Software and Serialism
Question: Is there software available to construct 12-tone arrays (of the sort pioneered by Winham and utilized, inter alia, by Milton Babbitt in such compositions as Partitions and Post-Partitions) from a given row?- K.F.

Answer: I don't know of software like this, though I think there is something out there called "Serial Composer" - perhaps it would have some of those capabilities.

Practica Musica can generate 12-tone examples, though it does not use any ordered permutations of rows; each row created is newly random (in melody materials you chose the chromatic scale and turn on the option to exhaust all pitches before repeating any, while turning off the "imply harmony" option).

I've never been able to get up much enthusiasm for serial theory and haven't been keeping up with it. But rows, whether from Godfrey Winham, Milton Babbitt, or any other serialist are ideally suited for computer generation. Nothing could be easier than devising a program to generate permutations of 12-tone rows, so long as you don't care how the tones relate to each other beyond their numbers. It appears you're referring only to pitch and not to complex rhythmic tricks like Babbit uses, e.g. having 12 notes played two at a time, each struck twice, at 12 times in six simultaneous meters, etc. etc.

I was originally a composition student and of course produced some serial music as was expected of me. What troubled me about it was the lack of constraint. There is a long history of music with complex nonmusical number relationships - the isorhythmic motets of Guillaume Machaut are a prime example. Bach's Art of the Fugue is another. But those I find interesting because Machaut and Bach are finding a way to meet these purely arithmetical requirements while simultaneously writing counterpoint that makes sense acoustically: they are solving a difficult problem. The hidden numbers impress me because the two requirements of numerical meaning and musical meaning are incompatible and yet are being forced together.

Had Machaut or Bach simply put in a complex numerical order without worrying about how the counterpoint worked I wouldn't have been so impressed. I can't help but feel the same way about serialism as a concept. Some serialists do produce music that "works," though - Webern's short orchestra pieces and Ernst Krenek's little piano pieces are something simple-minded people like me can appreciate. If one uses serialism as a sort of opponent while composing I think it's more fun.

Did I get off-track? Guess so.

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