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Happy 142nd birthday to theorist, painter and composer Arnold Schoenberg!

Happy 142nd birthday to theorist, painter and composer Arnold Schoenberg! Today Philosophical Library is honoring Arnold Schoenberg for his contributions to art, poetry and music. Born on September 13, 1874 in Vienna, Arnold was raised in a Jewish, lower middle-class household. His musical education was mostly acquired through self-teaching, though he did receive some formal lessons. By the time he was in his twenties, Arnold was able to earn money orchestrating operettas while simultaneously working on his own pieces such as “Transfigured Night” which, later, would become one of his well-known compositions. He soon caught the attention of two respectable composers of his time, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, the latter of whom took Arnold under his wing to guide and support his talents.

“If it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art.” – Arnold Schoenberg

In the years that followed, Arnold married and had two children while continuing to compose musical pieces.  Some of his most revolutionary works came about during the separation from his wife who had left him for a painter. During this period of turmoil, a shift occurred in his work. There was a noticeable change in the tone of his pieces as seen in “You Lean Against a Silver-Willow”.

“I never was very capable of expressing my feelings or emotions in words. I don’t know whether this is the cause why I did it in music and also why I did it in painting. Or vice versa: That I had this way as an outlet. I could renounce expressing something in words.” – Arnold Schoenberg

More turbulence came about during WWI when a forty-two year old Arnold Schoenberg found himself in the army. During this time, he attempted to compose music though left many pieces incomplete. With the requirements of his duties and frequent interruptions, he found it unmanageable to fully create.

“Composing is a slowed-down improvisation; often one cannot write fast enough to keep up with the stream of ideas.” – Arnold Schoenberg

By 1918, he founded the Society for Private Musical Performances where modern musical pieces could be rehearsed and performed without societal pressures. Over the course of its existence, the society helped composers showcase three-hundred fifty-three performances, though financial hardships forced a closure on this chapter. Still, Arnold went on to create many notable compositions and became influential among fellow composers as well as to his students.

“Music is only understood when one goes away singing it and only loved when one falls asleep with it in one’s head, and finds it still there on waking up the next morning.” – Arnold Schoenberg

Upon the emergence of the Nazi regime, Schoenberg, who was vacationing in France, was warned against returning to Germany. Due to this, he packed up his family and relocated to the United States where he took up a teaching position at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. He later moved and taught at universities in California, both of which named a music building in his honor. He continued to teach and mingle with fellow composers and eventually came to live quite comfortably until his death in 1951.

“I have never seen faces, but because I have looked people in the eye, only their gazes.” – Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg created quite the repertoire over the course of his lifetime. Along with the influential and notable pieces he composed, he also developed a series of essays which have been compiled into a book titled Style and Idea. Within these pages, composer meets author as Schoenberg addresses new and outdated music, twelve tone compositions, and entertaining through composing. He goes further to speak about the relationship to the text as well as the relationship between the heart and mind in music. For anyone who is a fan of the talents of Arnold Schoenberg, Style and Idea is sure to be an influential read and a telling look into the mind of the man behind the music.

“You cannot expect the Form before the Idea, for they will come into being together.” – Arnold Schoenberg

 

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