Continuing my study for the month. I have my first comp exam (theory) on April 14th! (Send me some good vibes, please!) And I plan to take a second comp exam in June - so I am double-duty studying! Yay! Actually, I am rather enjoying myself. Going back to the basics, reviewing, and working my way back to and beyond where I am in terms of knowledge is how I like to study. Below is a picture of the books I am reading this month.
(Some of which I have read and studied many times before, so stop judging me for these basic theory books - it's called review, ya'll.)
Of course, all of this is supplemented with score study and listening. Still delving into the 2nd Viennese School oeuvre. Finished my initial study of Berg. Moved to Schoenberg this week (the order of study was based on when the biographies I ordered came in the mail). Please note, the Charles Rosen book on Schoenberg (under Willi Reich's book on Berg) is 100 pages, while the Anton von Webern bio is almost 800. Oh my.
And this week for theory - I need to practice writing fugue expositions again! Gotta go dig out my notes.
In order of appearance:
Alban Berg - Willi Reich
Arnold Schoenberg - Charles Rosen
A Guide to Musical Analysis - Nicholas Cook
Techniques of Twentieth Century Composition - Leon Dallin
Harmony - Walter Piston
Anton von Webern - Hans Moldenhauer
Materials and Techniques of Twentieth-Century Music - Stefan Kostka
Tonal Harmony - Stefan Kostka and Dorothy Payne
Serial Composition and Atonality - George Perle
I'll leave you with three Schoenberg pieces, in which he began to use serial techniques.
5 Pieces for Piano, op. 23 (1920/23) - Considered the first use of serial technique. Without getting into detail, the last movement (the waltz) uses a 12 note motif as the melody, with everything else derived from this "series."
"There is one revolutionary aspect about this piece...except at the beginning [of the waltz], the order of the twelve notes is not a melody, but a quarry for melodies; the melodic line may at times start in the middle of one presentation of the set and continue part of the way into the next...The phrases are broken without regard to the twelve-note set, which has an identifiable shape of its own only the first time it is played."
Serenade, op. 24 (1920-23) -
The fourth movement, a Petrarch Sonnet sung by bass-baritone, uses the 12-tone technique. The singer repeats the same set of pitches throughout the piece, but, since the lines of the Sonnet are 11 syllables long, "each successive verse begins one note earlier." This is the longest piece of the three and probably my favorite. I love the instrumentation (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Mandoline, Guitar, Violin, Viola, Cello), and the quaintness and character of each movement.
Suite for Piano, op. 25 (1921/23) -
This piece is definitely serial. Schoenberg uses one set for the entire piece (6 movements), to unify. You can look up the series and its derivations online. Very symmetrical with the use of the tritone, and references Bach's name in the last 4 notes. Pieces like this are when you go: oh, yeah, genius.
Please note that in each of these three works, Schoenberg adopts musical forms and genres from the past, as a sort of reference point. Definitely not free-form, "anything goes" works. And also not cold, unfeeling pieces. Character abounds! If one studies these three pieces with the "image" (sound-image? there must be a German word for that) of the older forms (Minuet, Gavotte, etc.) in mind, the fact that they are "freely" atonal or serial feels almost inconsequential. In fact, I find that, free from the constraints of the tonic-dominant relationship and the "tyranny of the octave," as Charles Rosen calls it, the character of each movement (dance form, etc.) comes through with a heightened clarity.
(PS - the 5 seconds you have to wait to skip the ad at the beginning is SO worth it - love this recording!)
More Berg - study, study!
As I am writing my own opera (only a 1/2 hour left to complete!), struggling to finish while I daydream about an actual production of the piece, these stories about Berg (all taken from Willi Reich's book Alban Berg) help me to stay focused and hopeful.
In 1922, after completing the score for Wozzeck, Berg attempted to sell copies of the vocal score to make some money. The pages of the score numbered 230 and the cost came to 150,000 Austrian Kronen (20 Swiss Francs). Berg sent one of his pupils out with the statement: "Art looks for Bread," soliciting patrons of the arts to buy a copy.
"The production [of the score] was enormously expensive and I'll never be able to persuade a publisher to pay for it, so I would like to sell a number of them beforehand for my own account."
Self publishing! One of his students said:
"No publisher even thought of publishing the monster; the vocal score was in hot demand only amongst his good friends, and they got it free."
In terms of the experience of opera, particularly Wozzeck, Berg believed that the audience should have no idea of form and structure from hearing the piece, rather they should be swept up into the story:
"From the moment the curtain rises until it descends for the last time, there must not be anyone in the audience who notices anything of these various fugues and inventions, suite movements and sonata movements, variations and passacaglias. Nobody must be filled with anything else except the idea of the opera–which goes far beyond the individual fate of Wozzeck."
Drama, drama, drama!
Would Berg have disagreed with the above pre-concert lecture? Hm, I doubt it. Of Bruckner's music (as well as Mahler and Wagner) he said:
"Even Bruckner–who had been dead some years–was a long way from being 'generally recognized' or 'arrived' as one calls it. Societies had to be founded to bring his work within reach of the world's understanding. These societies considered it their business to make propaganda, as we call it today: introductory lectures, and performances of his symphonies in four-hand reductions...all this was necessary for Bruckner at the time."
Anton Bruckner (1842-1896)
Below is the Wozzeck I am currently listening to - but on LP, yes, a real vinyl recording! Love. Finding a libretto and scene by scene musical analysis is easy online. I think the translation of the German (if you don't speak the language) is especially important to understanding Berg's musical choices. Enjoy!