Thursday, April 14, 2011

Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire vs. Webern's Six Bagatelles Op.9: Voices of Modernism? (1999)

Schoenberg vs. Webern: Voices of Modernism?

A Brief Discussion of
Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21
Webern's Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, Op. 9
(Sechs Bagatellen fur Streichquartett)

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Author: Payman Akhlaghi (1999)
Graduate Paper Toward Degree of MA in Composition | UCLA, 1999, 28 Pages
Supervising Professor: David Lefkowitz
© Copyright: 1999, 2011, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved for the author.

(*) This academic paper includes background information and analysis mainly focused on Pierrort Lunaire (Arnold Schoenberg); a less extensive discussion of Six Bagatelles, Op. 9 (Anton Webern); and a certain  conclusions on the nature of Modernism in 20th century classical music.

Excerpt from the Introduction:

"The primary thrust of this paper is an attempt in understanding the place of two ‎quintessentially twentieth century compositions within our current discussion of ‎Modernism and according to our present conclusions in the seminar for which the paper is ‎being written. Yet, thereafter, it also tries to achieve a better understanding of Modernism ‎itself, in the light of these two compositions. Here, something should be noted. Although ‎at first this might seem to suggest a basically circular argument in nature, I believe it is far ‎from being so. It should be rather considered a reflection of the dialectic relationship ‎between the general definition of a class on one hand, and the particular species on the ‎other. Indeed, this has been the methodology that was adopted from the outset by the ‎seminar, and considering the illusive and controversial nature of the subject at hand, ‎namely Modernism, it proved to have been a quite suitable approach.‎


For the purpose of our comparative discussion in regards to Modernism in the first ‎half of the twentieth century, Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912) and ‎Anton Webern’s Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, Op. 9 (1911-1913; pub. 1924) seem to ‎be excellent candidates. To begin with, both of the pieces were composed within one ‎year, both belong to two of the three pillars of the so-called Second Viennese School, and ‎they were both composed during a period of close artistic contact between their ‎respective composers. Furthermore, the sonic worlds of the two pieces manifest a sharp ‎degree of departure from that of the music of the preceding periods. Listening to them, ‎one can realize, without much hesitation, that they belong to our century; that they could ‎not have been written in any earlier period; and that only our century, with all its extremes ‎of tension and liberation could have justified their understanding, or even their existence ‎in the first place. ‎

Still, the two pieces could not have been more distant from each other. ‎[...]"
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