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Schoenberg

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“Discuss the circumstances that led to Arnold Schoenberg’s revolutionary break with tonality. Address the musical context in which Schoenberg was working. Give an account of the break itself through relevant examples, and discuss some of the compositional problems Schoenberg encountered and his solutions to them.” Jordan Roche

Perhaps the single most influential composer of the 20th century, Arnold Schoenberg was born into a modest, lower middle-class Jewish family in Vienna on September 13, 1874. Though his mother was a piano teacher, for the most part he taught himself music and only took counterpoint lessons with the composer Alexander von Zemlinsky. As a young adult, he made a living primarily by orchestrating operettas while composing his own works. During this early part of his career, his works were a fusion of the divergent styles of Brahms and Wagner, and he gained the support of both Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. Though Strauss would later denounce Schoenberg's music, Mahler took him under his wing and continued to support him. This essay will cover Schoenberg’s break from tonality from a musical perspective, the problems he faced with this new harmonic language, and his solutions to them.
Schoenberg was in his mid-thirty’s when he made the break from tonality. This means there is a time period of about 15 years where he explored, thought about and expanded his relationship with tonality. As previously mentioned, Schoenberg was influenced by Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss; two defining composers of the Late Romantic period. In this musical period, the concepts and use of harmony and tonality were stretched to its limits. There was no longer a clear relationship between the tonic and dominant, dissonances were used just as freely as consonance, and they resolved to unrelated keys.
Beginning with songs and string quartets written around the turn of the century, Schoenberg's concerns as a composer positioned him uniquely among his peers, in that his procedures exhibited characteristics of both Brahms and Wagner, who for most contemporary listeners, were considered polar opposites, representing mutually exclusive directions in the legacy of German music. Schoenberg's Six Songs, Op. 3 (1899–1903), for example, exhibit a conservative clarity of tonal organization typical of Brahms and Mahler, reflecting an interest in balanced phrases and an undisturbed hierarchy of key relationships. However, the songs also explore unusually bold incidental chromaticism, and seem to aspire to a Wagnerian approach to motivic representation. The combination of these approaches reaches a climax in his Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (1899), a programmatic work for string sextet that develops several distinctive leitmotif-like themes, each one eclipsing and taking over the last. The only motivic elements that persist throughout the work are those that are perpetually dissolved, varied, and re-combined, in a technique, identified primarily in Brahms's music, that Schoenberg called ‘developing variation.’ Schoenberg's procedures in the work are organized in two ways simultaneously; at once suggesting a Wagnerian narrative of motivic ideas, as well as a Brahmsian approach to motivic development and tonal unity. An iconic piece that defined Late German Romanticism and hinted towards an atonal future was the famous Tristan chord from Mahler’s opera, Tristan und Isolde.

Tristan Chord
There have been books written on this chord, referring to its harmonic function, resolution and architecture. It is famous for its ambiguity and is a major stepping stone in the direction towards atonality. Verklärte Nacht can be seen to use a chromatic a language which evolved from Tristan.
This piece, however, was still written in a Late Romantic style. Even though it is only a sextet, it can sound very large and expressive. Schoenberg was faced with a dilemma because the more he increased this chromatic colouring, the more difficult it became to comprehend these diatonic functions. Schoenberg writes in My Evolution how the multitude of dissonances could not be counterbalanced anymore by occasional returns to the tonic. It became unacceptable ‘to force a movement into that procrustean bed of tonality without supporting it by harmonic progressions that pertain to it.’
In Kammersymphonie Op. 9, Schoenberg used an even faster harmonic rate of modulation that progresses through all the keys of the harmonic spectrum in a space of time so fast, that it becomes difficult to define the home key. This led Schoenberg to make the decisive step in what he called the ‘emancipation of dissonance’ and in the 4th movement of his Second String Quartet Op. 10 (1907-8) he abandoned tonality. The second important principle, which Schoenberg calls ‘developing variation’, is an aspect that spans his entire career. In his essay New Music: My Music Schoenberg states the fact that he says something once with little or no repetition. He avoided exact repetitions and instead he used modified repetitions that created variation. He writes: ‘With me, variation almost completely takes the place of repetition’ The technique of varying motives and phrases quite clearly derives from the analysis of classical composers, and his text book on composition clearly supports this. The structural factors that Schoenberg derives from the principle of developing variation and non-repetition remain the same after his abandonment of tonality.

In the tonal period works he compresses form, condensing the traditional four movements of the symphony into the framework of the sonata movement. In this way the internal repetition within movements is avoided, a principle of perpetual development emerges, and the recapitulation is varied.
In the music of Schoenberg’s atonal period, after the Second Quartet, he ran into further dilemmas. Schoenberg’s music, without a tonal hierarchy, relied entirely on motivic architecture and became increasingly defined. Schoenberg, in his atonal period, was also faced with the problem of freeing dissonant chords from their tendency to resolve; even if notes are not present there is always a functional interpretation. In the atonal works from 1908 and leading up to the First World War, Schoenberg developed various techniques to overcome these problems. In the last movement of the Second String Quartet he used text to articulate the music material. This technique is brought to an extreme in the expressionist monodrama Erwartung (1909), which is like an extended improvisation in continuous recitative style where the music follows the text freely. This work abandons motivic unity as well as tonality and is athematic. The artist Kandinsky viewed line and colour as emotional effects and removed them from their descriptive function. Schoenberg does similar things with his music, which mirrors the extremely expressive content of the text. Schoenberg’s intention in Erwartung was ‘to represent in slow motion everything that occurs in a single second of maximum spiritual excitement, stretching it out for half an hour’.

Pierrot Lunaire Op. 21 (1912), for female vocalist and small ensemble, is a series of short satirical pieces that are sung in a speaking recitation called Sprechstimme. The poetry is in simple rondo and often repeats material but the music does not follow this pattern. Again, as in Erwartung, the expressive content of the text dominates the music, but we find repetition and some use even of traditional practices. Pierrot Lunaire is a retreat away from Erwartung, which is the extremity of the principle of non-repetition. The Three Piano Pieces Op.11, composed earlier in 1909, employ cell like constructions. The first of these is constructed from the cell that appears in the first few bars and by which Schoenberg derives all of his material.

The pieces are aphoristic and gestural and one uses repetition in the form of ostinato. These techniques associated with the past are still a part of Schoenberg’s thinking, but in most the music of this period Schoenberg appears to be interested in small, cell-like constructions as opposed to large-scale structures.

Ironically he had to search for a system of presentation that could sustain large-scale traditional forms. In his aphoristic music Schoenberg was increasing his tendency to use all the notes of the harmonic spectrum in a short space of time. The twelve-tone method that evolved from twelve note motifs, provided Schoenberg with a procedure by which he was able to make structural differentiations, not unlike tonal music. He was able to return to the traditional structures of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms that he so well understood.

The twelve tone technique was preceded by ‘freely’ atonal pieces of 1908–23 which, though ‘free’, often had a minute intervallic cell which in addition to expansion may be transformed as with a tone row, and in which individual notes may function as pivotal elements, to permit overlapping statements of a basic cell or the linking of two or more basic cells. The twelve-tone technique was also preceded by ‘non-dodecaphonic serial composition’ used independently in the works of Alexander Scriabin, Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, Carl Ruggles, and others. Oliver Neighbour argues that Bartók was "the first composer to use a group of twelve notes consciously for a structural purpose," in 1908 with the third of his fourteen bagatelles. The distinction often made between Hauer and the Schoenberg school—that the Hauer’s music is based on unordered hexachords while the latter's is based on an ordered series—is false. While he did write pieces that could be thought of as ‘trope pieces’, much of Hauer's twelve-tone music employs an ordered series.

Nomos Op. 19.
However, it appears that Schoenberg viewed this new twelve tone system not as the only way, but one approach among many. It is not clear that the composer would immediately and exclusively turn to the twelve- tone method, even after his first piece written in this style – the Wind Quintet Op. 26 (1924).

Schoenberg published his original Harmonielehre in 1911 and then released a revied and enlarged version in 1922. His most extended treatment of the twelve tone method appears in his essay Composition of Twelve Tones. The composer compares musical unity and artistic creation to divine creation. However, when referring to the twelve tone method and his dodecaphonic music, he focuses on the practical and purely pragmatic application of the twelve tone system.
Schoenberg’s best-known pupils were the Austrian composers Anton von Webern and Alban Berg, each of whom wrote 12-tone music. Neither used the idea of the basic set in the same manner as Schoenberg did, and their music differs greatly in many respects from each other’s and from Schoenberg’s. Other important composers include the Russian-born Igor Stravinsky, the American, Roger Sessions, the Austrian-born Ernst Krenek, the Italian Luigi Dallapiccola, and the German Hans Werner Henze. Many, such as Stravinsky (who had earlier criticized the approach severely) and Sessions, began writing 12-tone music after composing much non-12-tone music.

There are no sufficient analytic techniques used by musicians in understanding 12-tone music, which is partly why it remains not very well understood as a total musical phenomenon by composers, performers, and listeners alike.

Despite the abundance and of music-theoretical writing on dodecaphony and atonality that has appeared in the last half-century, Schoenberg’s serial method became the most widely know and accepted. Through discovering this solution to the problems of atonal writing, he created a serial system that would be used to inspire the future of 20th Century music.

Bibliography 1. Simms, B. (2000). The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg. 2. Perle, G. (1991). Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. (6th Ed.).

3. Schoenberg, A. (1975). Style and Idea.

4. Dahlhaus, C. (1987). Schoenberg and the new music.

5. Christensen, T. (2002) The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory.

6. Schoenberg, A. (1946) New Music, Outmoded Music, Style and Idea.

7. Grout, D.J. Palisca, C.V. (1996). A History of Western Music. (5th Ed.).

8. Frisch, W. (2005). German Modernism: Music and the Arts.

9. MacDonald, M. (2008). Schoenberg.

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. Simms, B. (2000). The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg. New York (NY): Oxford University Press.
[ 2 ]. Frisch, W. (2005). German Modernism: Music and the Arts. Los Angeles (CA): University of California Press, Ltd.
[ 3 ]. MacDonald, M. (2008). Schoenberg. New York (NY): Oxford University Press.
[ 4 ]. Ibid.
[ 5 ]. Grout, D.J. Palisca, C.V.(1996). A History of Western Music. (5th Ed.). New York (NY): W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
[ 6 ]. Webern, A. V.(1999). SSchoenberg and his World. Princeton(NJ): Princeton University Press
[ 7 ]. Dahlhaus, C. (1987). Schoenberg and the new music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[ 8 ]. Schoenberg, A. (1970). Fundamentals of Musical Composition. London: Faber and Faber.
[ 9 ]. Schoenberg, A. (1946) New Music, Outmoded Music, Style and Idea. California: University of California Press, 1975.
[ 10 ]. Simms, B. (2000). The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg. New York (NY): Oxford University Press.
[ 11 ]. Perle, G. (1991). Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. (6th Ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press
[ 12 ]. Ibid.
[ 13 ]. Schoenberg, A. (1975). Style and Idea. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
[ 14 ]. Dahlhaus, C. (1987). Schoenberg and the new music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[ 15 ]. Christensen, T. (2002) The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory. London: Cambridge University Press
[ 16 ]. Ibid.
[ 17 ]. Simms, B. (2000). The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg. New York (NY): Oxford University Press.

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Communication Is Key

...good to talk about their feelings, likes and dislikes. Women will more willingly tell about things going on in their day with work or friends. Men, on the other hand, seem to think that women share too much. Men do not normally like to talk about feelings and they will not easily or willingly share their thoughts. Self-disclosure is a means of communication that needs practice, and all couples could benefit from it. It’s undisputed that communication is the key to any relationship. “Quality communication is defined somewhat differently from study to study, but research consistently has shown a link between happy marriages and "self-disclosure," or sharing your private feelings, fears, doubts and perceptions with your partner” (Schoenberg, 2011). Although, I believe that self-disclosure is a wonderful way to keep a relationship happy, I do not think many men believe in sharing there inter most thoughts and feelings. It has been my experience that when I tried to open the lines of communication with my husband, it normally ends in a comment like “do we have to talk everything to death”. Self-disclosure is an important part of any relationship, and there has to be a starting point. For people to communicate, someone must take the initiative and make contact with another person. The other person must then respond in some way for a connection to occur (Sole, 2011). Men and women look at communication in different way, in most cases, but when they can find...

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