pitch class, register, timbre, duration, dynamics, etc. -- participate in, indeed are necessary to, the organization of the work as a whole. In the usual, slogan, sense of the phrase, only serial music is 'totally organized'; that is, only in serial music is the pattern formed by the variations within each separate characteristic easily analyzed and self-contained, only in serial music do the patterns within separate characteristics come from a common scheme. For in such music 'total organization' is to be achieved by the application of row procedures not only to pitch class but to other characteristics as well.
"Now the champions of serial music have often claimed that Webern's compositional techniques, albeit in a rudimentary or incomplete way, foreshadow their own. I must say that I have yet to find so primitive a procedure in any of Webern's music. For one thing, in Webern's music (as in Beethoven's) control of the interaction between characteristics of sound rather than pattern making within nonpitch characteristics is the principal consideration." ([Westergaard1962, p.107)
Roger Sessions also invokes Beethoven as a counter-example to the claim that only serial music is totally organized:
"The basic question of all is of course -- as is often the case -- 'Why?' The principle of so-called 'total organization' raises many questions and answers none, even in theory. First of all, what is being organized, and according to what criterion? Is it not rather a matter of organizing, not music itself, but various facets of music, each independently and on its own terms or at best according to a set of arbitrarily conceived and ultimately quite irrelevant rules of association? Was the music of Beethoven, or who you will, not totally organized in a sense that is much more real, since it is an organization of musical ideas and not of artificially abstracted elements?" ([Sessions1960], p. 169)
As a possible answer to Sessions' question "Why?", we have Herbert Eimert:
"To realise a structural web, Webern uses only the proved and the provable; everything else is rigorously excluded, and rightly, since it has no firm foundation. In intervals Webern discovered structure free from content, structure that is no longer the structure 'of something', that behaves much more as a pure phenomenon, something created -- a discovery that is paralleled by certain all-embracing intuitive appraisals peculiar to our time: that of Planck, for instance -- 'Whatever can be measured, must exist'. This seemingly insignificant and 'unobtrusive' phrase is the one by which, according to scientists, Planck exploded the scientific certainties of centuries. It could well be applied to the measuring-out of interval-distances and its musical consequences. But the objection to such parallels is justified; nor are they at all necesary, since, after all, their intersection at infinity lies beyond the sight of mortal men. As generalities they will unfailingly prove right, but in detail, here and now, in their insufficiently thought-out state, they give rise to more confusion than clarification...." ([Eimert1955], p. 32)
In the music of Webern, Eimert seems to have discovered an exciting principle which, he hopes, will explode the musical certainties of centuries (if we consider that his discussion of Max Planck in science is trying to make a literal analogy to the situation in music, that is). It appears that Sessions is holding up the "musical ideas" of Beethoven as being more real than the "artificially abstracted elements", which Eimert claims are the only elements which are "proved and provable". And it seems Eimert would dismiss Sessions' "musical ideas" as having "no firm foundation".
Eimert is actually referring to deeper structural principles, rather than mere linear ordering of random elements in the music. The following passage provides insight into the quest which we refer to as the period of total serialism.
"When we say that Webern organised more than the single dimension of pitch-levels, we should not imagine that, simply through drawing other strata of sound into his basic organisation, he arrived at a complete predetermination of the musical elements....In Webern, ordering applies far more to the basic elements; his deep centre is interval proportion, from which his entire organisational system unfolds as from a single point. To this process of measuring there are subordinate: the interval; the manifold reflections of the interval motif ('the same, yet always different'), and their mid-axial grouping which opens up the time-continuum as 'space'; symmetric organisation of harmony, which marks the entry to real 'sound-composition'; the variable profile given the notes according to their intensity, dynamics, and differentiated accentuation; in works for larger resources, the grouping of timbres (here the motivic-instrumental alterations of the sound are a fragmented legacy from 'Klangfarbenmelodie'); and finally the motivic use of rests, which in the de-thematised structural system no longer relieve tension but must be regarded as architectonic rests -- as it were, silent notes.
"In music, measurement is an operation on pre-arranged material; at the same time it is more than that; with the advent of 'proportioning' it is transformed directly into structure. The thinner, the leaner Webern's music becomes, through its compulsion to extreme refinement, the more structure is manifest in it. Thus, at the last, the 'ideal' of structure becomes the composer's inspiration -- this is one of the points closely preceding the practice of pointillist and electronic music, and at the same time the very heart of the musical process, completely protected from the dialectical assaults of the theorists of musical decadence since they have not even become aware of it as a target. The Wagnerian lament about 'the end' always characterizes the same situation; when music hs been perfected it is at the sam time, as the word indicates, an end. Those who uphold the well-entrenched views about 'no more progress in this direction' (an element in literary education for the past three generations) are entitled to their opinion, but it has no bearing on the business at hand. In this respect, not only is there no difference between the 'aesthetic of musical impotence' of the 1920's and the current pronouncements on the 'senility' of the newest music -- there is a close and obvious connection." ([Eimert1955, p. 35)
Dare we say that, taking Eimert's last sentence out of context, total serialism might be in part a reaction against the accusation of "musical impotence"?
"Pointillist" music, to which Eimert refers here in the context of a simple pre-determination of musical elements, is a term he coined (actually "Punktuell" in German) in a 1953 lecture ([Stuckenschmidt1969], p. 213) . It refers to the early products of the total serialist experiment, in which the various parameters of music were indeed separately predetermined, each by a different series, and there was no underlying master system of proportion. Every note was an isolated "point" with no recognizable connection to any other note. It would appear that this is indeed the style which Sessions criticizes.
In a passage which suggests that his exploration of total organization was explicitly in the nature of an experiment, Pierre Boulez writes, of his Structures 1a,
"I wanted to use the potential of a given material to find out how far automatism in musical relationships would go, with individual invention appearing only in some very simple forms of dispositions -- in the matter of densities, for example." ([Boulez1976] p. 55, quoted in [Gibbs1985] p. 15)
Later, Boulez would criticize the strict results of his experiments:
"...one organizes rhythm, timbre, dynamics; everything is fodder for that monstrous polyvalent organization... What has led to this 'punctual' style? The justified rejection of thematicism. This was, however, to give a slightly naive solution to the problem of composition itself -- charging a simple hierarchy with substituting in the role formerly played by thematic relations. The structural plans renew themselves in parallel fashion identically; at each new pitch, a new duration affected by a new intensity. The perceptual variation -- on the surface -- has engendered a total absence of variation on a more general level." ([Boulez1976] p. 49, quoted in ([Gibbs1985] p. 6)
Other criticisms of pointillism abound. Since no form or structure is in evidence to the listener, the overall effect of the music, after its initial colorful impact, is limited:
"... however often you hear it, however familiar you are with the language of Webern and Debussy [and, presumably, the next generation, Stockhausen, Boulez, Pousseur, etc.], it is still difficult to perceive anything but a sequence of sonic eruptions, a succession of moments, which seek to convey something never before heard but only succeed in cancelling each other out.... It proves to be amazingly lacking in incident, apart from the completely elemental and basic incidents which are more like the cataclysms of nature than historical events. In short, it does not succeed in building up a pattern of growth...." ([Ruwet], p. 65)
Even worse is the reflection on the composer of such music:
"The composer who prepares his material mathematically beforehand deprives himself of the possibility of generally reviewing and thus fully controlling his material. An electronic computer could of course work out all the possible combinations of the four series [e.g. pitch, rhythm, intensity, timbre], but a composer has necessarily to make a selection from the gigantic sum of possibilities, and this selection will as before have to depend solely on his own subjective disposition. Total pre-determination, in other words, leads directly toa new irrationalism: the mathematical theorist's pipe-dream of ultra-precision is fulfilled only in irrationality." ([Stuckenschmidt1969, p. 210)
Stockhausen, too, recognizes the static quality characteristic of the pointillistic period music:
"The first compositions of electronic music and of `pointillist music' in general were extremely homogeneous in their sonority and their form. All the musical elements participated on an equal footing in the shaping process and all the properties of the notes were constantly renewed from one note to the next. Now when all the tonal properties are constantly changing at the same rate, and when no one property remains constant for a relatively long time, so that another property comes to predominate (for instance, longish note sequences in a high register, then in a low register; or several notes remaining equally slow, then fast; or a note group played on the strings, then another on the winds; or first many loud notes, then many soft ones); when, rather, pitch, duration, timbre and intensity alter note for note (`point for point') then the music finally becomes static: it changes extremely fast so that one is always traversing the whole gamut of experience in the shortest time, and thus one gets into a state of suspension: the music `stands still'." ([Worner1973], p. 166)
However, Gyorgi Ligeti, who heard Stockhausen's music on the radio in Hungary in 1956, then barely escaped from the violent military crackdown there to join Stockhausen and the Darmstadt community in Cologne late one night ([Worner1973], p. 237), actually considers the static quality of this music to be a positive quality:
"Integral-serial composition was born under the sign of the totally static; there are few pieces in which this application is so extensively executed as in the Sonata for two pianos by Goeyvaerts -- the earliest example of total-serial music -- or in Boulez's Structure 1a for example...'Rigidity' and `static' are not meant as negative categories at all. Complete stillness may seem strange to one who is exclusively conditioned by our Western tradition, but this can form no basis for a value-judgment....This music is like hanging carpets of mighty oriental quietness, because the forces that drive on the flow of the form have been de-activated." ([Ligeti1958], p. 16)
And yet this same article by Ligeti is also the source for the quote with which we opened up this paper. He has negative things to say about the elementary application of serial principles to musical parameters.
"Now that hierarchical connections have been destroyed, regular metrical pulsations dispensed with, and durations, degrees of loudness, and timbres have been turned over to the tender mercies of serial distribution, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve contrast. A flattening-out process has begun to absorb the whole musical form. The more integral the preformation of serial connections, the greater the entropy of the resulting structures; for -- in accordance with the relation of indeterminacy mentioned earlier -- the result of knitting together separate chains of connexions falls victim to automatism, in proportion to the degree of predetermination.
"The finer the network of operations with pre-ordered material, the higher the degree of levelling-out in the result. Total, consistent application of the serial process negates, in the end, serialism itself. There is really no basic difference between the results of automatism and the products of chance; total determinacy comes to be identical with total indeterminacy....
Ligeti believes that the hope (for serial music) lies in shifting serial control onto the more global categories that Stockhausen had already articulated in "...how time passes..." :
"...The possibilities of organizing such an order and defining such musical characters are available where the weight of serial composition has been shifted onto the global categories that we mentioned earlier. The total form is serially guided, but the individual moments are, within given limits, left to the composer's discretion." ([Ligeti1958], p. 10)
Stockhausen's need for a system of proportions that is perceivable as the fundamental organizational characteristic of his music is, in part, a reaction to these and other perceived shortcomings of the "pointillist" style which lacked such a characteristic. His "new morphology of musical time", as we shall see, is a practical outcome of this reaction.
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