ABSTRACT: The Institut f�r neue Musik in Berlin hosted a three-day series of lectures and concerts on "The Beginnings of Serial Music." Music of four composers central to serial music, Barraqu�, Boulez, Goeyvaerts, and Stockhausen, was performed and discussed in depth.
 Attractive as this idea may be in theory, two problems arose in practice. The first problem was clear before the series began: the planned performance of Goeyvaert's Composition No. 2 had to be canceled because the instrumentalists required to perform the piece could not be found among the students of the Berlin Hochschule der K�nste (HdK). Similarly, a closing concert that would have included Webern's Concerto for Nine Instruments, Nono's Polifonica-Monodia-Ritmica, and Stockhausen's Kreuzspiel was canceled. This is a disturbing state of affairs, particularly since there are doubtless students at the HdK technically capable of playing the music, and comparable programs have been executed successfully in the past.
 A second problem relates more directly to the central idea of the series: is it possible to adequately represent the "beginnings of serial music" (or, for that matter, anything about serial music) through four compositions, or even through four composers? The question at hand, of course, is the extent to which the following four presentations succeeded in this enterprise.
 A discussion of Klavierst�ck VI played only a small part of Decroupet's presentation, which provided a rambling summary of a variety of Stockhausenian compositional techniques, occasionally showing how one or another may have found use in the cycle of Klavierst�cke V-X.
 The discussion of the composition in question was coupled with a
presentation of Goeyvaerts' Composition No. 1, a sonata for two
pianos. Comparison of the techniques used in these two works is
enlightening. The earlier piece shows clear influences from Mode de
valeur et d'intensit�. (Goeyvaerts, like many of his contemporaries,
took part in Messiaen's analysis class.) It uses two unordered
representatives of set class 7-22 as the basis for his harmonic and
registral ordering of pitch class material. Values for duration,
articulation, and dynamics for every note are determined by a set of
arithmetic dependencies between the various parameters.
 Henrich pointed out a striking contradiction between the
voice leading intended by the serial composition and that which
 B�sche did point out one difficulty of serial music, which he referred to as the dichotomy (not to say discrepancy) between the aesthetics of production and reception. In light of the previous discussion of Barraqu�'s counterpoint, Boulez is hardly a solitary case, but the 2nd Sonata is certainly a case in point.
 The opening concert presented Stockhausen's Klavierst�cke I-V (Gutschmidt) followed by Klavierst�ck VI (Chen). This grouping of the piano pieces (which, on the surface, runs counter to Stockhausen's grouping into Werknummern) is justified historically (the premier performances occurred in the same grouping) and, in light of the length of the sixth piano piece (well over twenty minutes, whereas the other five pieces together are not quite as long), makes sense. Both performers played excellently, although the pieces seemed (to this auditor) in some way less fresh, less exciting, less radical than the first time they were heard. Boulez' criticism of the first four, that the pieces were in themselves too uniform (and which Stockhausen seems to have taken to heart through his three revisions of Klavierst�ck VI), seemed apt.
 The Goeyvaerts concert, a matinee, featured the Composition No. 2 (Chen and Vickers) and, as a substitute for the canceled Composition No. 1, his 1974 composition Litanei 1 (Vickers). The performance of the 1952 piano duo confirmed several hypotheses made during the morning's discussion of the work: the large-scale structuring of the piece through sections of slower and faster tempi (an important compositional principle for Goeyvaerts in this work) seemed less apparent than a small-scale additive concatenation of individual sections and gestures. The later composition was refreshing, partially simply because it was so very different from the rest of the music played. It had been remarked that Goeyvaerts had been influenced by minimalism in this work, which, indeed, is built from the overlapping of repeated rhythmically distinct phrases. Nevertheless, the language used is clearly different from that of Reich and Riley; the repetition and rhythmic clarity still retain a certain affinity with Goeyvaerts earlier music.
 Herbert Henck played Barraqu�'s Sonata for piano the evening of the same day. Oddly enough, it was in this piece that the rather harsh bass of the Kawai grand used in all the concerts was most evident and less than complimentary towards Barraqu�'s use of sforzandi in the lowest octave. Another, somewhat odd point, is that the "dichotomy between aesthetics of production and reception" discussed in the context of Boulez, were, if anything, more in evidence in the performance of Barraqu�'s music. Some sections may be more rigorously serially composed than others, but which ones are which escaped this listener. This is not to deny that the music carries considerable beauty, but it is disappointing not to be able to audibly follow the intended formal disposition of the piece.
 In contrast, the formal structure of Boulez' 2nd Piano Sonata (Kaiser, final concert) seemed readily apparent. The first movement, with its exposition (of two contrasting sections), repeat of the exposition, development section, and recapitulation, is practically a textbook Sonata Allegro, albeit with Boulez' characteristic manipulation of small rhythmic cells and his uncompromisingly atonal harmonic language. The overall structure of the four movements (Extr�ment rapide--Lent--mod�r�, presque vif--Vif) also follows a familiar model, with the second and third movements each capturing a certain atmosphere unmistakably reminiscent of Beethovenesque archetypes. The final movement cannot be so readily classified, although studies of the work also turn up an historical model. Kaiser's performance gave the piece a patently expressive, almost romantic, quality, without abating the aggressiveness of the acoustic tone intended by the composer.
2. This music historical footnote provides an object lesson worth
study by young composers--the performance referred to seems to
have effectively been the kiss of death for the Belgian composer
among the European avant garde of the 50s.
Return to text
3. Every value used for each parameter is assigned a numeric
value from 0 to 3; the sum of values, for all four parameters,
equals 7 on every note.
Return to text
4. One is reminded of work by Bregman and McAdams, neither of
whom was mentioned in this context.
Return to text
Return to Beginning
 Any redistributed form of items published in MTO must include the following information in a form appropriate to the medium in which the items are to appear:
This item appeared in Music Theory Online in [VOLUME #, ISSUE #] on [DAY/MONTH/YEAR]. It was authored by [FULL NAME, EMAIL ADDRESS], with whose written permission it is reprinted here.
 Libraries may archive issues of MTO in electronic or paper form for public access so long as each issue is stored in its entirety, and no access fee is charged. Exceptions to these requirements must be approved in writing by the editors of MTO, who will act in accordance with the decisions of the Society for Music Theory.
This document and all portions thereof are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Material contained herein may be copied and/or distributed for research purposes only.