Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire: 18, composed in 1912, reflects many of the avant-garde tenets of the Abstractionist and Expressionist movements flourishing simultaneously. Pierrot Lunaire operated around Schoenberg’s Sprechstimme, a method in which lyrics were not intended to be sung but through different pitches assume a speech-melody. This approach was inspired by Schoenberg’s dedication to defying conventional norms around the art world (such as melody, tonality, etc.) that he posited disguised an essential truth through surface-level representation. In considering the visual works of Kandinsky or poetic works by Gertrude Steins, we can see similar strains of prioritizing the raw art-form, whether through language or paint, rather than the mediums representative potential. Kandinsky explicates this intention with the belief that “every work comes into being in the same way as the cosmos-by means of catastrophes, which ultimately create out of the cacophony of the various instruments that symphony we call the music spheres.” While Kandinsky was figuratively applying a musical vocabulary to art in the aggregate, Schoenberg’s atonal works that deliberately defied all orthodox standards in order to depict a reality that transcended the material world.
In considering the relationship between Schoenberg’s composition and Giraud’s poetry from which it was inspired, there initially seems to be very little in common. Whereas Giraud’s Moonfleck and Serenade both maintain a somewhat absurdist comical timbre as they tell stories of fumbling men, when set to Schoenberg’s score these works postured towards a more somber and dramatic story. In part, this may be that without speaking German I was more engaged with Schoenberg’s music than the Sprechstimme lyrics. Nevertheless, I believe this disconnect is consistent with the tenets of expressionism that relies on a notion of raw communication independent from the material boundaries of language and representational structures. As such, it stands to reason that Schoenberg is classified within the Expressionist movements given that no historical classification enjoys perfect consistency. Schoenberg’s rigid series of irregular rules used to shatter the popular music principles perhaps makes him hypocritical for denouncing tonal and melodic rules. Why is that his set of rules were more conducive to communicating divine psychic states than those which he replaced? His challenging of the popular music world expressed a desire to transform the status quo however the outlandish and difficult experience of hearing his works coupled with its exclusive accessibility poses questions regarding Schoenberg’s ultimate agenda as well as what drove his followers’ support.
 Wasily Kandinsky quoted in Daniel Albright, “Abstractionism,” in Putting Modernism Together: Literature, Music, and Painting 1872-1927, 130.