Week 4 (Sep 16): Serialism (F19)

Last modified on August 4, 2023

This week you will learn about 12-tone serial techniques and the variety of ways this can be implemented. You’ll learn how to identify row forms, do a row count, make a matrix, and interpret serial pieces. You will also do a guided analysis of a piece by Ruth Crawford Seeger, “Prayers of Steel” from Three Songs.


Introductory video

I have made a video based on Chapter 6 of . If the video is not detailed enough for you, you can download this chapter from the Readings folder, and I have placed the whole book on reserve at the library.

download serialism slidesdownload serialism transcript

Concept check

Optional: Complete the Concept Check quiz on Blackboard to see if you are understanding these concepts.

Due Wednesday: Reading and response

Read Straus’s model analysis of a segment of Webern’s String Quartet, Op. 28, Variation 4 on pages 342–347. Variation 4 begins at 2:16 in the recording below.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOsoEivce_8&t=2m16s[/embedyt]

Write a 250–word response to this essay (shorter because the introductory reading was so long!).

More on response essays
A response essay is your personal take on the readings, and thus you shouldn’t be trying to write the “right answer,” but rather your opinion and reaction to what you’ve read. Remember that these are graded pass/fail, so anything you write is valuable in that sense. Feel free to use I/me pronouns and to freely express yourself (while remaining professional) and your opinion of the reading.

Below are some questions to inspire you, which you may choose to answer (you do not have to answer all, or any, of them!):

  • A common critique of serial music is that no one can hear the structure. How do you feel this critique applies to this piece? Can you hear the structure after reading the analysis, or not?
  • What to you was the most compelling and interesting part of the analysis?


  • Go to Blackboard and navigate to your group blog.
  • Click the “create blog entry” button, and paste your text directly into the text box, rather than uploading an attachment.

Due Friday: Blog comments

Respond to the members of your peer group by clicking the “comment” button under their blog post and typing your response directly into the text box, rather than uploading an attachment.

Due Sunday: Analysis assignment


  • Before you begin your assignment, read section 6.5.4, “Crawford Seeger and multilevel rotation,” pages 332–4. This technique is used in the piece you will analyze.
  • On pages 372–4 of Straus chapter 6, you will find a guided analysis of Ruth Crawford Seeger, Three Songs, “Prayers of Steel,” mm. 1–4. Read through the questions (on page 374).
  • Important note: there should be a natural sign on the second F of the oboe line (with the accent underneath it).
  • Listen to a recording here.
  • Analyze this excerpt according to the prompts. Some questions are best answered with score annotation; others through verbal response. Please restrict your verbal responses to 250 words max.


  • You will be assessed on the following concepts:
    • Understanding of multilevel rotation
    • Analysis of row in terms of interval content
    • Identification of motives in the oboe, piano, and voice parts
    • Interpretation
  • You will be given detailed feedback through the rubric. Click “View rubric” in the gradebook to access this.
  • Assignments are always graded pass/fail, with a threshold of 70% to pass.


  • Submit both your annotated score and your 250-word response.
  • Submit your assignment on Blackboard.
  • Upload your assignment as a .pdf attachment. Please do not use other file types.



If articles are not available online, you should be able to find them in the Readings folder on Teams.

Straus, Joseph Nathan. 2016. Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.