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Thread: Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951)

  1. #676
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    How about his other paintings?





    None of them really capture the elegance of his melodies and rhythms or the beauty of his harmonies, though, because he didn't have the same excellence of technique in painting that he did in composition or even in writing.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    ...Since tonality is not (and hasn't been defined by anyone here as) "any kind of hierarchical harmonic relationship," the question of how a non-tonal work can "feel resolved harmonically" seems to come down to the question of how non-tonal music can be structured so as to create a feeling of resolution, if indeed it can and still be non-tonal. Does a hierarchy of harmonic relationships - any hierarchy - have to be tonal? Can a composer create a hierarchy ad hoc - using certain tones or chords in certain fixed proportions, or at certain consistent locations, in a particular work - yet still not have a system, or convey an effect, of tonality? My answer to this last would be "yes."
    I agree, to an extent. An hierarchy of harmonic relationships does not necessarily have to be tonal in the sense of resolution; but if there is a harmonic hierarchy, our ears will detect it as a unifying set of relations with varying degrees of tension and resolution. Example is the whole tone scale, and the set of harmonic relations it embodies. Any tertial triad constructed on any of its steps will not have a stable fifth, but a tritone: C-E-G#, etc. Thus, it will never resolve, or sound stable, yet it will have a harmonic set of relations which will give it unity.

    To go further, if we consider the chromatic scale (as a tonal scale):

    If you make a harmonic chart of the "tonal" chromatic scale, using the closest-equivalent just ratios, we get the following:

    tonic 1:1
    minor second 16:15
    major second 9:8
    minor third 6:5
    major third 5:4
    fourth 4:3
    tritone 7:5
    fifth 3:2
    minor sixth 8:5
    major sixth 5:3
    minor seventh 16:9
    major seventh 15:8
    octave 2:1

    By by this time, since we are using all 12 notes, the notion of 'tonality' becomes more and more irrelevant. we have entered a continuum of chromatic notes in which any 'start point' is almost irrelevant. This is not a scale made for establishing a tonic. Still, any major triad constructed on these degrees can be considered to have more, or less, tension, if compared to a starting note of 1:1, and that basically defines a tonality to me. The notion of 'root movement' in a chromatic continuum becomes less important than the sonance of each scale-triad in relation to a tonic. Thus, we have come full circle; the tonal chromatic scale is more useful as a coloristic device in relation to a drone, like Miles Davis used it. The notion of "tonal function" or "diatonic function" or "root movement" has become obliterated by the over-abundance and redundancy of the total chromatic.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Does a hierarchy of harmonic relationships - any hierarchy - have to be tonal?
    Yes, to me it does, if we want to call it tonal. The subservient relationships (scale degrees, subdivisions of the 1:1 octave) don't have to resolve, or be stable, except as they are derived from that 1:1 tonic relation. If this tonic station is obscured, like in the whole-tone, diminished, or chromatic scales, then you will not get the same sense of resolution; but you are in an unstable scale anyway. These are counter-intuitive to 'establishing a tonality.' Now that we've got that out of the way...

    Can a composer create a hierarchy ad hoc - using certain tones or chords in certain fixed proportions, or at certain consistent locations, in a particular work - yet still not have a system, or convey an effect, of tonality? My answer to this last would be "yes."
    My answer would have to be "yes."

    There can be an hierarchy of tensions and resolutions which are referenced "only to each other" as the great one said. Is this a tonality? No, since there is not a 1:1, but this is chromatic music: why should it matter?

    Mahlerian is mistakenly and misleadingly calling this hierarchy of harmonic tensions that Schoenberg creates anew in each work "tonal," but it is not tonal but a self-referential system of harmonic tensions.

    I've been listening to the endings of some of Schoenberg's 12-tone works with this in mind: i.e., in search of tonality. The Piano Concerto, which is not in C-major, ends on a C-major 7 chord. This could be rationalized as a "resolution" on the basis of a previous emphatic pause on a C-major 7 chord in the final stretto, and what might (or might not) be heard as some "hinting around" in a texture which cannot remotely be conceived as being "in" C. But this hardly makes a C-major(ish) chord a necessary "resolution" to the harmonic construction of the whole work, and initially I couldn't see why he ended with it. It was only after repeated listening and seeing the score that I realized what was going on. I believe that what we have here is not systematic tonality, but, at best, a pseudo-tonal ending, a gesture toward tonality, perhaps a calculated reminiscence of it or tribute to it (who knows why the piece ends this way?) which is not the real deal.
    I agree that it is not 'the real deal' in terms of being tone-centric to a single 1:1, but why does this matter in a totally chromatic environment? When even tonal music has become highly chromatic, as in R. Strauss' Metamorphosen, then tonality is less and less relevant or possible, and harmonic tension becomes more important.

    The same sort of thing happens at the end of the Violin Concerto; a particular note asserts itself prominently as a sort of preparation for the final triadic chord with its "pseudo-tonic" in the bass. Similarly, the "Praeludium" of the Piano Suite ends on a bass note which feels like the right choice, but why does it? Listening to the piece with that note in mind reveals that it is prominent throughout. But even that is not enough to make it a "tonal center," since it isn't the center of a tonal system in which the other eleven tones in use have specific relationships to it and to each other. This same "pseudo-tonal" idea underlies the use of the insistent "G" in the "Musette" of the suite. Repeat anything - any note, rhythmic figure or pattern - often enough, and we naturally expect it to continue, and we may assume it is somehow "important." But if it doesn't relate in expected - or unexpected - ways to what's around it, we have, not tonality, but only a simulacrum.
    Yes, but as I keep reiterating, in music this chromatic, that 'tonal center' becomes less important, and we must begin to approach these harmonic entities as simply colors, in a floating world of non-resolution.

    A composer can't create tonality by such means. He most especially can't create it when he employs a technique which sets out to prevent tonal hierarchy from arising, but then contrives to end his pieces with sequences of harmonies which hint at tonicity.
    Yes, but by the time we have arrived at the total chromatic set of pitches, the notion of tonality is already irrelevant. Tonality depends on being distinguishable by what is left out of the 12 notes. It all is an idea that started with diatonic seven note scales. It seems that trying to deal with tonality in a 12-note continuum is like, as I am so fond of saying, "trying to stuff a horse into a suitcase."

    A tonal system is not "created" ad hoc. It doesn't result from the "logic" of a tone row. It's a product of cultural evolution. It's already there when a composer begins to write. It's a set of expectations regarding the way tones relate to each other, expectations which listeners in a particular musical culture bring to the piece they're hearing based on their general experience, and which composers share, understand intuitively, and play off of in their musical choices. It's a common language, not a made-up one whose laws don't arise from a pre-existing substrate of meaning but are imposed from without and then might be used so as to result in a few familiar phonemes, in order to convey a semblance of recognized meaning.
    Welcome to the modern world. As I said, tonality is God, and God is dead, insofar as composers have created music outside of that cultural continuum, shared general experience, common language, or substrate of meaning. This is the "Second Viennese" cult, started by the charismatic figure Arnold Schoenberg, who thought he was simply carrying out God's will.

    The works cited above "hint" at tonality in the context of music which is fundamentally not tonal. Debussy is the opposite, and so Schoenberg's intentionally contra-tonal syntax is different from Debussy's whole-tone experiments. The whole tone scale is itself tonally suggestive, and there is no systematic attempt to thwart tonal expectations or replace tonality with something else. In his playing with ambiguity Debussy is well aware that ambiguity is possible, and meaningful, only with reference to definiteness, and he exploits this fact. It's in fundamentally, if loosely, tonal territory that his music teasingly and atmospherically dwells. If anyone wants to call his more extreme, un-tonally-anchored moments "atonal," it doesn't really matter. But let's not use him to try to say that what Schoenberg did to harmony is not a radically new thing under the sun.
    Yes, exactly. In fact, I feel sorry for Mahlerian, in that he is missing out on the simply exquisite radicalness of Schoenberg.

    (There are ways other than tonal resolution to make a piece sound as if it ends, rather than merely stops. Rhythm and melodic contour are at least as important as harmony in conveying structure, including the sense of closure. In fact, tonal coherence itself is highly dependent on rhythm; where a note or chord is placed and how it's stressed is as important to its identity as its place in an abstracted scale or its interval content. We often talk about harmony with too little reference to its articulation in time, on which "function" critically depends.)
    Yes, and the rhythmic aspects of Schoenberg, along with his bag of tonal illusions, is why the Post-war generation of serial composers criticized him, and went to Webern as the inspiration.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-03-2016 at 19:00.

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    I think you have to think about totally chromatic music in this way, because if it uses all 12 notes, it's not going to be very tonal, if at all, since the more notes you add, the less tonally defined the music gets. You have to listen to it in terms of harmonic tensions. This will help in listening to Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions. Doesn't that free you up? It did me.

    Of course, there is music like John Cage or Henry Cowell's tone -cluster piano music, or Messiaen, or Varese, or Boulez, which is really not engaged with the ideas of tonality and pitch in that way. It wants to be 'just sound' or in Messiaen's case, sonority and color.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Abraham Lincoln View Post
    There's a story behind that painting...

    Schoenberg: For some time now, doctor, I've had this recurring nightmare that I'm turning into a corn-flake.

    Psychiatrist: You're a serialist. What do you expect?

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    • to change the subject, I think this is a good portrait of him. Ironically, it was by Richard Gerstl, the guy who had an affair with his wife.







    • Gerstl was a weird dude. Here's his 'laughing portrait.'
      and Schoenberg's wife and baby. It's been said that he made the baby look like Schoenberg.



    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-03-2016 at 21:01.

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    A true Romantic, Schoenberg made an opera out of the experience. Opera which is unsurprisingly obscure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richannes Wrahms View Post
    A true Romantic, Schoenberg made an opera out of the experience. Opera which is unsurprisingly obscure.
    What are you talking about?

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    What are you talking about?
    I think he's referring to the 1-act opera Das gluckliche Hand, about an artist who is laughed at, searches after a woman, achieves his aims, loses the woman, and is met once again with derision. Schoenberg described the action as the events of years compressed into a handful of moments, as opposed to Erwartung, which portrays the heightened emotion of mere moments in half an hour.

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    Oh, OK, I get it now. It's about the Gerstl affair. I always thought it was a drama with music. Same thing, I take it.

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    I just listened to the Gurre-Lieder for the first time - what an astonishing piece of music!

    I'm falling in love with Schoenberg's music more and more as I listen to it. From the haunting, post-romantic early pieces (Verklärte Nacht obviously comes to mind) to the beautiful masterpieces of his late period like the piano concerto and Moses und Aron - my appreciation of him as a composer grows all the time. And yet, there's still so very much to discover... Can't complain!

    Pierrot lunaire, the three piano pieces of op. 11, the violin concerto, the string trio, Die Jakobsleiter... I just want to listen to it all again and again!

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    ^^^

    You sir, have exquisite taste!
    Short-term thinkers are rewarded with reelection, while those who dare to take seriously our responsibility to future generations commonly find themselves out of office.

    - Marcia Bjornerud, Geologist

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    Quote Originally Posted by Janspe View Post
    I just listened to the Gurre-Lieder for the first time - what an astonishing piece of music!

    I'm falling in love with Schoenberg's music more and more as I listen to it. From the haunting, post-romantic early pieces (Verklärte Nacht obviously comes to mind) to the beautiful masterpieces of his late period like the piano concerto and Moses und Aron - my appreciation of him as a composer grows all the time. And yet, there's still so very much to discover... Can't complain!

    Pierrot lunaire, the three piano pieces of op. 11, the violin concerto, the string trio, Die Jakobsleiter... I just want to listen to it all again and again!
    Thank you for your response to Schoenberg's music... because it is my response, even to the specific pieces... and yet, so often I have been greeted with disbelief or outright scorn when I express that response. Yes, we can find ourselves "falling in love" with his music, and I am so glad you used those words.

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    I've only just seen this thread and must spend some time going thought it, especially if the most recent posts are typical (I've only recently joined this forum).

    What I would say at this point, though, is that what Schönberg did in his early years was less to "loosen the bonds" of tonality but to expand what it was capable of expressing. Maybe that view has arisen from finding rather more tonal allusions and refeences in Schönberg's later music than some other listeners do (or than I'm perhaps supposed to!), but it's one that I cannot shake off. There seems to me, for example, to be more "tonality" (at least in quantative and tonal relationship terms) in his first chamber symphony than in anything by his hero Brahms!

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