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Harold Shipman, the only popular serialist composer, achieving success through cheap gimmicks and extensive plastic surgery

“'Fix, Schwyz!' quäkt Jürgen blöd vom Paß”

~ Arnold Schoenberg on Serialism

“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. IN AMERICA!”

~ Aaron Copland on Serialism

Serialism is a highly unlistenable form of music which causes psychotic and antisocial behaviour. Its name stems from the fact that the main creators and listeners of serialism are serial killers and rapists.


Serialism began with the twelve-tone row. Arnold Schoenberg, possibly helped by Al Gore, motivated in part by his displeasure with the positive sounds he heard on the radio and in part because it would count towards his hours of community service for petty genocide, attempted to create a cheap, efficient method of generating advertising jingles. Using the tone row, he created literally thousands of tunes; when he learned that General Mills was holding a contest for a new Wheaties commercial, he flooded them with submissions of his new cerealism technique. The company arranged for a full orchestra to audition the submissions in front of a panel of judges culled from the greatest musicologists of the time.

No one survived.

Schoenberg's slide into the depths of insanity continued, but other younger composers were drawn to the technique - not so much because they liked the resulting compositions, but just for the thrill of doing something completely unmusical and immoral. Like many young hoodlums, they were prone to distorting the language; hence the modern term serialism.


It is a well known fact that serialist composers are all very clever mathematicians, and have far too much time on their hands. It takes approximately one year to write 18 bars of a serialist piece, as the following rules must be followed and checked:

  • A tone row must be created. This consists of the twelve notes of a chromatic scale being used in any order but only once. Most composers will make use of a keyboard that gives a fatal electric shock if any note is played more than once. Serialist composers believe in survival of the fittest and would gladly sacrifice their lives to prevent an "incorrect" serialist piece being published.
  • You must then only use this tone row, but you can change it to suit your needs - common functions to perform on the melody are: squaring, encrypting, dressing up, dressing down, crossdressing, fucking up (where the melody is administered with MDMA and given a techno remix), squashing up into a millisecond, and retrograde inversion (where the melody is played in a retro 80s style)
  • Most importantly, no part of the melody (in any of its forms) should be remotely hummable or listenable. Beauty is absolutely forbidden. Dynamic markings are allowed but these follow equally complex mathematical rules that are beyond the scope of this article, or your pathetic human brain.

Ironically the end result is impossible to distinguish from random note bashing, which takes less than a minute to compose. This is probably a contributing factor to the anger and frustration that drives many a serialist composer to crime, in addition to the music itself.

How it Affects your Brain[edit]

By using each note of the chromatic scale an equal number of times, each area of the brain's musical region is activated simultaneously. This has roughly the same effect as trying to run every executable program installed on your computer at once - everything slows down, stops working, and goes a bit mental. From an external point of view, listeners will become angry, frustrated, and violent. Fortunately a small percentage of listeners do not commit multiple rapes and murders.

How to Appreciate[edit]

Listening to serialism is a highly dangerous and ultimately pointless exercise, but unfortunately for some people it constitutes part of an academic syllabus. Even worse, one may have to learn to 'appreciate' it if one is to ever take up a teaching post in music. What follows are some tips on how to carry out this difficult task:

  • Performing serialism live is in fact impossible so you will need to purchase a recording performed by robots.
  • When putting in the CD or tape you will experience excessive sweating, dangerously high heart rates, and an impulse to scream. This is perfectly normal and is part of your body's natural defense against viruses and bacteria.
  • When playing the music you must find some way to minimize the sound that you actually hear. Some recommended methods are: earplugs; humming; regularly going to raves and standing in front of speaker stacks. What is important is that anyone else listening to it with you does not notice these measures, otherwise they may believe you are not "appreciating".
  • Suitable ways to describe the music after it has finished are: "moving", "intense", "so representative of the pain and complexity of modern society". Under no circumstances should you say anything related to the truth.
  • Analysing each and every tone row of the piece is also recommended. Although a worthless and soul-destroying exercise, it will help you better "understand" and "appreciate" the piece. By this stage the urge to kill will probably be spiralling out of control so you may well want to have a sitter to watch over you and tie you down if necessary.