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Serialism – A technique of composing music that uses a series of pitches or other musical elements as a basis for the work.

Serialism is a way of composing music that uses a series of pitches, rhythms, dynamics, timbres, or other musical elements. The technique began with Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone method, which orders the twelve notes of the chromatic scale into a row or series. This series forms the basis for the melody, harmony, structural progressions, and variations in composition. Other types of serialism use collections of objects but not necessarily with fixed-order series, and extend the technique to other musical dimensions such as duration, dynamics, and timbre.

Integral serialism or total serialism is a more comprehensive form of serialism that uses series for aspects such as duration, dynamics, and register as well as pitch. Other terms used in Europe to distinguish post-World War II serial music from twelve-tone music and its American extensions are general serialism and multiple serialism.

Serialism is not just limited to music, it is also applied in various ways in the visual arts, design, and architecture. The concept of serialism has also been adapted in literature. Many composers including Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Stockhausen, Boulez, Nono, and others have used serial techniques in most of their music. However, other composers such as Bartók, Berio, Cage, Copland, Ligeti, Messiaen, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky have used serial techniques in some of their works.


An example of a piece of music that uses serialism is “Pierrot Lunaire” by Arnold Schoenberg. The piece uses a twelve-tone series as the basis for the melody, harmony, and structure. Each of the twenty-one songs in the cycle uses a different ordering of the twelve-tone series, creating a cohesive whole. The use of serial techniques in “Pierrot Lunaire” allows for a complex and intricate sound world that is characteristic of serialism.


Serialism – –

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