A fairly good description of Schoenberg and his music

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Dalibor
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A fairly good description of Schoenberg and his music

Post by Dalibor » Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:48 pm

by Pierre Schaeffer (French experimentator with first electronic sound devices), taken from http://emusician.com/em_spotlight/Pioneers_Sampling/
:

Schaeffer despised the trends of classical music in the 20th Century, still embroiled in the 12-tone and serialist methods of Arnold Schoenberg and his disciples. "This made for a century," exclaims Schaeffer, "of the most boring music. Schoenberg, a teacher lacking genius, had a 'brilliant' idea. One was supposed to use all 12 notes without repeating any. One is sure in this way to avoid the problems of tonality and to avoid copying Mahler's music.

"Unfortunately," he continues, "when you suppress the intervals between notes you suppress music. You make it insignificant. You take the feeling, the intelligence, and meaning away."

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Post by johnQpublic » Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:45 pm

Apparently Schaeffer never listened to such 12-tone pieces like Schoenberg's Piano Concerto that is filled with Romantic yearnings.

PJME
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No genius?

Post by PJME » Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:30 am

dear dalibor, your message makes me ...sad and desperate. Of course , nobody can "make" you like the music of Schoenberg, but I'm afraid that Schaeffer & Henry make an overtly simplistic statement.
Of course Schoenberg's music is (still perceived as) difficult and "unpopular" ,but most serious,well informed musicians (or music lovers) do understand -at least- his historical and artistic stature. It takes time, commitment and historical insight to grasp the full meaning of his work. He was an eminently intelligent man with the highest artistic goals and his work and legacy deserve respect. See:

http://www.schoenberg.at/default_e.htm (the Schoenbergcenter/Vienna)
http://www.classiccat.net/schonberg_a/b ... good,clear article)
Last edited by PJME on Mon Jan 23, 2006 9:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by MaestroDJS » Mon Jan 23, 2006 8:55 am

One of the best analyses of Arnold Schönberg and his music is on the DVD of the 5th lecture, “The Twentieth Century Crisis”, of The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard by Leonard Bernstein, 1973. This lecture discusses Arnold Schönberg’s movement toward atonality and Gustav Mahler’s anticipation of the crisis in 20th-Century music. It includes performances of Ives’ The Unanswered Question; Ravel’s “Feris” from Rapsodie Espagnole and Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor: IV. Adagio

Bernstein outlined the movement from harmonic ambiguity and chromaticism toward atonality. Although Bernstein outlined serial theory with keen understanding, he also regarded the 12-tone row as perhaps the most artificial musical device of the 20th Century, because it opposes innateness. Serial method enriched the vocabularies of some composers, but constrained others because the rules were too restrictive: “there was so much ordered precomposition involved, amounting almost to a mathematical take-over.” Bernstein cited rare prior examples of melodies with 12 tones, as in Bach and Liszt (notably the 12-note theme of Eine Faust-Sinfonie). He also praised a few 12-tone pieces enhanced by serial technique, such as the Violin Concerto by Alban Berg. However Bernstein repeatedly asked whether “all music is ultimately and basically tonal, even when it’s nontonal.” He also asked “is it not perhaps that the ambiguity is simply too huge to be grasped, too self-negating to be perceived with our only human ears, ears which are after all tuned to our innate predispositions, in spite of all conditionings or reinforcements? Let’s put it another way: have we not finally stumbled on an ambiguity that cannot produce aesthetically positive results? Is there conceivably such a thing as a ‘negative ambiguity’?”

Bernstein used Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question to illustrate the conflict between tonality and atonality. Bernstein discussed this composition, and reinterpreted it in musical terms to answer the musical question: “Whither music in the 20th Century?” In the composition, the strings play a slow, soft 4-part chorale in pure tonal triads: “The Silences of the Druids -- Who Know, Hear and See Nothing.” A trumpet nontonally asks “The Perennial Question of Existence” 7 times in the same tone of voice; 6 times flutes “and other human beings” nontonally seek “The Invisible Answer.” Their replies grow more animated until they finally mock “The Question.” After the final question, “there is no further answer except those strings, quietly prolonging their pure G-Major triad into eternity. Is that luminous final triad the answer? Is tonality eternal, immortal? Many have thought so, and some still do.”

In 1973, Bernstein's ultimate rejection of atonal music deeply offended many avant-garde composers. However he reached his conclusion only after a well-reasoned analysis of Schönberg and other 20th-Century composers, whom he treated with both sympathy and understanding.

Dave

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Post by diegobueno » Mon Jan 23, 2006 1:38 pm

Poor Schoenberg. By the end of his life, he found himself under attack on two fronts: some thought him too radical, some thought him not radical enough. Pierre Schaeffer would belong to the latter camp.
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jan 23, 2006 3:39 pm

"Schoenberg, a teacher lacking genius, had a 'brilliant' idea."

The notion that a composer and artist of the caliber of Schoenberg was "lacking genius" and could have fooled nearly a century of music with a fake "brilliant idea" is laughable. That was not a very funny statement. Sorry. Schoenberg was not a very funny man.

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Re: No genius?

Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jan 23, 2006 3:43 pm

PJME wrote: Of course Schoenberg's music is (still perceived as) difficult and "unpopular" ,but most serious,well informed musicians (or music lovers) do understand -at least- his historical and artistic stature. It takes time, commitment and historical insight to grasp the full meaning of his work. He was an eminently intelligent man with the highest artistic goals and his work and legacy deserve respect.


Life's too short to spend it listening to "music" that makes you nervous, impatient, and bored. You guys can have my share. All of it. Okay, leave me Verklarte Nacht, but take the rest.
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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Jan 23, 2006 3:55 pm

Funny how so many can listen to Schoenberg and see plenty of "feeling, the intelligence, and meaning". Too bad, there is alot of great music in Arnold's output for those who can get past unthinking prejudices and straw-man charicatures.

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jan 23, 2006 4:04 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:Funny how so many can listen to Schoenberg and see plenty of "feeling, the intelligence, and meaning". Too bad, there is alot of great music in Arnold's output for those who can get past unthinking prejudices and straw-man charicatures.
I didn't know that the governor of California was a composer. :?

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: No genius?

Post by Blip » Mon Jan 23, 2006 6:09 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:Life's too short to spend it listening to "music" that makes you nervous, impatient, and bored.
Absolutely true, but what's that got to do with Schoenberg? :wink:
One's reponse to blips qua blips depends of course on one's taste in blippification, but I think most would agree that with a blippic approach, form arises not from individual blippicality, but from the accumulation of
blippage.

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Re: No genius?

Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jan 23, 2006 8:34 pm

Blip wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:Life's too short to spend it listening to "music" that makes you nervous, impatient, and bored.
Absolutely true, but what's that got to do with Schoenberg? :wink:
:wink:
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Post by MaestroDJS » Mon Jan 23, 2006 9:20 pm

Personally I find much to admire in the music of Arnold Schönberg, even if much of it is hard going at times. Anton Webern and Alban Berg also created much fine music. They're not my favorite composers by any means, but they sure are interesting. They used 12-tone techniques as an aid to their composition process, as a framework for their own innate inspiration. Unfortunately, far too many of their followers and imitators used serial methods as a crutch to do the composing for them. Those imitators became trendy and cloistered academics writing for other trendy and cloistered academics.

There are sound reasons why Schönberg, Webern and Berg are at the top of the heap: they were inspired, and they did not disparage composers who did not use their theories. Remove their serial framework and they're still inspired, as in Schönberg's Verklärte Nacht, Pelléas et Mélisande and Gurre-Lieder. In his later years, Schönberg returned to tonal music -- albeit in a very distinctive way -- and he was still inspired. However remove the serial theories of most of their imitators, and "there is no there there."

It's not the theory that counts, it's the music.

Dave

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Post by Charles » Mon Jan 23, 2006 11:27 pm

I'm under the impression that Schoenberg developed the twelve tone system for himself and did not intend it to become a paradigm adopted by many others. Is this true? If so, whether or not one likes his music, the widespread use of his system is not Schoenberg's fault and he should not be blamed for having prescribed and restricted 20th C. music.

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Post by rogch » Tue Jan 24, 2006 4:18 am

Personally i am more interested in Shönberg as a composer than an academic. If i did not know that he had introduced radical theoretical ideas i am not sure if i could tell by his music that he was more important than other inventive composers, there were plenty of those in the last century. And the breakdowon of the tonal system was a gradual prosess, not a revolution. But when the serial system became the norm for composers, it is normal and healthy that younger composers revolt against it. This shows that "modern" or "contemporary" music is more diverse than its critics often acknowledge. It is also interesting that another great innovator, Stravinsky, saw his musical project as very different from Schönberg's. But because of his admiration of Webern's music he later changed his mind about serial techniques and was made use of them himself in later works.

But back to Schönberg's music: Some of his music is so emotional that it is hard to imagine him as a prominent academic (A survivor from Warzaw for example, a very moving piece). But what i most admire about Schönberg is his abilites as an orchestrator. Take Chamber orchestra no. 1 or the Concert for string quartet and orchestra (a re-orchestration of one of Händels Concerto grossi), really superb examples of orchestration.
Roger Christensen

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Post by val » Tue Jan 24, 2006 4:44 am

Schönberg suffered the same kind of criticism that Beethoven did regarding his latest quartets and 200 years before Monteverdi with his "seconda pratica". There are people that doesn't even bore to listen to the works.
I dont care if Schönberg's harmonic theory was right or wrong (and I doubt someone can prove it). But when I listen to the Serenade opus 24 I am delighted with its beauty. The same with the string quartets, the trio, the choral works, Pierrot Lunaire, the piano Concerto. If people tried to hear this music not once but several times, they will find that it is not so different as that regarding the tradition.
There is only a criteria to judge a musical work: its beauty. It is the same criteria to Schubert, Brahms, Debussy, Schönberg.
And Schönberg's music is beautiful, touching, sometimes full or greatness.

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Indeed, it is serious!

Post by PJME » Tue Jan 24, 2006 5:27 am

Please, don't listen to Schoenberg's music if it makes you uncomfortable.

But again, I want to stress that this composer was no sadistic fool who enjoyed writing "ugly" music with the intention to torture & bully.
Yes, he was a difficult, megalomaniac,real,great artist (with all the human flaws that we should/can recognize in ourselves.) (Read books by Charles Rosen, Allen Shawn...etc)His life and works are more than interesting enough to study,to question. A few flippant,abrupt & cheap cries will not do.

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Post by rogch » Tue Jan 24, 2006 8:14 am

rogch wrote: Take Chamber orchestra no. 1
Talk about nonsence, i of course meant Chamber symphony no. 1 :oops:
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Post by johnQpublic » Tue Jan 24, 2006 12:05 pm

rogch wrote: And the breakdowon of the tonal system was a gradual prosess, not a revolution.
Yes, Schoenberg's method was simply a way of organizing logically what had taken place chaotically up to that point in time.

Some theorists have suggested that the downfall of tonal music occured the day a Medievalist allowed a chromtic note to enter his music..hehe

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Post by johnQpublic » Tue Jan 24, 2006 12:11 pm

Charles wrote:I'm under the impression that Schoenberg developed the twelve tone system for himself and did not intend it to become a paradigm adopted by many others. Is this true?
Here's what Grove's says:

"In the crucial years preceding the Harmonielehre Schoenberg’s music rarely met with faith or even the modicum of goodwill without which no artistic perception is possible. On the contrary, it was opposed with almost unbelievable persistence and venom. Perhaps no music before or since has encountered such a reception; to the end of his life its author, though internationally famous, had to accept very widespread incomprehension. The price he paid for artistic integrity was proportionately high. It should be remembered that the sense of outrage that even such a work as Pelleas und Melisande aroused at first in the majority of listeners arose not only from unthinking conservatism but from the more positive instinct that its premonitions of a radical disruption in the agreed basis of musical language carried a threat to precision of meaning. Schoenberg, who shared his audience’s background and many of its assumptions, understood its fears and so experienced its attack with something like the force of an inner doubt, requiring all the more courage to parry. He felt himself impelled towards the break with tonality almost despite himself, and accomplished it only after considerable hesitation. Since its systematic justification in theory eluded him he looked for some other authority to protect his intuition. He found it eventually in religion."

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Post by karlhenning » Wed Jan 25, 2006 8:37 am

val wrote:And Schönberg's music is beautiful, touching, sometimes full or greatness.
Thank you for stating the simple, naked truth. Obrigadissimo!
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Post by Dalibor » Sun Jan 29, 2006 12:08 pm

johnQpublic wrote: Yes, Schoenberg's method was simply a way of organizing logically what had taken place chaotically up to that point in time.
How comes then that his music sounds so chaotic? I myself couldn't tell when Schoenberg misses a note on his piano. He produced the first music that you need to learn how to listen to. It's much like hyperbolic geometry in mathematics, the first mathematical theory that rebels against human intuition. But if science can do that, because it deals with formal truth, how can an artist justify a rebelion against intuition? And atonalism is just that I suppose, no?

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Re: No genius?

Post by Dalibor » Sun Jan 29, 2006 12:22 pm

PJME wrote: Of course Schoenberg's music is (still perceived as) difficult and "unpopular" ,but most serious,well informed musicians (or music lovers) do understand -at least- his historical and artistic stature. It takes time, commitment and historical insight to grasp the full meaning of his work. He was an eminently intelligent man with the highest artistic goals and his work and legacy deserve respect.
I don't try to put under question his historical importance, neither relevance of his theories, but his practical importance. And as far as his works are concerned, I feel much the same as the two Frenchmen. Berg also wrote in this atonal frame, but his music is much more interesting to me and I can apreciatte it ("To the Memory Of an Angel" concert for violin comes to mind, a very good piece of his).

And if I can note here, that French musicians - for some reason - seemed through history to have a particular sense for purity, clarity and naturalness in music. I remember that Debussy was rebeling against everything after Bach, because it lacked intuitive logic and divine simplicity, that is the mark of a real idea... So I suppose it is not strange that Frenchmen generaly refuse the latest "dirt" - atonalism.

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Maybe it is not possible...

Post by PJME » Mon Jan 30, 2006 5:12 am

http://www.scena.org/columns/lebrecht/0 ... nberg.html

Dear Dalibor, this article by Norman Lebrecht is quite clear.
(here's an excerpt:
In a new century, Schoenberg takes his place beside Picasso and Joyce as a creator who altered the perception of art from innocent pleasure to an amalgam of celestial vision and cerebral struggle. In our age of vapid simplicity and dysfunctional irony, the music of Arnold Schoenberg becomes a refuge for the thinking listener, a place of principle and courage, of crossword-level complexity and, when you crack the code, of the deepest sensual satisfaction.)


I find it strange that you hear chaos.!

The - usually- silly aberrations one sometimes hears in compositions from the 1960-1970-ies (from simplistic effects as dry peas dropped in a tuba, glass bottles to be broken and amplified street noise to utterly dry compositions based on stochastic mathematics...) obscure the inspired & talented composer Schoenberg was. Schoenberg's music is all logic, organisation,yet there is drama and emotion...expression.
Of course, I do like tonal, suave ,"sweet" music (from Monteverdi and Bach to Brahms, Ravel and Debussy etc) but would not be without the (intellectual) bite & challenge Schoenberg ( Berg, Messiaen, Webern, Tippett,Andriessen....etc) poses.
Last week I drove home from work : cold mist, a red sun and Schoenberg's "Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene" on the radio ...just perfect!

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Post by greymouse » Mon Mar 13, 2006 9:57 pm

Hi everyone, my first post. It's good to be here with classical music lovers!

My favorite Schoenberg pieces are probably the Op. 11 and 19 piano pieces for raw emotion, or String Quartet No. 2 for its boldness and unity. The Variations for Orchestra are great for balance and clarity.

My biggest criticism of Schoenberg (one of my favorite composers) is that he is too lieder-happy. Some of his greatest works (Pierrot Lunaire, Gurrelieder) would have been greater yet if he sculpted the profound melodies into the longer forms rather than choppy song cycles. It would have been worth the extra effort IMO.

Schoenberg really shines in the Chamber Symphonies! :D

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Mar 13, 2006 10:19 pm

Hey, Grey! Welcome to the board. Kick your shoes off and set a spell. Post early and often.
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Post by karlhenning » Tue Mar 14, 2006 7:54 am

Hi, grey! Welcome!

(I can't say that I find the Gurrelieder "choppy," though :-)
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Post by greymouse » Tue Mar 14, 2006 10:43 am

Thanks for the welcome all, I look forward to posting. :)
(I can't say that I find the Gurrelieder "choppy," though :-)
True, it's actually really well done with all the interludes.

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