Serial Murder

What it is about

Death by serialism.

Or "50 ways to murder a song".

How it was written

Forget Roll Over Beethoven, let Stockhausen Strut His Stuff.

Serialism is usually used to describe an approach to writing atonal music. In this piece, serialism is used in a more general sense, to describe a way of creating any music, tonal or atonal, using a series of notes that repeat over and over again.

Serial rock

Serial Murder series (0:07)
Serial Murder series
Serial Murder series

Any scale in any key can be used to write serial music. Classical serialism uses using all twelve notes in the chromatic scale, Serial Murder uses the five notes, E G# A B and D, which form the pentatonic E mixolydian scale. They can also be represented as numbers, 1 3 4 5 b7, and manipulated any old way, as in the above example.

Combining notes together to form a melody creates a series. The notes can have the same value, as in this piece, or they can have different durations, which changes the rhythm. New series are created by starting on a different note. For example, a series starting on E and playing 1 3 4 5 b7 would become 3 4 5 b7 1 starting on G#. This produces 5 different series, one for each note in the pentatonic scale.

Missing harp

Serial Murder harmony (0:00)
Serial Murder harmony
Serial Murder harmony

Playing different series simultaneously creates harmony.

The guitar and bass play in unison only twice during the piece, the rest of the time they play series which start on different notes. In the example above, the guitar starts on A and the bass on E.

There are 20 possible intervals between two notes in a pentatonic scale. Some of them will sound harmonious, some less so. It is just a matter of working through all the permutations to find something interesting.

Drums handle the tempo and the piano has free rein to do whatever it wants. In the piece, it provides a syncopated accompaniment.

Join each series together with a chromatic run and the piece is finished! An amazingly simple and effective method for writing stuff.

All that is missing is some demon harmonica at the end. Anyone care to have a go?

Tech spec

Title: Serial Murder

Key: E

Tempo: 138bpm

Length: 4' 01"

Track 1: brass melody

Track 2: trombone harmony

Track 3: bright piano

Track 4: nylon guitar

Track 5: fingered bass

Track 6: drumset

Genre: Pop, Rock