Arnold Schoenberg 1874-1951
(Full name Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg) Austrianborn American composer and nonfiction writer.
One of the most significant composers of modern symphonic music, Schoenberg led the avant-garde movement away from classical conventions of melody and harmony during the early twentieth century. Experimenting with serial composition, he devised a method of writing music using a twelve-tone scale, creating works known for their dissonance and unconventional formal qualities. He was also a highly influential teacher, counting among his most celebrated students Alban Berg and Anton Webern, who along with him were known as the Second Viennese School of composers.
The son of a Viennese shoemaker, Schoenberg had little formal musical training, but learned to play the violin, viola, and cello. In his early twenties he worked as a conductor, arranger, and musical director in Vienna and Berlin, then took up teaching, which would be the often precarious way he would make his living for the rest of his life. Influenced by such composers as Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler, who became a mentor of his, as well as by new trends in visual arts, he devoted himself to discovering innovative approaches to music, participating in subscription-only musical societies where the work of radical composers such as himself would be assured a fair hearing. In 1933, Schoenberg was fired from his position as a composition instructor at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin because of his Jewish ancestry. He then emigrated to the United States, supporting himself as a lecturer at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles while continuing to work on his musical compositions.
Critics note aspects of Romanticism in Schoenberg's early musical works, such as Verklärte Nacht (1899), written for string sextet, and the cantata Gurrelieder (1901-13). Later moving away from conventional musical techniques, he entered what critics regard as his Expressionist period, with works including Erwartung (1909) and Pierrot lunaire (1912). Convinced that the traditional diatonic musical scale was obsolete, he began experimenting with serialism, eventually inventing a system that used all twelve half-steps in the musical scale, which he introduced in the early 1920s with compositions such as his Piano Suite, Op. 25 (1921-23) and Wind Quintet (1924). Schoenberg wrote the texts for many of his vocal works, notably the opera Moses und Aron (1930-2) and the cantata A Survivor from Warsaw (1947), as well as providing program notes for some of his instrumental pieces. He set forth his ideas about music in prose works such as Harmonielehre (1911) and Models for Beginners in Composition (1942) and the essays collected in Style and Idea (1950).
Because most of Schoenberg's work violated fundamental norms for music of his time, it encountered tremendous resistance from audiences and critics who found it alienating and incomprehensible. These negative reactions still endure. However, he established a lasting and wide-ranging influence among the serious students of new music who were best prepared to understand and appreciate him, and his innovations had a profound influence on later composers such as John Cage, Marc Blitzstein, and Milton Babbitt.
*Harmonielehre (nonfiction) 1911
Models for Beginners in Composition (nonfiction) 1942
Style and Idea (essays) 1950
Structural Functions of Harmony (nonfiction) 1954
†Briefe (letters) 1958
Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint (nonfiction) 1963
Fundamentals of Musical Compositon (nonfiction) 1964
Arnold Schoenberg Self-Portrait: A Collection of Articles, Program Notes, and Letters by the Composer About His Own Works (prose and letters) 1988
*Abridged edition published as Theory of Harmony, 1948.
†Enlarged edition published as Letters, 1964.
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SOURCE: "Schoenberg and Varèse," in Musical Impressions: Selections from Paul Rosenfeld's Criticism, edited by Herbert A. Leibowitz, Hill and Wang, 1969, pp. 77-81.
[In the following essay, originally published in 1928, Rosenfeld discusses the connection between Schoenberg and Edgard Varèse.]
… [They] played Europe and the New World off against each other at the International Guild. Schoenberg's Serenade began the program; Varèse's Intégrales ended it, and the interval was broad as the sea. It was delicate lacework sound against brute shrilling jagged music. It was the latest ghostly flowering of the romantic tradition against a polyphony not of lines, but of metallic cubical volumes. It was, essentially, the thinking introverted solitary against mass movement in which the individual goes lost; for the reason either piece did its author uncommon justice. Few works of Schoenberg traverse less writing for the eye than this new one, and breathe more thoroughly. The march which leads on the Serenade and then leads it off again may ultimately belong to the company of Schoenberg's paper pieces. But the rest of the little movements, the minuet, the variations, and the setting of Petrarch's sonnet Number 217, the "Dance Scene" and the "Song without Words," flow lightly; and bring within their small compass and in the familiar character of the Serenade a very...
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SOURCE: "Gurrelieder," in Musical Impressions: Selections from Paul Rosenfeld's Criticism, edited by Herbert A. Leibowitz, Hill and Wang, 1969, pp. 71-77.
[In the following essay, originally published in 1936, Rosenfeld discusses Schoenberg's Gurrelieder.]
An artist's expression infrequently is completely individualized by the time of his twenty-seventh year, and that of Schoenberg was not exceptional. When in 1900 he began to set the poetic cycle which the seraph of Danish literature, Jens Peter Jacobsen, had formed from the legend of King Waldemar I of Denmark and the fair Tove and called the songs of Gurre, the castle with which the legend associated their tragic love, the future heresiarch still was, regularly enough, under the domination of the expressions of his immediate predecessors. These were the Wagnerian, the Straussian, the Brahmsian, and the Mahleresque. His setting of Gurrelieder for giant orchestra, choruses, and solo voices thus is largely traditional; like the youthful work of other gifted composers, say, the Wagner of The Flying Dutchman, the Strauss of Don Juan, the Stravinsky of L'Oiseau de Feu. The giant cantata recalls the general romanticism of the late nineteenth century, in particular the rapture and the harmonic system of Wagner, the vasty means of Mahler's choral symphonies and something of his melodic architectural form, Strauss's beefy...
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SOURCE: "Some Notes on Schoenberg and the 'Method of Composing with Twelve Tone'," in Roger Sessions on Music: Collected Essays, edited by Edward T. Cone, Princeton University Press, 1952, pp. 370-5.
[In the following essay, originally published in The Score in 1952, Sessions analyzes Schoenberg's twelve-tone compositional method.]
Arnold Schoenberg sometimes said, "A Chinese philosopher speaks, of course, Chinese; the question is, what does he say?" The application of this to Schoenberg's music is quite clear. The notoriety which has, for decades, surrounded what he persisted in calling his "method of composing with twelve tones," has not only obscured his real significance, but, by focusing attention on the means rather than on the music itself, has often seemed a barrier impeding a direct approach to the latter. To some extent it has even, rather curiously, distorted the view of Schoenberg's historical achievement, of which the discovery of the twelve-tone method is only one phase.
Schoenberg's priority in the discovery of the "method" is assured, and he set great store by the fact of priority itself. One can understand why. He had the rare but often painful honor of remaining a "controversial" figure even to the time of his death at the age of seventy-six; the still more painful experience of seeing even his disciples used as weapons against him—a situation from...
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SOURCE: "Arnold Schönberg's Development towards the Twelve-Note System," The New York Review of Books, Vol. IV, No. 6, April 22, 1965, pp. 76-93.
[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1957, the Goehrs recount Schoenberg's development of his twelve-tone compositional method.]
Although the conditions and problems facing a creative artist vary in different times, an ethnic culture imposes a certain common tradition and leads to a fundamental similarity of outlook. An understanding of the roots and historical development of a culture is essential for an assessment of any individual artist. Assuming this fact, the opportunity is given of seeing the comparative value, the parallels and divergences of individual composers, seemingly unrelated, in a logical and responsible manner. For example, Brahms and Wagner were for decades believed to be antipodes, while we today, in comparative detachment, are able to see the affinities in the common national character of their work.
The German school of music at the threshold of the twentieth century based its teaching upon the study of German music from J. S. Bach to the romantic masters, virtually neglecting earlier music or that of other nationalities. The melodic and rhythmic idiosyncrasies, the harmonic subtleties and the freedom of expression attained by these composers were measured by comparison with arbitrary prototypes of...
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SOURCE: "How Dead is Arnold Schoenberg?," in The New York Review of Books, April 22, 1965, pp. 6-8.
[In the following essay, Thomson reviews Arnold Schoenberg Letters, finding notable the book's portrayal of Schoenberg as an artist.]
In 1910 Arnold Schoenberg, then thirty-five, began to keep copies of all the letters he wrote. Many of these were about business—teaching jobs, the publication of his works, specifications for performance. He would seem around that time to have arrived at a decision to organize his career on a long-line view involving the dual prospect of his continuing evolution as a composer—for he was clearly not one to have shot his bolt by thirty—and of his counting on pedagogy, for which he had a true vocation, as his chief support.
His plan was to become a private teacher (privatdozent) at the Academy of Music and Fine Arts in Vienna, avoiding by the modesty of such a post both the anti-Semitic attacks and the anti-modernist attacks that he felt would make it impossible for him to be offered a staff appointment. Actually he was offered a staff appointment two years later; but by that time he had got what he could out of Vienna and removed to the more lively music and art center that was Berlin.
The Vienna plan of 1910 had been calculated to play down his own music and call attention to his qualities as a teacher by bringing to...
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SOURCE: "Orgy in Covent Garden," in Saturday Book, Vol. 27, 1967, pp. 146-61.
[In the following essay, Huggett recounts a performance of Moses and Aaron in Covent Garden.]
On the first day's rehearsal I asked the stage manager if there was a chance of getting free tickets for any of the six scheduled performances of Moses and Aaron. He nodded with weary resignation: 'For this old thing?' he replied. 'Don't worry; they'll be giving them away in hundreds. Nobody will come. You'll see.'
His words summed up the general atmosphere of gloom and despondency. Schoenberg, undoubtedly the most non-popular composer of the day, was the darling of a small clique of intellectual musicians, but the general public didn't know his music or want to know. He had invented twelve-tone serial music, that strange and inaccessible world of sound, and Moses and Aaron was regarded as the supreme achievement in that world. Schoenberg died in 1951, leaving Moses and Aaron unfinished. Berlin and Zürich had recently presented the two acts of the opera cautiously stylised in production, but these had seemed to confirm what Schoenberg had always said—that it was unstageable.
The prevailing feeling in the Covent Garden company was that here was one of those rather tiresome and boring acts of piety which state-endowed theatres occasionally feel they...
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SOURCE: "Schoenberg's Moses and Aaron," in Language and Silence: Essays on Language, Literature, and the Inhuman, Atheneum, 1967, pp. 127-39.
[In the following essay, Steiner analyzes the relationship between music and language in Schoenberg 's Moses and Aaron.]
It is difficult to conceive of a work in which music and language interact more closely than in Arnold Schoenberg's Moses and Aron. (The German title has an advantage of which Schoenberg, half in humor, half in superstition, was aware: its twelve letters are a symbolic counterpart to the twelve tones which form a basic set in serial composition.) It is, therefore, impertinent to write about the opera if one is unable to analyze its powerful, intensely original musical structure. This analysis has been undertaken by several musicologists and students of Schoenberg. One would wish that the intrinsic difficulty of the subject had not been aggravated by the "initiate" technicality of their approach. This is especially true of the account of the music written by Milton Babbit and issued with the only recording so far available of Moses and Aaron (Columbia K-31-241).
If I write this program note, it is because the great majority of those in the audience at Covent Garden will be in my position; they do not have the training or knowledge needed to grasp the technical unfolding of the score. The demands made...
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SOURCE: "Schoenberg in the United States," in Roger Sessions on Music: Collected Essays, edited by Edward T. Cone, Princeton University Press, 1972, pp. 353-69.
[In the following essay, Sessions surveys Schoenberg's music influenced by American music and culture.]
In any survey of Schoenberg's work one fact must be emphasized above all: that no younger composer writes quite the same music as he would have written had Schoenberg's music not existed. The influence of an artist is not, even during his lifetime, confined to his disciples or even to those who have felt the direct impact of his work. It is filtered through to the humblest participant, first in the work of other original artists who have absorbed and reinterpreted it for their own purposes; then through the work of hundreds of lesser individuals, who unconsciously reflect the new tendencies even when they are opposed to them. For genuinely new ideas determine the battlegrounds on which their opponents are forced to attack. In the very process of combat the latter undergo decisive experiences which help to carry the new ideas forward.
In Schoenberg's case this process is clear. The appearance, around 1911, of his first completely characteristic works, and of his Harmonielehre, marks the approximate beginning of the years that were decisive in the formation of contemporary music. True, these works—both music and...
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SOURCE: "Schönberg and the Crisis of Expressionism," in Music & Letters, Vol. 55, No. 4, October, 1974, pp. 429-36.
[In the following essay, Lessem associates Schoenberg 's creative crisis with the early-twentieth-century Expressionist movement.]
In Arnold Schönberg's published writings, as well as those of Webern and Berg, there is no lack of reference to the decisiveness of the year 1908, in which he took the first steps in what has subsequently been described as 'free atonal' composition. Since then, too, there has been much wrangling over the implications of 'atonality', abstractly considered, but less willingness to explore some of the broader issues of the crisis into which Schönberg and his pupils were plunged—a crisis which has its place in the social and intellectual history of our century.
In pre-War Vienna the perilous closeness of political and moral collapse (and an inevitable general hardening to the pursuit of new enterprise) brought with it a heightened awareness, on the part of thinking men, of the phenomenon of social stagnation and disintegration. Hugo von Hoffmansthal described this phenomenon as "das Gleitende" (the "slipping away" of the world); its most pervasive symptoms were an abnormal cultivation of the self, a pre-occupation with the expressions of psychic disturbance and a guilt-ridden sexuality. Superficially this aspect of the Zeitgeist is...
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SOURCE: "Towards Schoenberg," in Current Convictions: Views and Reviews, Alfred A. Knopf, 1975, pp. 195-210.
[In the following essay Craft evaluates and edition of Style and Idea, then reviews Charles Rosen's Arnold Schoenberg.]
The best of Arnold Schoenberg's occasional writings on music [Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg,] are as richly instructive as his theoretical and didactic ones. Like them, too, many of the essays depend on examples printed in music type, which sets Schoenberg apart from other composer-writers, such as Berlioz, whose many verbal talents the creator of Pierrot Lunaire lacks, or Schumann or Debussy, who are simply more enjoyable to read. But the substance of the musical journalism of these three is less profound than that of Style and Idea, and the rewards of Schoenberg's book warrant the greater effort it requires, especially in the chapters "Twelve-Tone Composition" and "Theory and Composition." Yet even these are not difficult for anyone conversant with the general principles of musical forms and of such basic devices of harmony and counterpoint as chord inversion and canon. Finally, Schoenberg's own chronological and autobiographical account of the evolution of atonality and twelve-tone composition is still the most accessible.
By contrast, the reader who will profit most from Charles...
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SOURCE: "Schönberg—Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," in Breaking the Sound Barrier: A Critical Anthology of the New Music, edited by Gregory Battcock and translated by William Drabkin, E. P. Dutton, 1981, pp. 316-30.
[In the following essay, originally published in Perspectives of New Music in 1977, Rufer examines the relevance of Schoenberg's music and theory to contemporary audiences.]
Anyone for whom music is not merely a gourmet's treat, but an art that consists essentially of ideas, will want to provide himself from time to time with an overview of the state and development of the music of our time. And he will probably surrender, at first, to the confusing aspects of mutually contradictory or overlapping tendencies, directions, and opinions with which we are confronted verbally as well as musically. Tonal music versus nontonal music, polytonal versus twelve tone, serial versus aleatory—or whatever the latest rage is called (although often it is no longer the latest rage by the time it is disseminated): are these concepts reducible in any way to a common denominator: music? Music, which is the resounding of the spirit, the documentation of creative fantasy, and which (as Schönberg profoundly expressed) depicts the unconscious nature of these and other worlds; are we not merely talking around it when we seize it and try to bring ourselves closer with the aid of stylistic and technical...
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SOURCE: "Arnold Schoenberg: A Search for Jewish Identity," in The Jewish Presence: Essays on Identity and History, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977, pp. 32-45.
[In the following essay, Dawidowicz concludes that Moses and Aaron is "the vehicle through which Schoenberg asserted his Jewishness. "]
In December 1966, more than fifteen years after the composer's death, Arnold Schoenberg's unfinished opera Moses and Aaron was given a belated American premiere by the Opera Company of Boston. The occasion was full of ironies. The performance, which took place in America's historic citadel of high culture, was staged in a shabby one-time movie palace; the impresario was Missouri-born and Arkansas-reared; the work itself, a twelve-tone opera glorifying Jewish monotheism, was written by a Jew who had become a Lutheran but returned to Judaism. As a further affront to Boston's traditions, the opera contained an orgy scene which, in another day, would certainly have been banned.
Producing Moses and Aaron demands immense resources. Sarah Caldwell, the artistic director whose previous productions of other seldom-heard works have put Boston on the national operatic map, assembled for Moses and Aaron a cast which included two stars—a bass-baritone for the role of Moses (Donald Gramm, one of the Metropolitan Opera's best acting singers) and a tenor to sing...
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SOURCE: "Schoenberg's aesthetic theology," in Schoenberg and the New Music, translated by Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton, Cambridge University Press, 1987, pp. 81-93.
[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1978, Dalhaus discusses Schoenberg's essays that reveal the aesthetic sense upon which he based his musical compositions.]
In 'My Evolution' (1949), his draft of an inner biography, Schoenberg wrote: 'This is also the place to speak of the miraculous contributions of the subconscious. I am convinced that in the works of the great masters many miracles can be discovered, the extreme profundity and prophetic foresight of which seem superhuman.' Then, using a music example, Schoenberg demonstrates a latent connection between contrasting themes in the Op. 9 Chamber Symphony 'solely in order to illustrate the power behind the human mind, which produces miracles for which we do not deserve credit.'
Dubious though the thematic connection which Schoenberg thought he had discovered in his work decades later may seem, it is unusual and characteristic that the inspiration that he felt had been conferred on him did not consist of a theme, but rather of a connection between themes. The inspired idea, in the face of which Schoenberg felt moved to make use of the language of art religion, occurred unconsciously, remained initially latent and...
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SOURCE: "Schoenberg's Speech-Song," in Music & Letters, edited by Edward Olleson and Nigel Fortune, Vol. 62, No. 1, January, 1981, pp. 1-11.
[In the following essay, Stadlen examines Schoenberg's use of "speech-song, " a compositional technique of using "spoken note with fixed durations and pitches, " in Pierrot Lunaire.]
If Pierrot lunaire has never had quite the success which that work of genius surely deserves, the reason is above all the confusion that has resulted from the vocal mixture known as speech-song. It was not, as Erwin Stein claimed, Schoenberg's invention. Rudolph Stephan has reminded us that spoken notes with fixed durations and pitches were first used in Humperdinck's melodrama Die Königskinder. His belief that Schoenberg is likely to have attended one of the Vienna performances of 1897 is supported by the fact that a song composed in 1899 is marked 'less sung than declaimed, to be performed in a descriptive manner'. It will not do, on the other hand, to trace Schoenberg's use of speech-song to his connections with Wolzogen's 'Überbrettl'. This Berlin cabaret did not feature the genre of the diseuse, and Schoenberg did not start his engagement there until December 1901, that is to say after he had composed his 'Brettl Lieder'; they are to be sung, and he received the texts around Christmas 1900. Yet by that time he had already conceived of the essence...
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SOURCE: "The Spiritual and The Material in Schoenberg's Thinking," in Music & Letters, Vol. 65, No. 4, October, 1984, pp. 337-44.
[In the following essay, Christensen explains the system of philosophy underlying all of Schoenberg's work.]
Preserved in the archive of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute in Los Angeles is a collection of some 200 items, mostly unpublished and undescribed, consisting of drafts, sketches and casual notes left over when Schoenberg's more finished writings were selected for publication towards the end of his life and after his death. They are not in their original condition. Many hands have sifted through them searching for items of specific interest. Eventually what order remained was obliterated when the archivist, the late Clara Steuermann, dismantled Schoenberg's binders and folders as a consequence of her decision to preserve ideas rather than artefacts. But the composer's own annotations make it possible to restore his ordering and, to a large extent, to reconstruct his design.
During his last stay in Germany, in the late summer and autumn of 1932, Schoenberg sorted his already extensive collection of personal papers according to chronology, form and content. The organization emerged readily from the recurrent subject-matter and concerns contained in this rich fund of ideas and observations from which he drew and to which he added continuously....
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SOURCE: "Secret Languages: The Roots of Musical Modernism," in Modernism: Challenges and Perspectives, edited by Monique Chefdor, Ricardo Quinones and Albert Wachtel, University of Illinois Press, 1986, pp. 33-50.
[In the following essay, originally published in Critical Inquiry in 1984, Morgan associates Schoenberg's development of atonal music with a "crisis in language " that occurred in the early twentieth century.]
In der modernen Prosa sprechen wir eine Sprache, die wir mit dem Gefühle nicht verstehen.… Wir können nach unserer innersten Empfindung in dieser Sprache gewissermassen nicht mitsprechen, denn es ist uns unmöglich, nach dieser Empfindung in ihr zu erfinden; wir können unsere Empfindungen in ihr nur dem Verstande, nicht aber dem zuversichtlich verstehenden Gefühle mittheilen.… In der modernen Sprache kann nicht gedichtet werden, d.h.… eine dichterische Absicht kann in ihr verwirklicht, sondern eben nur als solche ausgesprochen werden.
(In modern prose we speak a language we do not understand with the feeling.… we cannot discourse in this language according to our innermost emotion, for it is impossible to invent in it according to that emotion; in it, we can only impart our emotions to the understanding, but not to the implicitly understood feeling.… In modern speech no poesis...
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SOURCE: "The Twelve Tone Method," in Schoenberg and His Circle: A Viennese Portrait, Schirmer Books, 1986, pp. 183-218.
[In the following essay, Smith provides an overview of Schoenberg's twelve-tone method.]
Several Viennese composers outside of the Schoenberg circle were concerned with repeated pitch structures and some even with the concept of chromatic completion (the structurally geared use of all twelve pitch classes) coincidentally with Schoenberg. However, the idea of an ordering within the twelve-tone set, and the application of the four systematic operations of transposition, inversion, retrogression, and retrograde-inversion, which brought about a musically constructive method for twelve-tone composition, were Schoenberg's alone. They did not come to him in a single insight but rather developed slowly over a number of years.
The composer probably most concerned, besides Schoenberg, with finding a substitute for the long-range structural functions of tonal harmony was Anton Webern. Of all of Schoenberg's pupils, he was the most noticeably experimental, and in many ways Webern seemed musically less tied to the past and more willing than Schoenberg himself to carry theoretical ideas to their logical extreme. However, it was always Schoenberg who saw the far-reaching implications of compositional trends, and it was Berg, of the three most closely tied to past ideas, who many...
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SOURCE: "Schoenberg's First Opera," in The Opera Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3, Spring, 1989, pp. 48-58.
[In the following essay, Hamilton concludes that Schoenberg's opera Erwartung, while highly original, owes more to the influence of his contemporaries than to his later, more radical, atonal music]
Each of Arnold Schoenberg's four operas is sui generis. The first two one-acters, Erwartung (1909) and Die glückliche Hand (1910-1913), stem from his most experimental period and break new ground both musically and dramatically. The former is an intense, apparently freely associative psychological drama, the latter an auto-biographical allegory with a more self-evident musical structure. The one-act comedy Von heute auf morgen (1928-1929), the first opera written using the twelve-tone technique, belongs theatrically to the Zeitoper tradition.
The libretto by Gertrude Schoenberg, the composer's second wife (under the pseudonym "Max Bionda"), was, like that of Strauss's Intermezzo, suggested by an incident from contemporary life—in this case, the domestic affairs of Schoenberg's colleague Franz Schreker; formally, it reflects the neoclassical practice characteristic of the contemporaneous instrumental music. Finally, the two-act torso of the incomplete Moses und Aron (1930-1932), a profound and disturbed...
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SOURCE: "Design in Motion: Words, Music, and the Search for Coherence in the Works of Virginia Woolf and Arnold Schoenberg," in Studies in the Literary Imagination, Vol. XXV, No. 2, Fall, 1992, pp. 5-22
[In the following essay, Schulze examines the influence of Schoenberg's musical theory on the works of Virginia Woolf]
Academics, alas, can be surprisingly narrow-minded. Shaped by our institutions, we have a tendency to divide ideas into neat little teachable, publishable packages, defining ourselves and our thoughts in terms of time periods, genres, continents, languages, theories, departments, and disciplines. Such separations certainly make the work of knowing easier, but they often lead us to read only part of a complex story. The period now roughly defined as "modern," from the late 1800s to the Second World War, happily and frustratingly resists every arbitrary boundary the academy attempts to draw. Modernism, modernist literature, call it what you will, occurs in vastly different forms in many different countries. Authors borrow freely from other arts and across disciplines, experimenting in a variety of languages and media. Poetry becomes prose, literature becomes music, music mimics painting, American writers live in England, France, Italy, and Germany, and the "beginning" and "end" of modernist writing remain tantalizingly elusive and ambiguous. T.S. Eliot's poetry speaks to the slipperiness of...
(The entire section is 6713 words.)
SOURCE: '"Ich habe von einen Esel gelernt': Eisler Pro and Contra Schönberg," in High and Low Cultures: German Attempts at Mediation, edited by Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1994, pp. 59-73.
[In the following essay, Gilbert discusses the relationship between Schoenberg and Hanns Eisler.]
In a series of conversations with GDR scholar/journalist Hans Bunge, published under the title Fragen Sie mehr über Brecht (an allusion to a passage in which Eisler states: "Fragen Sie nicht so viel über Schönberg—Fragen Sie bitte mehr über Brecht!"), composer Hanns Eisler mentions a cantata text which he presumably talked his friend and collaborator Bertolt Brecht into writing on the occasion of Arnold Schönberg's seventy-second birthday in 1947, and for which he, Eisler, evidently prepared at least a few musical sketches. Eisler had previously referred to this intriguing birthday present in a brief article "Brecht und die Musik" (written for a special issue of the journal Sinn und Form in 1957), in which the story behind the cantata is explained. In the article, Eisler notes that the text was based on Schönberg's own description of an incident in which he was able to climb a steep grade in spite of heart condition by emulating the serpentine manner in which a donkey made it to the top. As related by Eisler, the end of Schönberg's...
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SOURCE: "Music and the Modern Imagination: Nietzsche and Schoenberg," in Fullness of Dissonance: Modern Fiction and the Aesthetics of Music, Associated University Presses, 1994, pp. 44-58.
[In the following essay, Melnick explores the wider applications of Schoenberg's atonality and Friedrich Nietzche's theory of music to modern art and literature.]
Nietzsche is the conclusive nineteenth-century figure for the study of music's tie to modernism, and in this regard he is, next to Beethoven, the most significant, not only for his influence on individual novelists like Proust, Lawrence, and Mann, but for his seminal ideas about dissonance and its tie to listening and reading, and to modern existence itself.
One key to Nietzsche's ideas about music is suggested by his late reflections "contra Wagner," his postulating there that his own writings rather than Wagner's operas were the true focus of his early conceptions of music in The Birth of Tragedy. Here, as well as in his 1886 preface to his early work, and in The Wagner Case, Nietzsche's late comments abrasively confront and—in their athletic vigor—triumph over what he saw as the decadence of Wagner's operas, the music's "surrender" to passive "impotence" and "hatred against life." Wagner's listener becomes a central target of this critique: His listener is numbed to independent perception, to the needed, tragic and...
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SOURCE: "The Caesura of Religion," in Opera Through Other Eyes, edited by David J. Levin, Stanford University Press, 1994, pp. 45-77.
[In the following essay, Lacoue-Labarthe discusses the religious undercurrents in Schoenberg's work.]
No doubt, it is not impossible to say that Wagner fundamentally saturated opera. A proof of this, which is nonetheless indirect, is that everything which followed without exempting itself from the exorbitant ambition he had imposed upon the form carries the stigmata of the end. This may be in the nostalgic and relatively comfortable mode to which the late Strauss resigned himself, a mode that in short ended his career with an adieu, more disenchanted than really melancholic, to the two genres in which, as he well recognized, a limit had been reached (this is why the so-called Four Last Songs, if only because they return to the "law of genre," that is, to a preMahlerian state of the Lied, have a meaning analogous to the autoreflection "in the manner of which orders Capriccio). But it may also be in the mode of redundancy, and thus of oversaturation, for which the early Strauss was renowned (or the Schönberg of the Gurrelieder) and in which the Puccini of Turandot pathetically exhausted himself. But then again, it may be in the more equivocal and more subtle (more "French") mode of déstructuration à la Debussy. Or finally,...
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SOURCE: '"A Survivor from Warsaw' as Personal Parable," in Music & Letters, Vol. 76, No. 1, February, 1995, pp. 52-63.
[In the following essay, Strasser contends that A Survivor from Warsaw is the story of Schoenberg 's experiences as a Jew.]
Arnold Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46, is undoubtedly one of his most immediately powerful expressions and, in terms of public acceptance, one of the more successful of his later works. Widely and justifiably viewed as a fitting memorial to the millions of Jews who lost their lives during World War II, A Survivor from Warsaw can also be considered as a musical and literary testament to Schoenberg's own spiritual struggle—a personal parable of his experiences as a Jew.
The idea for a work honouring the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany was apparently suggested to Schoenberg in early 1947 by Corinne Chochem, a dancer of Russian origin who had organized programmes of Jewish dances in New York in the 1930s and was co-author of a book containing music, choreography and photographs illustrating dances performed by Palestinian Jews. In her first extant letter to Schoenberg, dated 2 April 1947, she informs him:
I have written to New York for a correct translation of the song 'I Believe the Messiah Will Come' but as yet have not received it.
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Christensen, Jean and Jesper. From Arnold Schoenberg's Literary Legacy: A Catalog of Neglected Items. Warren: Harmonie Park Press, 1988, 164 p.
Includes previously uncataloged manuscripts from the Arnold Schoenberg Institute archives.
The Berg-Schoenberg Correspondence: Selected Letters, edited by Juliane Brand, Christopher Hailey, and Donald Harris. New York: W. W. Norton, 1987, 497 p.
Documents Schoenberg's relationship with the composer Alban Berg.
Ennulat, Egbert M. Arnold Schoenberg Correspondence: A Collection of Translated and Annotated Letters Exchanged with Guido Adler, Pablo Casals, Emanuel Feuermann, and Olin Downes. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1991, 320 p.
Selected letters spanning four decades of Schoenberg's career.
Kallir, Jane. Arnold Schoenberg's Vienna. New York: Galerie St. Etienne, 1984, 120 p.
Focuses on Schoenberg's work as a painter.
Newlin, Dika. Schoenberg Remembered: Diaries and Recollections (1938-76). New York: Pendragon Press, 1980, 369 p.
Reminiscences by one of Schoenberg's American students.
Reich, Willi. Schoenberg: A Critical Biography. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971, 268 p.
Originally published in Austria;...
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