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Thread: Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reichstag aus LICHT View Post
    It's "tuneless" music that people find difficult, I think, as opposed to "atonal" music in the strict technical sense.
    There is no strict technical sense of atonal. It's a catch-all term for many kinds of music that have just about nothing in common, much if not all of which isn't atonal if the term is taken literally.
    Last edited by Mahlerian; Jun-17-2016 at 20:45.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    There is no strict technical sense of atonal. It's a catch-all term for many kinds of music that have just about nothing in common, much if not all of which isn't atonal if the term is taken literally.
    I'll rephrase. It's "tuneless" music that people find difficult, period. Whatever "tuneless" means...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reichstag aus LICHT View Post
    I'll rephrase. It's "tuneless" music that people find difficult, period. Whatever "tuneless" means...
    I agree with the rough sense of this statement, but I would probably state it differently. Schoenberg wrote music that many people (probably the vast majority) find tuneless because the "language" or style used is unfamiliar to them.

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    All I have to say in this discussion is that I have never found Schoenberg difficult or challenging for me, which means for me; I'll never understand the sadly quite common attitude people have towards his music

    His music fits the same glove that Debussy, Ravel, (late) Mahler, Scriabin and Stravinsky have..
    Last edited by Xenakiboy; Jun-19-2016 at 00:14.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xenakiboy View Post
    All I have to say in this discussion is that I have never found Schoenberg difficult or challenging for me, which means for me; I'll never understand the sadly quite common attitude people have towards his music

    His music fits the same glove that Debussy, Ravel, Scriabin and Stravinsky have..
    That's an interesting comment. I've never had problems 'getting' the music of the 4 composers you mention, but there's always been an aspect of Schoenberg's music that simply grates. I find the early stuff too chromatic, like being served a 3 course meal based on cream, the the rest of his output - with a few exceptions - just note-spinning.
    I'm convinced that this is a matter of one's personal temperament. I have friends who adore Schoenberg but I just don't 'get' it.
    Interestingly, there is an interview with the pianist Uchida published in Gramophone in the early 2000's. She had just recorded Schoenberg's Piano Concerto with Boulez. In the interview she recounts how she had discussed Schoenberg's music with one of her favorite conductors, Kurt Sanderling. Now, I have always found Sanderling's music making makes sense to me. I usually hear orchestral detail I've not heard from other conductors, the detail never at the expense of the total structure - an issue I've always had with Rattle's conducting. Sanderling, according to Uchida could not abide Schoenberg's music.
    Last edited by dieter; Jun-19-2016 at 00:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dieter View Post
    That's an interesting comment. I've never had problems 'getting' the music of the 4 composers you mention, but there's always been an aspect of Schoenberg's music that simply grates. I find the early stuff too chromatic, like being served a 3 course meal based on cream, the the rest of his output - with a few exceptions - just note-spinning.
    It's like Brahms or Beethoven or Mahler in that it is based on constant development of simple motifs into grand edifices. To me, Schoenberg's music combines the rigor of Bach with the lyricism and drama of Mahler. Every little detail adds to the whole, and the rhythmic grace and brilliant use of timbre add to the dialogue without becoming the focus.

    Schoenberg may be the last in the line of the German/Austrian tradition stretching back to Bach, and he was the 20th century's truest equivalent to Beethoven both in temperament and influence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    It's like Brahms or Beethoven or Mahler in that it is based on constant development of simple motifs into grand edifices. To me, Schoenberg's music combines the rigor of Bach with the lyricism and drama of Mahler. Every little detail adds to the whole, and the rhythmic grace and brilliant use of timbre add to the dialogue without becoming the focus.
    That's quite an accurate description!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    It's like Brahms or Beethoven or Mahler in that it is based on constant development of simple motifs into grand edifices. To me, Schoenberg's music combines the rigor of Bach with the lyricism and drama of Mahler. Every little detail adds to the whole, and the rhythmic grace and brilliant use of timbre add to the dialogue without becoming the focus.

    Schoenberg may be the last in the line of the German/Austrian tradition stretching back to Bach, and he was the 20th century's truest equivalent to Beethoven both in temperament and influence.
    That's the case for you but I'm too 'thick' to get all the stuff you mention. I just don't 'hear' it, do you know what I mean?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dieter View Post
    That's the case for you but I'm too 'thick' to get all the stuff you mention. I just don't 'hear' it, do you know what I mean?
    The first few months that I listened to Schoenberg, I also thought that his music simply grated too much.

    I have three suggestions for listening.

    The first suggestion is to focus on the linear lines. Schoenberg is much more linear, motif, and melody oriented. In music like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqa1cw0PNOg focus on the linear patterns, the dialogue between the right and left hand of the piano.

    Second, one needs to realize that a lot of these lines have generally wider leaps than other early 20th century music. Following the lines takes a bit of getting used to. Major seventh and minor ninth melodic leaps are very common bread and butter, and even wider leaps of over an octave and a half or even over two octaves are done too.

    Third, one needs to be comfortable with the harmony. The harmony is generally non-tertian and non-diatonic. The chords and harmonies are shadows of the lines. They are shadows of the lines in both Schoenberg's 12 tone and non-12 tone music. There should be a feeling of regularity that, yet, is hard to pinpoint verbally because the melodies, lines, and harmonies are played in such varying ways. This was the point of the tone row: to unify melody and harmony throughout a piece, not the technological, mechanical, methodological, and industrial heartlessness that some people on this forum think. Why cannot a broken chord, a melodic line, and a simultaneous-sounded chord be grammatically treated in the same way in order to better organize post-tertian music? At big moments, rhythmic bass line and progressions of lines/chords can provide for cadences that feel similar to phrase endings in romantic and classical music.

    One last thing: even after a long time, one may still not like Schoenberg, and that's okay. And that is also no fault of yours, if you feel you put in a sincere effort that's more than enough. There are great composers like Bach, Wagner, and certain early 20th century neoclassical stuff that I do not enjoy, although I respect what they did and acknowledge that they are the "meat and potatoes" for other people.
    Last edited by SeptimalTritone; Jun-19-2016 at 07:55.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeptimalTritone View Post
    The first few months that I listened to Schoenberg, I also thought that his music simply grated too much.

    I have three suggestions for listening.

    The first suggestion is to focus on the linear lines. Schoenberg is much more linear, motif, and melody oriented. In music like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqa1cw0PNOg focus on the linear patterns, the dialogue between the right and left hand of the piano.

    Second, one needs to realize that a lot of these lines have generally wider leaps than other early 20th century music. Following the lines takes a bit of getting used to. Major seventh and minor ninth melodic leaps are very common bread and butter, and even wider leaps of over an octave and a half or even over two octaves are done too.

    Third, one needs to be comfortable with the harmony. The harmony is generally non-tertian and non-diatonic. The chords and harmonies are shadows of the lines. They are shadows of the lines in both Schoenberg's 12 tone and non-12 tone music. There should be a feeling of regularity that, yet, is hard to pinpoint verbally because the melodies, lines, and harmonies are played in such varying ways. This was the point of the tone row: to unify melody and harmony throughout a piece, not the technological, mechanical, methodological, and industrial heartlessness that some people on this forum think. Why cannot a broken chord, a melodic line, and a simultaneous-sounded chord be grammatically treated in the same way in order to better organize post-tertian music? At big moments, rhythmic bass line and progressions of lines/chords can provide for cadences that feel similar to phrase endings in romantic and classical music.

    One last thing: even after a long time, one may still not like Schoenberg, and that's okay. And that is also no fault of yours, if you feel you put in a sincere effort that's more than enough. There are great composers like Bach, Wagner, and certain early 20th century neoclassical stuff that I do not enjoy, although I respect what they did and acknowledge that they are the "meat and potatoes" for other people.
    Thanks for your reply. What fascinates me is that I really like Webern's music, ditto Berg...

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    I listened to Ode to Napoleon three times in a row just now.

    The Beats would have been perfectly comfortable with this rendition. I feel like I should have snapped my applause after. Also, the screeching violins wouldn't be out of place in that orchestral transcription of Metal Machine Music. I got the bright idea towards the end to pull up the Byron poem and follow along. Now that I also have the poem, I need to spend some more time with it.

    Good times.
    Last edited by Scopitone; Jul-25-2016 at 23:51.

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    Last night, I listened to the first few Schoenberg string quartets. (Maybe the first 3) I thought they were lovely.

    Did I hear correctly that the SQ No 2 has a soprano singer, too? That was unexpected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scopitone View Post
    Last night, I listened to the first few Schoenberg string quartets. (Maybe the first 3) I thought they were lovely.

    Did I hear correctly that the SQ No 2 has a soprano singer, too? That was unexpected.
    Yes. Some believe that this was due to the influence of Mahler, who had introduced soloists into a symphony (even if Beethoven had done it first).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    Yes. Some believe that this was due to the influence of Mahler, who had introduced soloists into a symphony (even if Beethoven had done it first).
    I liked it. It caught me off guard, and I had to check that I had not mis-que'd my playlist. I am re-visiting the piece this morning, from a different recording. It just started as I type this note.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reichstag aus LICHT View Post
    It's "tuneless" music that people find difficult, I think, as opposed to "atonal" music in the strict technical sense.
    Some of the themes in Schoenberg are so angular and leaping (this is not a criticism) that they might just as well be 'tuneless' to many. Melody can be 'atonal' as well, if it doesn't outline a triad or suggest tonality, which 12-tone works are not required to. I accept and enjoy Schoenberg's 12-tone music for what it is.

    But if you extracted some of these Schoenberg "themes" and played them in isolation, it's no wonder that many people find them puzzling. Some of the leaps are ridiculous.

    I agree, listen to it linearly, and that is where you will get the most meaning. The harmony just happens, is strange, and does not suggest tonality to me at all. Rather, the harmonic coincidences are what make it appeal to my "left brain" or unconscious, non-rational side.

    I must admit that his conservative phrasing and rhythmic rhetoric sounds old-fashioned, especially compared to Webern, but he was a classicist, after all. Roger Sessions' second string quartet owes a debt to Schoenberg.

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