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Schoenberg

Schoenberg

Schoenberg’s piece about Pierrot playing viola seems to fit well. The poem is comical almost, we were laughing about it in class, but it also seems to be about someone who is paranoid, and the music sounds paranoid. Pierrot ends by “playing the bow,” (Giraud) “on Cassander’s pate,’’ (Giraud), when he was perhaps self-conscious about his “oversized bow for his viola,” (Giraud). The music sounds self-conscious. The music does not sound comical though, except for maybe the faces the singer makes, which are a bit weird.

The piece about Pierrot and the moon is also comical, as we laughed about it too in class, because it is about a man who does not know that “the light on his… coat,” (Giraud) is not “plaster,” (Giraud, conversation in class for what the poem was about). Someone like this is paranoid, and the music conveys this feeling of paranoia like the other piece.

Overall, Schoenberg seemed to accurately portray the paranoid Pierrot in the poems. The paranoia in the music seems to be accurate of how Pierrot is self conscious.

I remember when we listened to one of the pieces in class, the cellist “plucks some of the strings” (Giraud, in class talk about pizzicato, the YouTube video of the poem) instead of using the bow, which made me laugh. 

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg

Schoenberg’s music reminded me a lot about the practice of free writing/drawing and works such as Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, both by James Joyce. Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912) has strong atonality through out, making it often hard for listeners to appreciate or understand the composer’s intentions in creating the music work. The strange tonality of the composition removes any apparent structure and orientation, rejecting harmonic rules emphasizing the free use of dissonance. This formless impression resembles the impression of Joyce’s work, where the sentences and words do not necessarily make sense as a whole. Reading Albert Giraud’s original text of Pierrot Lunaire, the impression it creates compared to the musical ‘translation’ is vastly different. Giraud’s Moonfleck and Serenade suggest rather comical and light tones, whereas the dissonance that is prevalent in Schoenberg’s version is much more heavy and dark, even ‘perilous’. While it does appear to be rather disconnected from the original textual form, I would consider his work to be expressionist, because art is subjective and Schoenberg’s own expression of emotion through his version of the two poems. His use of atonality acts as the freedom which he uses explores the deeper aspects of emotions and to break boundaries of what music should sound like and how it should be portrayed.

 

Arnold Schoenberg- Pierrot Lunaire

Arnold Schoenberg- Pierrot Lunaire

Music, for the longest time, much like visual art, was determined on its quality by whether or not all of the imposed rules were followed. However, Arnold Schoenberg came along and completely ignored those rules, despite following them in the past. Even though there have been many artists before Schoenberg that have included dissonance (for example, between the strings and woodwinds in the development of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor), Schoenberg created the ultimate amount of dissonance by creating notes that never seem to resolve. In fact, they almost seem as if the notes were simply strewn everywhere. He intentionally creates this constant dissonance in order to create a reaction from his audience. I would not necessarily go to say that he is an expressionist, as none of his work appears to portray his mood or inner voices.

As for Pierrot Lunaire, the text and the music do not truly connect. When reading the poems, a giggle is elicited, a feeling of amusement bubbling up. On the surface the text is about a silly clown, and that is all it may be. However, Schoenberg takes it a step further and composes pieces to accompany the text that make it sound like Pierrot is not all quite mentally there. It makes the audience feel a great amount of discomfort, not only with the music itself, but the disparity between the music and text.

A possible reason that people might have been behind Schoenberg is because, unlike other art forms, there does not have to be a meaning behind the composition. It is the purest form of art. Therefore, even if the music is very unpleasing to the ear, it is still music, and does not need an excuse for why it was written like that.

Schoenburg

Schoenburg

Schoenberg’s music challenges the qualities of classical music, just as Duchamp challenged the qualifications of  what is to be considered arts in general, or as Hugo Ball challenged the qualification of using real words to create beautiful poetry in, Karawane. All of these challenges initially received negative responses and harsh critiques, but now we are able to look deeper into their intentions. Essentially, I think that  all of these iconic artists challenged values of all forms to assert that there isn’t a wrong way to express one’s creativity or inner being and there isn’t a wrong part of inner being to express. In Schoenberg’s case in his pieces Serenade and The Moonfleck, I believe he was expressing  creativity with his atonality and Sprechstimme, but I don’t believe these pieces place him under the Expressionism category. The pieces were modeled after Pierrot Lunaire poems so they weren’t expressing Schoenberg’s personal feeling or inner being.  In Albright’s, Putting Modernism Together states expressionism is supposed to “express the inner workings of the mind”  and since these pieces are partially another artist’s work, I think that it is impossible for them to achieve that  individual deep level of expression.

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg

Although extremely different sounding from most other “classical” expressions of music, these works make a lot of sense in terms of examining them through a expressionist lens. Most modern pieces of art were met with a negative reaction, in the same way the reviews of these works were largely negative, although the second review was able to recognize the overall intention of the works. Like other expressionist works, these two works use the power of sound (rather than visual art) to make a point about the human experience as a whole. I’m particularly reminded of the work “The Scream.” Both “The Scream” as well as these two works express the brutality of human existence, however, one is just expressed through a tonal music. The digression from the more typical appealing works marks a belief in the degradation of human society, and it expressed musically.

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg

The proliferation of music, especially of Western Classical, has always been contingent on it’s ability to remain with in a set of complex strictures. The rules of Classical music are many, ranging from the maintenance of common tones in the common practice style to the often complex avoidance of harmonic parallelism. “Good” Classical music–that is, music deemed “good” by the Western bourgeois–has traditionally been music that obeys the elaborate musical code of laws. For the most part, these rules are blindly followed because they are the guiding force for perfectly tonal music. However, it is not until composers like Arnold Schoenberg hit the scene that the entire law-abiding musical institution seems to collapse into a heap of nonsense statutes and ordinances, falling back on collective horror as a method for combating such “anarchy” (Huneker, handout). Though considered a lawless wild man of the musical frontier, Schoenberg simply chose to write and experience music sans convention, which is arguably a more enlightening way to participate in artful noisemaking. Atonality, in this way, is incredibly ideal, as it allows composers and audiences alike to experience the raw capabilities of music in ways that seem to evoke primal, visceral responses. The rules of Western Classical, from this perspective, are suffocating, limiting, and rather conservative. By introducing and semi-popularizing atonality and pantonality (at least making them known), composers like Schoenberg take music back to it’s intense, and at times violent, roots. Whether or not this type of music can be consumed by the general, Western-centric public does not discredit it’s power and revolutionary sound.

Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912)

Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912)

Albert Schoenberg’s musical score of Pierrot Lunaire executes music in a completely different way than other expressionist artists at the time. Compared to “impressionist” Claude Debussy, who although composed music made of dissonant and unexpected pitches managed to create sounds that are pleasing to the ear, Schoenberg abandons all notions of tonality in his atonal scores, and instead creates music that many find hard to listen to let alone understand. Debussy played with form and conventional harmonies, creating music that failed to completely resolve, however Schoenberg’s music has no structure, harmony, or tone that unites the music into a composed work. Franz Kafka, who was unintentionally affiliated with the expressionists due to themes of extreme states of feeling, wrote literature that has been described as “dissonant” in its disillusion with the physical world and its skepticism in the expression of extreme emotion. One can see similar themes in Schoenberg’s dissonant music, which rejects the emotion expressed through Giraud’s texts from which it is based. While Giraud’s poetry describes humorous situations of Pierrot the clown and mocks his misfortune, Schoenberg’s musical score feels increasingly over-exaggerated and sounds almost frightening to the ear. Schoenberg’s disregard to the emotion previously expressed in the text shows his rejection of artistic conventions and seeks to express emotion in its rawest, most unhinged form. In this sense, Schoenberg can be described as “expressionist” in his compositions because his music expresses the raw inner angst of art and focuses more on the expression shown through the way the music sounds over how pleasing it is. Atonality probably appealed to many composers like Schoenberg because it allowed them to experiment more with emotional states and inner expression over having to appeal to a mass audience, and in a sense atonality seems to free music and make it more about the individual than the audience to which it serves.

“A Red Stamp” by Gertrude Stein

“A Red Stamp” by Gertrude Stein

After reading a lot of Gertrude’s poems, I found a connection between all of them that they are very nonsensical. Each poem of his doesn’t necessarily rhyme or have reason to it. The poem I chose was A Red Stamp and it follows these same guidelines. There is no rhyming and the scheme of sentences seem to be unrelated. The poem and the title also have absolutely nothing in common and this seems to be on purpose. The sentences don’t make since together and have no underlying meaning or message. This seems a lot like a Dada style poem. It is very interesting to me how Gertrude made so many poems like this and they became well known. I know what he was going for is for them to have no interpretation but I’m used to poems that rhyme and have a story or message to tell. This is the first poem of its type that I’ve ever read before and I’m conflicted on whether I like it or not. I can see why it got so well known, for being so controversial.

T.S. Eliot, Rhapsody on a Windy Night (Page 15)

T.S. Eliot, Rhapsody on a Windy Night (Page 15)

“Twelve o’clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.”

My first response to this poem was to re-read the first stanza several times because I was struck by how beautiful the language is. The beautiful prose that Eliot uses in this poem is such that even for a reader with no context or previous knowledge of the poem (I didn’t) it is still easy to take something from. While the meaning and themes of the poem are complex and wholly enjoyable, so too is the pleasure received from reading the gorgeous language. The first stanza of the poem is my favorite – I have distinct times I can relate to Eliot, walking down the street watching the moon and street lamps and letting your mind flow between the past, present and future. My favorite lines in the poem, based simply on the language, are
“Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory”

This is one of my favorite of Eliot’s poems that I have read, and I was instantly captured by the sounds of the words and flow of the writing.

Gertude Stein – A piece of coffee.

Gertude Stein – A piece of coffee.

Stein writes about one of those everyday moments many people enjoy. Coffee time. Through the use of stream of consciousness, Gertrude Stein portrays what many people consider to be an everyday moment and transforms it into a complex portrait. Complexity that reflects a desire to take meaning out of something many people do not even think of. After reading this, it gives you a feeling that can only be described as pleasurable. It forces the reader to be in the present moment, to feel the moment, and ultimately to disregard the past and the future to take meaning out of the present. To take meaning out of what might be normally considered trite.

What really catches an eye in “piece of coffee” is how the author systematically describes the moment of coffee time. The imagery it projected goes from the moment in the morning when it is time to drink the coffee, until it is time to clean up. In the process, the author forces remembrance, and actually gets meaning out of something trivial. When she talks about cleaning up, she begins by saying that she would use soap and silk to take care of the yellow coffee stains of coffee. Then she says that these actually look pretty and shape “very nicely”. This might give us the impression that the coffee stains signify how people do not live in the present, but actually tend to live in the past and future most of the time. That is why these stains will remain there after that trite moment is long gone and lost in time.

All in all, piece of coffee, can be described as a call of attention to the audience. Furthermore, the point she is trying to make is that as society evolves and becomes more “modern”, people just seem to be more focused on the past and future rather than on living the present moment.