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!)
I began studying Schoenberg's vocal music a couple of days ago (again, for a comprehensive exam). Along with lots of listening, score study, and poring over journal articles, I have been reading Charles Rosen's slim volume, Arnold Schoenberg. Here are a few interesting tidbits and insights into one of the most revered and reviled figures of 20th century music composition.
Of the string sextet, Verklaerte Nacht, a contemporary of Schoenberg said:
"It sounds as if someone had smeared the score of Tristan while it was still wet."
How about this Richard Strauss v. Schoenberg action:
"Only a psychiatrist can help poor Schoenberg now...He would do better to shovel snow instead of scribbling on music paper."
Schoenberg on the occasion of Strauss' 50th birthday: "He is no longer of the slightest artistic interest to me, and whatever I may once have learned from him, I am thankful to say I misunderstood."
Another Strauss TidbiT from Charles Rosen:
"Strauss is known to have been disconcerted
[haha- good one, Charles] by the growing virtuosity of modern orchestras and their ability to give an unfortunate clarity to passages written to sound as a sweeping and harmonious blur."
Reminds me of some of the chorales from Bach's St. Matthew Passion, which would have sounded more dissonant in his tuning system.
by Charles Rosen
"A dissonance is any musical sound that must be resolved; a consonance is a musical sound that needs to no resolution."
"If dissonance is understood as that which demands resolution (and this definition must be maintained if
the expressive role of dissonance in the language of musical representation is to be understood), if it has meaning only as part of an opposition consonance-dissonance, then the elimination of consonance, of resolution, destroys the basis for expression, makes dissonance itself meaningless. The powerful emotional force of Schoenberg's music would then be intelligible only against an inherited background of traditional harmony, and would itself be an incoherent system, dependent on a musical culture it was intent on destroying."
Oh, the irony.