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Expressionism: Schoenberg. Expressionism. Became popular during the years 1910-39 It evolved during a time of growing fascination with the unconscious and people’s inner feelings Painters and composers tried to focus on inner states of being and the evocation of extreme feelings

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  • Became popular during the years 1910-39
  • It evolved during a time of growing fascination with the unconscious and people’s inner feelings
  • Painters and composers tried to focus on inner states of being and the evocation of extreme feelings
  • They may seem to concentrate on anguish, insanity, fear hatred, etc., but this may be their reaction against what was perceived as the prettiness and superficiality of the Impressionists.
arnold schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
  • Most important Expressionist composer
  • Most radically innovative composers of the century
  • He evolved a completely new approach to musical harmony, which has had a profound influence on all music written up to the present day.
  • Born in 1874 in Vienna to a poor Orthodox Jewish family.
  • He took violin lessons as a child
  • He began composing around eight years old.
  • His early works continue in the Romantic tradition (The works composed before he was 25).
  • Schoenberg felt that tonality had outlived its usefulness
  • He began to develop a completely new system of musical organization
  • At first he called this system atonality - a system without a key, or tonal center
  • In his atonal works, the feeling of key is avoided by using many chromatic notes
  • He wrote many atonal pieces between 1908 and 1915
  • Atonal music was not well-received.
years after tonality
Years after tonality
  • For the next several years, he wrote no music at all – this period coincided with WWI
  • He was not sure which direction his music should take, atonality freed music from the “straightjacket” of tonality, but it had no organizing principle
  • So far he solved this problem by either making the pieces short or holding the pieces together by a text.
  • He eventually thought of the twelve-tone system.
twelve tone system
Twelve-tone system
  • Outgrowth of atonality, but has a strict unifying principle: the composer uses all the notes in a strict order, which must be followed throughout the piece
  • 12-tone was first used in his Five Piano Pieces of 1923
  • From then on, he used the system in almost all of his compositions.
nazis in power
Nazis in Power
  • When Nazis came to power in 1933, many Jews lost their jobs, including Schoenberg, who was dismissed from his teaching job at the Academy of Arts in Berlin.
  • As a result, he embraced Judaism – many of his works are based on Jewish themes
  • After WWII, he wrote a cantata entitled A Survivor from Warsaw 1947, which relives the horror of the Warsaw ghetto (more than 400,000 Jews were systematically murdered.) This text is based on a personal account by one of the very few survivors.
large scale twelve tone works
Large-scale twelve-tone works
  • After he was fired from his job in Berlin, he moved to the United States (Los Angeles) where he taught composition at the University of California
  • This was the period of his large-scale twelve-tone works. He also wrote 2 “old-fashioned” tonal pieces for student ensembles.
  • Schoenberg died in 1951
  • During his life, his music was not often performed, as most audiences found it difficult and inaccessible.
  • He was, however, highly influential in 2 ways: 1st he was the teacher of Berg and Webern, who both turned out to be great composers in their own right, and 2nd his development of the 12-tone system. This system affected an entire generation of composers after him.
schoenberg s music
Schoenberg’s Music
  • 3 Periods: Early Period, Atonal Period, and 12-tone Period
  • Early 1890-1907- wrote music in a late Romantic idiom – can see an increasing use of chromaticism and a dissolving of a central tonality.
  • Middle 1908-1915 – developed his idea of atonality, but the pieces are either short, or have a text that helps to organize the work.
  • 12-tone 1923 - the end of his life – balanced his revolutionary ideas with traditional forms (uses sonata form or minuet – and – trio form) – he later creates works freer in form
  • Many later composers modeled their careers and musical styles on Schoenberg (For an entire generation composers were required to justify composing music that was not 12- tone. Even if they did not use this system, they had available to them a vocabulary of sounds to enrich their overall language.
  • “Madonna” from PierrotLunaire
  • Composed in 1912 for voice, flute, bass clarinet, viola, cello, piano
  • Sets poems by Albert Giraud
  • Individual movements share the viewpoint of Pierrot, a deeply troubled clown who seems to have a fascination with the mysterious powers of the moon.
  • Expressionist because it reveals the darker side of human nature.
  • Abandons tonality and normal singing style (uses Sprechstimme = speech-song - singer approximates the written pitches, merges singing with speaking)
  • “Madonna” – seems to be inspired by some of the more grotesque figures in cathedrals –lyrics speak of blood, wounds, redness of the eyes.
  • Theme and Sixth Variation from Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31
  • Composed in 1928
  • Employs Schoenberg’s 12- tone method and features a tone row See page 343
  • Used 4 times to make up the theme (in ternary form) 1st section (A) made up of 5 &7 measures – Middle section 5 mm. (B) – Return is 7 mm (in inversion) (A)
  • The accompaniment is also numerically based
  • He uses a large orchestra, but scoring is sparse (like chamber music in texture)