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.


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