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Thread: Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951)

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    Senior Member Bach's Avatar
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    Default Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951)

    Such an intellectual composer - the only composer that frightens more or less all western society fifty years after his death.
    Si vos agnosco is tunc vos es quoque erudio

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Is "frighten" the word? I don't know. What about "perplex," revolt" or "irritate?"

    Sorry, I am not a Schonbergian. I think he sould be creditied as a musical pioneer to some extent: he did develop the 12-tone system which has become (and still is) a viable and, dare I say, popular compositional style. But when I say viable, I mean that it works "technically," but on a purely "musical" level, I believe, for the most part, it does not.

    I believe music is so much more than technique, it is true art - it is created in the mind of the artist/composer to be artistically, psychologically and, finally, emotionally appealing. I find too much artifice and ugliness is Schonberg, I'm afraid.

    There will be lots of variance fo opinion in this thread, and I am looking forward to it. There will be those who would defind Schonberg to the death and those, like me, who don't get it.
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    I've never been able to understand why people can't 'get' Schoenberg. He was a great composer, and there was nothing cold or emotionless about his music. Listening to some of his works, Verklarte Nacht, A Survivor From Warsaw, Moses und Aron, for example, can be an emotionally overwhelming experience.

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    Well, perhaps hs early works were rooted in a post-Mahlerian late-Romanticism and contained a healthy dosage of angst and emotion. But, it's just something I feel I could ever latch onto. And I have tried! Perhaps I feel his music of that period lacks a certain sincerity, that is very present in the works of Mahler. Just my own personal gut feeling.

    Once the 12-tone thing kicked into full effect, he loses me completely.

    But alas, Lang, as you cannot understand why people don't like him, there will be as many who don't understand why you do.

    What on earth could possibly be more subjective than the appreciation of art?
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    The reason people don't "get" Schoenberg is because there's nothing to "get." He composed terrible music that had no kind of lyrical or emotional qualities whatsoever. It was too modern for it's own good. It lacked heartbreak, soul, and most important beauty.

    Innovator/pioneer he may be, but I don't see how anyone in their right mind could enjoy him. Totally inaccessible to my ear.
    Last edited by JTech82; Feb-12-2009 at 23:39.

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    I've absolutely never understand 12-tone stuff; that said, I haven't found any of Schoenberg's earlier music either, so I can't say anything definite about the earlier Schoenberg.

    Apart from the early works I have not yet heard, I'm afraid I agree totally with Tapkaara.
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    Although his music is definitely not easy listening, I think it still has value. Just look at the impact he made on his contemporaries like Berg and Webern (and generations beyond). I mean, in a way, some of the best music is challenging. I think that if you can't get beyond Mahler and Sibelius, then good for you, but its no use bagging Schonberg who is their equal in many ways.
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    I can get beyond Sibelius and Mahler very easily. I admire Stravinksy (except his 12-tone works), Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Wojciech Kilar, Einojuhani Rautavaara and so on and so on.

    The difference between these composers and Schonberg, however, is that it is music that does sound, for the most part, what I consider to be music. You mentioned "easy listening". I wouldn't consider a whole lot of Stravinsky to be "easy listening," (Les Noces?!) for example, but he often (at least in his earlier works) did not go to the extremes Schonberg was often so wont to do. So, I guess I have a limit.

    I'm sorry if my musings on Schonberg is hurting anyone's feelings,; I am not trying to be nasty about it. Just sayin', though, he is not my cup of tea and sitting through his, for example, String Trio op. 45 does not amount to a satisfying listening experience for me.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    Although his music is definitely not easy listening, I think it still has value. Just look at the impact he made on his contemporaries like Berg and Webern (and generations beyond). I mean, in a way, some of the best music is challenging. I think that if you can't get beyond Mahler and Sibelius, then good for you, but its no use bagging Schonberg who is their equal in many ways.

    Music that is technically proficient doesn't mean it's good and/or better than something that is more simplistic. Did you ever hear the saying "Less is more." In Schoenberg's case, he did do something completely different and not many people liked it and still don't. I compare him with Ornette Coleman in jazz music, but in my opinion these guys like Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern didn't make meaningful, beautiful music. They put their own radical ideas ahead of lyricism, harmony, melody, rhythm, and structure, which ultimately diminished the quality of the music.

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    Why would something as simple as atonal or serial frighten anyone? The onlything complex in it is it's inability to be comprehensible.

    I think it still has value
    Deffinately! but it often fails at expressing beauty, the closest is Berg's violin Concerto.... but.... that is actually tonal more or less.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JTech82 View Post
    The reason people don't "get" Schoenberg is because there's nothing to "get." He composed terrible music that had no kind of lyrical or emotional qualities whatsoever. It was too modern for it's own good. It lacked heartbreak, soul, and most important beauty.

    Innovator/pioneer he may be, but I don't see how anyone in their right mind could enjoy him. Totally inaccessible to my ear.
    Oh, so I am not in my right mind? Thanks very much. It seems to me that you making definitive statements based on your own subjective impressions. We all do it to a certain extent, but this is an egregious example.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    Well, perhaps hs early works were rooted in a post-Mahlerian late-Romanticism and contained a healthy dosage of angst and emotion. But, it's just something I feel I could ever latch onto. And I have tried! Perhaps I feel his music of that period lacks a certain sincerity, that is very present in the works of Mahler. Just my own personal gut feeling.
    You think Verklarte Nacht lacks sincerity? That seems to me a very strange point of view. Mind you, it's interesting that contemporary critics of many composers criticise them for their very strengths. For example, Mahler was criticised for lack of structure; Beethoven for musical incompetence, and Schoenberg for being emotionless.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    What on earth could possibly be more subjective than the appreciation of art?
    Now that is very true. Which is why I try not to make objective statements about the worth of composers whom I personally don't like.

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    I think I've made it clear that my views on Schonberg are quite subjective, not objective. I'm not sure there is such a thing as on objective opinion, for starters, and I don't recall anywhere in this thread making a statement against him without making it clear that it was my stance, and not necessarily the last word on the subject.

    I am not definitively declaring him to be a bad composer. I am saying that it is merely my opinion that he is.

    But maybe "bad" isn't the word. "Unappealing" works better for me. Unappealing to me, that is. But if you find something in his work that touches you, than more power to you.
    Last edited by Tapkaara; Feb-13-2009 at 10:37.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    I think I've made it clear that my views on Schonberg are quite subjective, not objective.
    Yes, which is why I agreed with you. The only statement you did make which struck me as an objective criticism was that the music lacked sincerity, and you did qualify that with 'I feel'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    I am not definitively declaring him to be a bad composer. I am saying that it is merely my opinion that he is.
    But that is just sophistry!

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    The reason people don't "get" Schoenberg is because there's nothing to "get." He composed terrible music that had no kind of lyrical or emotional qualities whatsoever. It was too modern for it's own good. It lacked heartbreak, soul, and most important beauty. However, Pierrot Lunaire is one of the few pieces of his (of his atonal phase) that I find expressive. Again, it still can only paint a 'grotesque' expression, whether on top of beauty or not, but that grotesque expression pervades the beauty.

    Innovator/pioneer he may be, but I don't see how anyone in their right mind could enjoy him. Totally inaccessible to my ear.
    The successors to his reign did a much better job at expressing anything at all. Much like how Wagner took Berlioz and made it more expressive. Pioneers rarely are the best in what they have pioneered (rare examples are Beethoven* and Debussy), it is often (from what I see) those that actively use the new work and turn it into music.

    What on earth could possibly be more subjective than the appreciation of art?
    I hope you are not trying to say that art cannot be appreciated objectively...

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