The idea of serialism is also applied in various ways in the
Integral serialism or total serialism is the use of series for aspects such as duration, dynamics, and register as well as pitch (Whittall 2008, 273). Other terms, used especially in Europe to distinguish post–World War II serial music from twelve-tone music and its American extensions, are general serialism and multiple serialism (Grant 2001, 5–6).
Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg,
Serialism is a method (Griffiths 2001, 116), "highly specialized technique" (Wörner 1973, 196), or "way" (Whittall 2008, 1) of
However, serialism is not by itself a system of composition, nor is it a style. Neither is pitch serialism necessarily incompatible with tonality, though it is most often used as a means of composing
"Serial music" is a problematic term because it is used differently in different languages and especially because, shortly after its coinage in French, it underwent essential alterations during its transmission to German (Frisius 1998, 1327). The use of the word "serial" in connection with music was first introduced in French by
Serialism of the first type is most specifically defined as the structural principle according to which a recurring series of ordered elements (normally a
A row may be assembled pre-compositionally (perhaps to embody particular intervallic or symmetrical properties), or it may be derived from a spontaneously invented thematic or motivic idea. The structure of the row, however, does not in itself define the structure of a composition, which requires development of a comprehensive strategy. The choice of available strategies will of course depend on the relationships contained in a row class, and rows may be constructed with an eye to producing the relationships needed to form desired strategies (Mead 1985, 129–30).
The basic set may have additional restrictions, such as the requirement that it use each
Rules of analysis derived from twelve-tone theory do not apply to serialism of the second type: "in particular the ideas, one, that the series is an intervallic sequence, and two, that the rules are consistent" (Maconie 2005, 119). Stockhausen, for example, in early serial compositions such as
provides a classic illustration of the distributive function of seriality: 4 times an equal number of elements of equal duration within an equal global time is distributed in the most equable way, unequally with regard to one another, over the temporal space: from the greatest possible coïncidence to the greatest possible dispersion. This provides an exemplary demonstration of that logical principle of seriality: every situation must occur once and only once. (Sabbe 1977, 114)
evolved away from this bond in Symphonies pour quinze Solistes [1954–55] and in the Quintette [à la mémoire d’Anton Webern, 1955], and from around the time of Impromptu  encounters whole new dimensions of application and new functions.
The twelve-tone series loses its imperative function as a prohibiting, regulating, and patterning authority; its working-out is abandoned through its own constant-frequent presence: all 66 intervallic relations among the 12 pitches being virtually present. Prohibited intervals, like the octave, and prohibited successional relations, such as premature note repetitions, frequently occur, although obscured in the dense contexture. The number twelve no longer plays any governing, defining rôle; the pitch constellations no longer hold to the limitation determined by their formation. The dodecaphonic series loses its significance as a concrete model of shape (or a well-defined collection of concrete shapes) is played out. And the chromatic total remains active only, and provisionally, as a general reference. (Sabbe 1977, 264)
In the 1960s Pousseur took this a step further, applying a consistent set of predefined transformations to pre-existent music. One example is the large orchestral work Couleurs croisées (Crossed Colours, 1967), which performs these transformations on the protest song "
At about the same time, Stockhausen began using serial methods to integrate a variety of musical sources from recorded examples of folk and traditional music from around the world in his electronic composition