The twelve-tone serial technique was developed by Schönberg, to create
structure within atonal compositions. The String Quartet by Graham Newcater
is a serial composition and the tone row used in this work, consists of atonal
qualities. The tone row consists of small intervals and chromatic notes and
can therefore be classified as an atonal row.
The writer was interested in the fact that Graham Newcater is a relatively
unknown South African composer. In chapter 2, a short biographical overview
explains how the serial technique took root in his compositions. He is the only
South African composer that only composes music using the twelve-tone
The different types of twelve-tone rows are discussed and illustrated by music
examples in Chapter 3. In chapter 4, the application of the serial technique in
the String Quartet is illustrated.
In addition, chapter 4 includes an investigation into total serialism. In
Composers of South Africa Today, Mary Rörich states that Newcater makes
use of total serialism in the String Quartet (Klatzow 1987:109). This implies
that other aspects of the composition, like dynamics and rhythm, are also
subject to serialism. It is found, however, that there is no correlation between
these aspects (dynamics and rhythm), and the serial content of the String
This mathematically structured technique is taken even further in composing
the first movement of the String Quartet in palindrome form. The palindrome is
discussed in chapter 5, including examples of palindromes from works by
other composers. The third movement of the String Quartet does not only
form its own palindrome, but it is also an inversion of the palindrome in the
first movement. Newcater writes the following about his use of the twelve-tone serial
At one level I view music as a scientific and technical job, an
engineering design, if you like.
A mystical relationship arises between the constituent notes of a
row, which should be given free play and not inhibited or distorted by
over-rigorous application of the system. The twelve-tone system
brings about subtle weights of sound which would never occur
otherwise…the twelve-tone system offers a divine relation. It is the
source not only of music but of mystic truth. (Klatzow 1987: 106)
Dissertation (MMus)--University of Pretoria, 2015.