Serial Composition

Serial Composition

Serial Composition

Serial Composition


This introductory text for students covers all the most important aspects of serial composition, including full discussion of such topics as melody writing, twelve-note harmony, polyphonic writing, forms, stylistic factors, avant-garde techniques, and free twelve-note composition. The author's intention is to avoid a pedantic exposition of serial principles and to include many technical details which are also valid in non serial contexts, being the common property of contemporary musical languages. Richard Smith Brindle (born 1917) is a native of Lancashire. He studied at the University College of North Wales, Bangor, in Rome at the Academia di Santa Cecilia, and in Florence privately with Dallapiccola. His own music is influenced by he Italian avant-garde school of berio, Maderna, non, and others. From 1970 until his retirement in 1985 he was Professor of Music at the University of Surrey.


Creative Thought and Compositional Method. Serialism and Free Twelve- note Composition.


In composition, our mental activity pursues two separate, but interdependent, lines of thought. One is creative and receives its impulse from fantasy, imagination, and inspiration. The other is occupied with method, with the technical means which give adequate definition to what has been first conceived on the plane of fantasy. Imaginative faculties are naturally a prime necessity for authentic artistic creation, but adequate technical skill is essential if the impulses of creative thought are to be translated into a worthy musical guise. On the other hand, the highest grade of technical ingenuity is of no avail without the fertilizing power of fantasy and inspiration.

Unfortunately there seems to be no universal means of stimulating the imagination and increasing our powers of fantasy. Some have pursued inspiration in exotic and stimulating surroundings, others in tranquillity. Not a few have had recourse to the influence of narcotics, with little conspicuous success. But the truth is that inspiration is a fugitive thing and obeys no man-made laws. Sometimes a man may possess it all his life. More often--and this seems especially the case with composers--inspiration and the urge to create are strong enough in youth, but dwindle rapidly even before the first grey hairs appear. Each of us has his own creative destiny and no amount of tenacity of purpose can change its path, just as no amount of will power can increase our physical stature.

However, there is one way of stimulating creative fantasy which many composers have remarked on, and that is through the very act of working. The most difficult period in a composition is the first conception, but once this has been accomplished, the act of moulding musical material serves as a stimulus to the imagination and creative ideas leap to the mind in profusion. There is plenty of evidence that even great geniuses had to labour hard to bring their first ideas into satisfactory shape, but there is no evidence whatsoever that the same amount of toil had to be expended on creative thought once their compositions got under way. The same is true today and composers who use the serial method observe that, while working, certain note-successions may suddenly reveal latent possibilities, and that the creative faculties of the mind, seizing on these, will form new . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.