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Arnold Schoenberg’s Music

Arnold Schoenberg was one of the greatest musical influences of the mid 20th Century. He was born on September 13, 1874, to a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria (Schoenberg 1). Schoenberg was a young Jewish man during World War I (WWI) living in Berlin. He was directly affected by the invasion of the Nazis. In 1933, he had to leave Berlin and desert his faith for Lutheranism later on taking on the faith of Judaism. At the early age of eight, he began violin lessons and almost immediately started composing music (Schoenberg 1).

He was self-taught until the age of 10 when he began formal training (Schoenberg 1). He earned a living by orchestrating operettas, directing a cabaret orchestra, and teaching. Schoenberg influenced the music and art of the western culture in numerous ways. Some of the most successful composers were his students. These students were molded by Schoenberg and directly absorbed his knowledge and style. Schoenberg created different rhythms and tunes that were passed along to his students and other composers.

He was able to catch the attention of a multitude through his writings, music, paintings, and post cards. This variety of talent gathered a larger audience and catered to their needs. Being that Schoenberg often traveled and taught at his destination, he was well known throughout the world and influenced many. Schoenberg taught over thousands of students within a fifty-year period including Austrian composers Anton Webern and Alban Berg (Bailey 2). Schoenberg did not view teaching as a job but rather as an inspirational motivation tool.

He said: I must confess that I was a passionate teacher, and the satisfaction of giving to beginners as much as possible of my own knowledge was probably a greater reward that the actual fee I received (Simms 1). His passion was passed down to his students encouraging a musical revolution. The more he taught, the more lives he influenced. Students serve as a great preservation of history and culture. They take what they have learned, add their style to it, and it starts the domino effect from there. It is obvious that Schoenberg regarded teaching as more than a job but a way to influence and enhance culture.

He felt that he didnt gain from what he was taught unless he had already discovered it. Schoenberg created a twelve-tone method and many rhythms and tunes. These creations could possibly be used in the modern music that we hear today. A pioneer is a natural influence on a culture, especially when you have students to pass it on to. In 1920, Schoenberg formulated his twelve-tone technique which can be heard in his one-movement Piano Concerto. One of the warmest and richest harmonies Schoenberg created was The Chamber Symphony No. 2 (1939) which had late Romanticism harmonies with neo-classic spirit (Schoenberg 1).

Through Schoenberg and his students, the twelve-tone method became a dominating force in the mid 20th century composition and strongly influenced the course of western music. Schoenberg made a radical break in music with his un-orthodox pitch combinations and his unique rhythms. Schoenberg stated: Whether one calls oneself conservative or revolutionary, whether one composes in a conventional or progressive manner, whether one tries to imitate old styles or is destined to express new ideas-one must be convinced of the infallibility of ones own fantasy and one must believe in ones own inspiration.

The desire for a conscious control of the new means and forms will arise in every artists mind; and he will wish to follow consciously the laws and rules that govern the forms he has conceived as in a dream (Norton 1). Schoenberg was not only a musician but also a writer and painter. This variety of talent allowed him to construct a larger audience. As a musician he only reached those who loved music. With his other talents he was able to attract art lovers and readers. This allows various vehicles of passing on his tradition and culture.

He expressed himself in many ways through his self -portrait paintings, postcards, impressions and fantasies. He started writing and composing in a beautiful twelve-tone musical language unlike any other. The twelve-tone is where all 12 pitches on a scale are utilized however, they are all treated equally (Schoenberg 1). No note is more important than any other. Schoenberg output demonstrates constant change and growth in musical style and technique. Schoenberg loved paintings and music. When Schoenberg painted he expressed himself with the Expressionist styles of paintings.

The Expressionist style is where the artist focuses on personal subjective feelings (Norton 1). His music was freely blended with a variety of musical tones. His paintings were reflections of things that were happening in his life. For instance, the tragic death of his painting teacher may have encouraged his works to be lifeless. Schoenberg admitted that he only looks one in the eye so further detail is not noted therefore, his paintings become worse and worse (Journal IX1). His self-portraits begin as pictures but end up like sketches for this reason.

The War and the havoc of the Nazi party encouraged him to write the Ode to Napoleon. Schoenberg was deeply inspired by World War I (WWI); he felt the daily effects of the War. Schoenberg was a well-known composer and still had to flee Europe during the Nazi Terror. Schoenbergs War Clouds Diary describes cloud formations and their effect on the outcome of battles during the first months of WWI (Journal IX1). However, some of his most re-known works were done during the periods when he was teaching. In 1911, after accepting a teaching position in Berlin he composed one of his most influential works Pierrot Lunaire(Schoenberg 1).

Schoenberg possessed his audience by using a variety of works to catch their attention. The devastation of Hitlers Nationalist Social party caused many to flee persecution because they refused to become restrained. However, such a catastrophe encouraged artist such as Schonberg to expose the opposition and cultural decay that occurred through their work with a mission of influencing the western culture. Arnold Schoenberg was not only a great radical European composer of his time, but he was also a great writer and painter.

He greatly influenced the western culture through 50 years of dedicated teaching, providing a variety of talent, and by traveling. Even the music that we listen to today such as Top 40, Swing, Heavy Metal, Country, and Broadway are based on the concepts of temperament and tonality defined by Schoenberg. He created a twelve-tone method and many wonderful rhythms and tunes. His greatest joy in life was to teach. He wanted to influence students to take chances and to have their own musical styles. He was never afraid to show his own styles and expressions to the world.

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