The Second Viennese School (III)

Schoenberg and Serialism:

In this post I have tried to interpret what I read about Shoenberg’s music in a very critical phase of his lifetime which actually was a start point to his pioneering steps towards The New Music:

Heading: Expressionist Works, Serial and Tonal Works 1920-36

Serialism, as a method of composition, required Schoenberg to look for a solution that enabled him keeping the stability and unity of his music. For “Developmental variation”, which is actually concerned with transformation of motives and intentionally avoids shaping the phrases brings a sense of instability that can result in a piece with fragments fallen apart from each other. However transformation of musical ideas are not always perceptible by ear easily. It is worth mentioning that Schoenberg chose this strategy intentionally. What Schoenberg did was actually a Neo-Classical approach to formal structure, as well as creating in coherence in terms of rhythmic figurations. Concerning form, he modeled Bach and Mozart, whom he mentioned as his first place teachers. As example, in his Wind Quintet, the first movement is a sonata and the last one a rondo. Schoenberg’s approach to rhythm in serialism was actually planing some thematic figurations and applying transformation so skillfully that it would not disturb their identity throughout the piece, although evolving them. This brings a gradual textural complexity at the same time.


The Second Viennese School (II)


Heading: Arnold Schoenberg, Subheading: 6. Expressionist Works


     “Around 1908, a new season started in Schoenberg’s professional life. Mathilde’s (his wife) betrayal was actually one of the most influential incidences of Schoenberg’s life and this emotional crisis was reflected both in his music and paintings. Apparently, cordiality between Schoenberg and Kandinsky, as one of the forerunners of expressionist movement, was an encouraging element for Schoenberg to start painting. It is also worth considering, that Kandinsky was a prominent characters in the field of visual arts, who played an important role in building the relations between visual arts and music in the expressionist movement. Therefore, I would state that Schoenberg’s paintings and music moved in parallel towards expressionism and either of these mediums inspired the other, which resulted in an impressive maturity especially in his music later on.”

 My Comment:

     Broad usage of dissonances, delay in their resolution, lessening the use of structural harmony and eventually abandoning the tonality can be considered as different levels of moving towards expressionist music. Actually tonal music, with its conventional and logical criteria was not a proper was not anymore the proper field of expression for feelings such as fear, confusion, missing, feeling lost and unprotected. Simultaneously considerable changes started to be applied to textures, dynamics, and instead of balanced classical phrases and periods, motives started to became the composers’ centre of attention; Anton Webern’s works are brilliant examples for motivic and fragmental writing)




  1. What does “the strange note of resignation” mean in the following paragraph?
  2. Does the problem (or let’s say issue!) stated in sentence indicated by asterisks all the works written in this style?


“Early in 1909 Schoenberg composed the first two piano pieces of op.11, before completing Das Buch der hängenden Gärten. The Fünf Orchesterstücke op.16 and the third piece of op.11 followed in the summer. The strange note of resignation that had sounded through the song cycle is still heard in op.11 nos.1 and 2 and op.16 no.2, but the unfamiliar territory of the new style now takes in the explosive turmoil of op.16 nos.1 and 4 and op.11 no.3, and the unique calm of op.16 no.3. Formal expansion does not accompany the extension of expressive range: as Schoenberg later observed, brevity and intensity of expression are interdependent in these pieces. **The disintegration of functional harmony appeared at the time to have destroyed the conditions for large-scale form.** But other features with roots in traditional practice, in particular fixed points of reference of various kinds (some of them reminiscent of tonality) and thematic or motivic development, survived to assume not only greater responsibility but new guises. These made possible swifter transformations and more abrupt contrasts than music had hitherto known. Moreover dissonance’s new independence permitted, at least in an orchestral context, unprecedented simultaneous contrasts. It is not only novelty of expression in itself but the power to bring seemingly irreconcilable elements into relation that gives the music its visionary quality, far beyond that of the painted ‘visions’.”

The Second Viennese School (I)

Well, as mentioned in the title, I’m working on the Second Viennese School throughout this course, which is actually a huge subject. The main reason why is that it deals not only dependent to musical concepts and incidences, but also to very crucial and deep historical, psychological, sociological incidences, as well as reading something about visual arts. So I need cover different sources in order to be able to build relations among the subjects I mentioned above. These are the paragraphs attracted my attention which might look sporadic in terms of subjects, but what I’m actually trying to reach eventually is a kind of coherence among what I have already read and will read, along with my interpretations.

– Dahlhaus, Carl, “Schoenberg and The New Music”, Heading: “Tonality: Structure or Process?”, Page 63

“The fact that establishment and justification of regulated tonal relations attracts an intense interest is thus  perfectly understandable in the light of the disintegration of general structural models. At the same time, however, it is problematical inasmuch as the idea that the parameters of pitch, duration, dynamics and tone color should be equal in principle is a legacy of the 1950s which cannot simply be discarded.  A development aimed at restoring the compositional thinking the traditional hierarchy of sound qualities, that is to say, the primacy of pitch or tone quality, and to a lesser extent duration, would represent a profound change, all the more so because the hierarchy of sound qualities, even though it may appear to be a self-evident fact, has really always been problematical. The idea that dynamics and tone color are only peripheral parameters – not constitutive but merely supportive ones – was a premiss of compositional technique for hundreds of years, a premiss which reflected strikingly in notation but which scarcely had anything to do with the way music was perceived. The aesthetics of production and of reception, to use the currently fashionable vocabulary, not infrequently went different ways. And in a certain sense the abolition of the difference between the central and peripheral sound qualities has meant that a psychological state of affairs which had always existed has been translated into a compositional procedure a change which initially made it seem as though everything had been turned upside down.”

 – Vogt, Paul, Oxford Art Online, Heading: Expressionism,

“The artists of Die Brücke exemplified certain qualities that came to characterize Expressionism as a whole. Henceforth, the extent of an artist’s heightened emotional involvement was seen as an important element in determining the status and quality of the work of art. The role of the artist in society was also altered. Expressionist artists considered themselves to be both provocative and esoteric. They not only demanded publicity, asking others to join together under the revolutionary banner, but also espoused elitist principles, as expressed in the quotation ‘odi profanum vulgus’ used by Kirchner in Chronik der Künstlergemeinschaft Brücke (Berlin, 1913). This double role formed part of the Expressionist artist’s image as a ‘wild’ person, a destroyer of traditional values. In future the public became used to seeing the artist no longer as a sacred guardian of traditions but rather as a prophet, who ruthlessly broke social conventions.”

  • My comments and points of view:

While reading different sources, and sometimes even jumping from one to the another, the two paragraphs quoted above, as well as the general background information I had about expressionism, gave me the idea that deconstruction was one of the most significances of this movement. The dark and depressed Europe, after the World War I, which was a scene of brutality and breaking humanistic values, resulted in an extreme social reactions and change in psychology, philosophy, sociology and art. Artists were also authorized to break the traditions lasted since centuries ago in order to express their feelings and impressions from what they experience in their lives. Now they were the ones ruling the artwork according to their individual interpretation, so that in the field of visual arts, artists started using different tools and mediums, even the outdated ones, to achieve their desired quality in the works. In music the tonal center was eliminated, so that it would give the sense of being lost and unstable in the wild world. The importance of musical elements, such as pitch, texture, structure, dynamics and duration was equalized in order to symbolize the new values emerged recently in that time. I assume there might be a relation between the abolishment of the hierarchy of tonal degrees and weakening the social classes caused by socialistic ideas which were becoming more and more prominent during that time in Europe. There might be a relation with this concept and “the idea of Deconstruction” about which I am going to read and write in the near future.

Film Music (III) – Computer based composition for movie

Many times lack of economic situations, movie companies prefer computer based film scoring. What is computer based film scoring? It is basically computer aided performance of a composition by virtual instruments. Composer works with his electronic equipment  after he got information on the movie and its subject. He thinks about his musical theme and other subordinate melodies etc. Thanks to the musical software -programs like Cubase, Logic, Reason, Nuendo, Sonar, Pro tools, etc.- not only film scorers, but also other musicians who are interested in popular music, jazz etc. can use software for composing, recording and producing. Musical software simulates all kinds of instruments, atmosphere and effect. Though it is not easy to use.

Fundamental material of computer based music is “MIDI”, Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It enables a wide variety of digital musical instruments, computers and other related devices to connect to and communicate with each other. The working principle is based on numerical information. When you play the note A on midi devices, it is transformed by a code protocol, through which PC defines this action as the note A, and it can be heard as A from the PC. This system is similar with the functioning of an electronic piano. The difference is that midi device’s main duty is to send messages to other devices like PC or sound module. However, electric piano’s duty is not sending messages to another device -except its MIDI connection is not used- but just transmit data within itself.

Computer based composition: Composers need to have PC, a sound card, midi devices, compressors, microphones, sounding cabins, headphones, software, virtual instruments, mixers and effective modules. The most important part of computer based music is technological knowledge and strong control of materials. In order to use this system these are only the material fundamentals at the start: Good listening and experience is required for mixing and mastering.

When composers work with computer, their movie appears on their screens and they can easily put their music on that frame.  How it works? Composer starts his software and video can be imported in software. The next step is starting composition whit virtual instruments. The difficult part is arranging simulations. Virtual instruments cannot provide all the effects of instrument, so that musicians have to setup voices separately. For example: the beginning of the work composer want to use portamento strings, he has to arrange the sounds effect and equalizing module.

Computer based music not only based on Orchestral instruments but also Synthesizers, effect instruments or percussion  This division is decided by movie crew and musician. Of course these effective instruments and orchestral instruments can be used together. In addition, real instrumental composition can be mixed by virtual instruments and synts. However it is not duty of composers, this technique is used by sound designers.

Composition method is not different from the real perform. Many time it is very easy to compose than traditional one that’s why, composer can easily listen and change all work at the same time he compose. The difficulties are he has to interest all parts of piece in musical and performance way. When he compose with computer, he has to be composer, flutist, violinist, horn player and etc. he has to pay attention every way of performing.

Next: Creating impact on Scenes.

Film Music (II) – The effect of music in movies

Everybody knows that, almost all movies have music for strengthen the feelings. The composers do not pay attention to their works in formal way. It means, they compose their music for frame. The major issue is the increasing emotions, because, audience don’t expect musical master pieces. It is an ancient, and very pervasive, idea that music expresses emotion.

Composers have been working very hard to create expressive and pure pieces. For instance:  composition should not upon the movie, it should be remembered that the major work is movie.

Many critics claimed that, soundtracks are not respectable. They are simple and meaningless.  They claimed, because they do not think that this is not a musical compose. In some ways, only synthesizers can create an effect. Think! In horror movies, frame needs a tension and a single chord, sometimes a single note which is flourished by synt sound, creates amazing effect for audience. This technique is used generally off-screen frames. According to this, critics can claim composers, but it is only about expectation.

The other impressive technique in horror movies is using tritons in composition. Actually this technique is based on ancient music history. We all know that tritons are devil. (Listening advice: jaws main theme) john Williams uses this technique in 1975. When the time passes, the development of the technology and searching new ideas that different from triton approach for horror movies creates computer based sound technology.

Next: Computer based composition for movies.

Film Music (I) – A History of audio recordings on movie

Before 1920’s, Film industry did not developed in technological circumstance. The major problem was, they were entirely silent. Because, talking picture had not been invented.  That’s why; audience had only watched frames and did not hear any voice, as a solution to this, film makers had need musicians to sound. They had used sometimes orchestra sometimes piano till the movie. The main purpose was not boring audience.

1920’s and 30’s Three German inventors patented “Tri Ergon”. It means: work of three.    Tri Ergon is the new system that provides recording sounds. It was amazing process for film industry. After that frames could talk. Fox Film Corporation bought Tri Ergon from German inventors. Shortly after, Western Electric Company invented Vitaphone technology. Vitaphone provides sound on disc.  Warner brothers who is film company used vitaphone technology and they presented their first movie “Don Juan” to audience.  Everything was traditional, nobody speaks, there were no dialogs or monologs, just orchestra plays music but the major difference was there were no live music everything was recorded on tape.

Recording technique was new but primitive. Musician had to play their music, when actors and actresses plays their role. Microphone technique was invented but they had to record at the same time with motion because tape recordings cannot be re-writable.

Vitaphone and Tri Ergon inventions have pioneered other many audio and motion recording process. Stereo monitoring, editable and re-writable analog recording systems have developed.  In 50 years, movies transforms, major industry and film score have started to take place.