Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Disco Stu

Emotional Warmth in Serialist Music

Recommended Posts

I am not looking to start a tiresome debate about whether any organized sound intrinsically carries emotions.  Yes, I know dissonance is a subjective term, that harmony is only dissonant if the ear is unused to it, etc., etc., etc.  I only care about YOUR personal, emotional experience of this music.

 

I am merely wondering if anyone here finds any twelve-tone or serialist music to give them feelings of warmth, love, or comfort.  Is it music that is ONLY ever meant to be at least a bit discomfiting?  To my ear, the serialist pieces I've heard always sound severe, harsh, brute.  Even My Dear Copland's latter-day tinkering with the method.

 

PS I will be shocked if this topic gets even a single reply.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I reckon Berg and Messiaen transcended the typical queasy post war angst of serial music at least a few times.  Can't vouch for many others.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stu in addition to Berg and Messiaen I would look at Jonathan Harvey and Per Norgard.  I will see if I can round up some examples this evening.  Also remember that not all serial music is twelve tone music.  There is a very obscure Morricone piece that is a beautiful rippling example of a kind of tonal/modal serialism.  Unfortunately I don't think it's available anywhere I can easily share it here.  My answer to your question would be then that strictly dodecaphonic music very rarely elicits such emotions from me, but that serial procedures as a whole can yield a more emotionally diverse music than the most obvious examples may indicate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

I am merely wondering if anyone here finds any twelve-tone or serialist music to give them feelings of warmth, love, or comfort. 

 

No, not to me. It can trigger other emotions, but mostly it's something that triggers the intellect more than the viscera.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course this is not to suggest that a method of composition isn't valuable or interesting if it can't produce warm emotions in the listener.  This whole topic is probably borne from the fact that I am once again a new father and therefore like a dangerously raw emotional nerve.  Honestly, I listened to the Williams/BPO recording of Copland's "The Promise of Living" and I was basically inconsolable.  Kind of the perfect piece for a new parent, actually, if you consider the meaning of the words to be more figurative than literal.

 

But I am very genuinely interested in sampling any suggestions posted here!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure what "serialist music", but from the examples I've heard, it would seem that ALTERED STATES fits the bill, in which case, the music that scores the climactic corridor scene, is poignant, and tear-inducingly beautiful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

I am merely wondering if anyone here finds any twelve-tone or serialist music to give them feelings of warmth, love, or comfort.

 

I don't know about those, but it is certainly possible to imagine a piece of twelve-tone music which evokes "non-uncomfortable" emotions through the use of texture.

Consider Rzewski's Scratch Symphony, for instance:

 

 

The first notes in the double bass are:

Eb Bb B C# G F E A C Ab B E...

So you get 10 non-repeating tones at the beginning. In theory, there's no reason why it couldn't be 12 tones, and still convey the same general feel of the piece, which I find more on the relaxing/contemplative side than the horrifiying side.

 

(In fact, this piece in particular brings to my mind an image of somebody layed on the ground gazing at the night sky. Though, I have to say that when I saw the Milky Way with my own eyes for the first time, I felt more a sense of out-of-bodiness and silent awe rather than relaxation.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Serialism can most certainly express emotion.  But let's make sure we agree on terminology.  Serialism uses a "series" of either pitches, rhythms, dynamics,  Emotion in music is greatly dependent on tension and release.  Let's use the Fibonacci sequence as our series.  The Fibonacci sequence appears throughout nature from the microscopic to the grandest structures of the universe such as the below examples.  So this is a mathematical series.  If you equate these as pitches at various tempo you will hear tension and release and that is what we interpret as dramatic expression in music. 

image.pngimage.png

 

There are many great examples of expressive serialist works.  Now what is a more complicated discussion is the range of emotions.  For example, I don't think there can be a serialist example of joy.  It tends to serve dark and neurosis thoughts best.  So it is basically a tool for the composer to use while they express an emotion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, karelm said:

For example, I don't think there can be a serialist example of joy. 

 

Yes I was not saying it couldn’t express many emotions. And yeah my thought was that joy or warmth might be beyond its reach.  But also, these things are so subjective!  Life experiences  and associations can color your perception of music so much.  I was curious if anyone had such emotions responses to music written with this method that many would not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know whether the interpretation of "serialist" (as intended in the original question) applies to this piece, but Stockhausen's Mantra is one of the most thrillingly joyous pieces of music that I know...

 

 

(I'm not sure why the performers are wearing the carpet.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×