Arnold Schoenberg

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An artistic impression is substantially the resultant of two components. One what the work of art gives the onlooker — the other, what he is capable of giving to the work of art.

Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg [originally Schönberg] (13 September 187413 July 1951) was an Austrian and later American composer. Many of Schoenberg's works are associated with the expressionist movements in early 20th-century German poetry and art, and he was among the first composers to embrace atonal motivic development.

Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God, Schoenberg in a letter to Alma Mahler, 1914.

Quotes of Schoenberg[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quote

before 1930[edit]

  • An artistic impression is substantially the resultant of two components. One what the work of art gives the onlooker — the other, what he is capable of giving to the work of art.
    • "An Artistic Impression" (1909) in Style and Idea (1985), p. 189
  • Market value is irrelevant to intrinsic value. … Unqualified judgment can at most claim to decide the market-value — a value that can be in inverse proportion to the intrinsic value.
    • "An Artistic Impression" (1909) in Style and Idea (1985), p. 190
  • Although our "gentle air" cannot improve the way hate and envy look, it does seem not to encourage firmness and decision. All is compromise; caution and refinement are everywhere. Everything has to "make a good impression" — whether or not it is any good: the impression is the main thing.
    • "About Music Criticism" (1909), in Style and Idea (1985), p. 196
  • I have just read your book [On the Spiritual in Art] from cover to cover, and I will read it once more. I find it pleasing to an extraordinary degree, because we agree on nearly all of the main issues..
    • In a letter to Wassily Kandinsky, 18 Dec. 1911; as quoted in Schönberg and Kandinsky: An Historic Encounter, by Klaus Kropfinger; edited by Konrad Boehmer; published by Routledge (imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informal company), 2003, p. 15-16 note 49
  • Now we will throw these mediocre kitsch-mongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God.
    • Arnold Schoenberg, in a letter to Alma Mahler, 1914 (after the outbreak of the First World War); as quoted in "Impressions of War" by Philip Clark, The Gramaphone, 4 August 2014
    • Schoenberg's quote regarding: 'the bourgeois tendencies of musical reactionaries such as Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel'
  • There are no more geniuses, only critics.
    • "Those Who Complain about the Decline" (1923), in Style and Idea (1985), p. 203
  • Hauer looks for laws. Good. But he looks for them where he will not find them.
    • "Hauer's Theories" (Notes of 9 May 1923), in Style and Idea (1985), p. 209
  • I find above all that the expression, "atonal music," is most unfortunate — it is on a par with calling flying "the art of not falling," or swimming "the art of not drowning."
    • "Hauer's Theories" (Notes of November 1923), in Style and Idea (1985), p. 210
  • If music is frozen architecture, then the potpourri is frozen coffee-table gossip... Potpourri is the art of adding apples to pears…
    • quote from Glosses on the Theories of Others (1929); also in Style and Idea (1985), p. 313-314

after 1930[edit]

  • My work should be judged as it enters the ears and heads of listeners, not as it is described to the eyes of readers.
    • As quoted in an interview with José Rodriguez (c. 1936) in Schoenberg‎ (1971) by Merle Armitage, p. 143
  • I see the work as a whole first. Then I compose the details. In working out, I always lose something. This cannot be avoided. There is always some loss when we materialize. But there is compensating gain in vitality.
    • As quoted in an interview with José Rodriguez (c. 1936) in Schoenberg‎ (1971) by Merle Armitage, p. 149
  • There is a great Man living in this country — a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.
  • ...if it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art.
    • from New Music, Outmoded Music, Style and Idea (1946); as quoted in Style and Idea (1985), p. 124
  • I believe that he (Strauss) will remain one of the characteristic and outstanding figures in musical history. Works like Salome, Elektra and Intermezzo, and others will not perish.
    • Arnold Schoenberg, (1946); as quoted in A Schoenberg reader - Documents of a life, edited by Joseph Auner, Yale University Press 2003, page 316-17
  • I have never seen faces, but because I have looked people in the eye, only their gazes.
    • As quoted in "The Red Gaze"' in Expressionism (2004) by Norbert Wolf, p. 92
  • My music is not lovely.
    • Quoted by Theodor Adorno in his essay "Art and the Arts", 1966, reproduced in Clausen 2008, 387).
  • My music is not modern, it is merely badly played
    • Genette, Gérard. 1997. Immanence and Transcendence, translated by G. M. Goshgarian. p. 102
  • "My works are 12-tone compositions, not 12-tone compositions
    • Stuckenschmidt, Hans Heinz. 1977, in Schoenberg: His Life, World and Work; translated from the German by Humphrey Searle. p. 349.
  • I was never revolutionary. The only revolutionary in our time was Strauss!"
    • Schoenberg, Arnold. 1975, in Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg. Edited by Leonard Stein, with translations by Leo Black. p. 137
  • I am delighted to add another unplayable work to the repertoire.

Quotes about Schoenberg[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quote

1910 - 1920[edit]

  • Can you imagine a music in which tonality (that is, the adherence to any key) is completely suspended? I was constantly reminded of Kandinsky's large composition which also permits no trace of tonality.. ..and also of Igor Kandinsky's 'jumping spots' in hearing this music [of Schoenberg], which allows each tone sounded to stand on its own (a kind of white canvas between the spots of color). Schoenberg proceeds from the principle that the concepts of consonance and dissonance do not exist at all. A so-called dissonance is only a mere remote consonance – an idea which now occupies me constantly while painting.. - note 6
    • Franz Marc, in a letter of 14 Jan. 1911 to August Macke; as quoted in Schönberg and Kandinsky: An Historic Encounter, by Klaus Kropfinger; edited by Konrad Boehmer; published by Routledge (imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informal company), 2003, p. 10 - note 6
    • written, shortly after Franz Marc visited a concert of Schoenberg's music on 11 Jan. 1911 with Franz Marc, Alexej von Jawlensky, Gabriele Münter and others - they played there compositions, Schoenberg wrote in 1907 and 1909: his second string quartet and the 'Three piano pieces'
  • In your works, you have realized what I, albeit in uncertain form, have so greatly longed for in music. The independent progress through their own destinies, the independent life of the individual voices in your compositions, is exactly what I am trying to find in my painting.
    • Wassily Kandinsky, in a letter to Arnold Schoenberg, 18 Jan. 1911; as quoted in Schonberg and Kandinsky: An Historic Encounter, by Klaus Kropfinger; edited by Konrad Boehmer; published by Routledge (imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informal company), 2003, p. 9
  • At the moment there is a great tendency in painting to discover the 'new' harmony by constructive means whereby the rhythmic is built on an almost geometric form.. .I am certain that our own modern harmony is not to be found in the 'geometric' way, but rather in the anti-geometric, anti-logical way. And this way is that of 'dissonance in art', in painting, therefore, just as much as in music. And 'today's' dissonance in painting and music is merely the consonance of 'tomorrow'.
    • Wassily Kandinsky, in a letter to Arnold Schoenberg, 18 Jan. 1911; as quoted in Schonberg and Kandinsky: An Historic Encounter, by Klaus Kropfinger; edited by Konrad Boehmer; published by Routledge (imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informal company), 2003, p. 9
  • [Schonberg's] music leads us into a realm where musical experience is a matter not of the ear but of the soul alone, and at this point the music of the future begins.
    • Wassily Kandinsky, 1911; in Concerning the Spiritual in Art, transl. Michael T. Sadler (1914); reprint. New York: Dover, 1977), p. 17
  • Richard Strauss on Schoenberg, written by Schoenberg himself: "Dear Sir, I regret that I am unable to accept your invitation to write something for Richard Strauss's fiftieth birthday. In a letter to Frau Mahler (in connection with Mahler Memorial Fund) Herr Strauss wrote about me as follows: 'The only person who can help poor Schoenberg now is a psychiatrist ...". "I think he'd do better to shovel snow instead of scribbling on music-paper...'
    • Schoenberg, in a letter to an unknown correspondent, Berlin, 22 April 1914.
    • It is in fact not clear whether Strauss really wrote this. Alma Mahler was a highly unreliable source when it came to what Strauss wrote in letters to her. Strauss was always highly supportive to Schoenberg, even though their musical philosophies were so different.

1920 and later[edit]

  • A regular Friday audience, 90 percent feminine and 100 percent well-bred, sat stoically yesterday through thirty minutes of the most cacophonous world premiere ever heard here - the first performance anywhere of a new Violin Concerto by Arnold Schoenberg. Yesterday's piece combines the best sound effects of a hen yard at feeding time, a brisk morning in Chinatown and practice hour at a busy music conservatory. The effect on the vast majority of hearers is that of a lecture on the fourth dimension delivered in Chinese.
    • Anonymous reviewer, Philadelphia Record (1940), as quoted in Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time (1965) by Nicolas Slonimsky, p. 163
  • In fact, the influence of Schoenberg may be overwhelming on his followers, but the significance of his art is to be identified with influences of a more subtle kind - not the system, but the aesthetic, of his art. I am quite conscious of the fact that my Chansons madécasses are in no way Schoenbergian, but I do not know whether I ever should have been able to write them had Schoenberg never written.
    • Maurice Ravel; as quoted by Orenstein, Arbie. 1975. Ravel: Man and Musician. p. 126

External links[edit]

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