×

Notice

By using this website, you agree that cookies are placed on your device. ATTENTION: If you click on "decline", the online shop will not be working and some areas of the site may not be displayed properly!

View infos on Cookies and Privacy Policy

You have declined cookies. This decision can be reversed.

LUNDELL: This work of yours, Mr. Schoenberg, we have just heard, is very interesting to me, because it has such close relationship to the great classical tradition. In that respect it is very different from your more recent compositions. It prompts me to ask if it is true, as some have said, that you demand as an essential requirement that any pupil who wishes to study with you must have a thorough training in the classical tradition?

SCHOENBERG: Well, I prefer to instruct pupils which have learned something before
coming to me. The degree of instruction he has before he comes to me is not always significant, for there is much instruction, and many teachers. It is not that I wish to criticize the teachers, or any method that they employ, for each teacher is a good teacher if he has a good pupil. And he is a bad teacher very often if he has a bad pupil.

LUNDELL: Mr. Schoenberg, you are a superb diplomat.

SCHOENBERG: (laughs): I have had bad pupils, and I have had good pupils. And I have
always been the same teacher to both.

LUNDELL: But we are getting away from the point. What I mean is this. Do you demand a training in Bach, Beethoven and Brahms? Must any pupil coming to you know these classics.

SCHOENBERG: No, Mr. Lundell, it is not absolutely necessary. But I would prefer if the pupil knew Bach and Beethoven, and Brahms and Mozart. Even if he has not this classical training, but has musical ability and talent, I can sense it – ich kann es bemerken – yes, how you say it – in English – I can see it.

LUNDELL: Well now, about yourself, Mr. Schoenberg. We have just heard the Kroll String Sextet play this Verklärte Nacht Suite. But Mr. Bela Roszas, whom I have heard playing your music all the past week, and who will play some of your piano music following this interview at the dose of the program, shows with this piano music a totally different style from the Verklärte Nacht Suite. He tells me that there is a great difference between your Opus 10, for instance, with its classical tone, and this later style of Opus 11 and the succeeding works. Why did you make that change?

SCHOENBERG: Why? Well I was forced to.

LUNDELL: What do you mean, forced to?

SCHOENBERG: My fance, my imagination. The musical pictures I had before me. I have always had musical visions before me, all the time I was writing still in the more classical mode, in the earlier days [deleted: I was haunted by pictures in my mind and by other musical designs.] Then finally, one day, I had courage to put on paper this pictures I had seen in music. Many times before I have written my music in this new style – what you call a new style – I have seen this music in my mind. And so, for me it was not such a great sprung – as you say in English jump – For me it was a gradual development. [deleted: For many years I had seen these pictures in my mind, and then one day I have had the courage to write them.]
LUNDELL: But, Mr. Schoenberg, these pictures you saw in your mind, and which you finally had the courage to put down in music on paper, they were not pictures of flowers and brooks and thunderstorms, or landscapes?

SCHOENBERG: No, it was music and tones – It is not a transcription of natural scenery.
Musical figures and themes and melodies I call pictures. It is my idea that it is a musical story with musical pictures. – Not a real story, and not real pictures – Quasi pictures.

LUNDELL: Would you call it absolute – pure music?

SCHOENBERG: No, I do not prefer to call it that. Fancy is the dominant forte which drives
the artist, and it is not of great difference to me, whether it is a poetic idea or a musical idea. A musician can always only see music, and the cause is of no importance. I am not against what you call “program music.”

LUNDELL: If a composer can write music describing a storm at sea or a skyscraper, you
would agree that that may be thoroughly good music?

SCHOENBERG: Yes, if a composer can describe a skyscraper, a sunrise, or springtime in the country – that is all right, the cause and the source of is irrelevant [deleted: the inspiration is not important.]

LUNDELL: A number of the critics and students of music in discussing your music refer to this change from your earlier to your later style as a change from the classical to the atonal.

SCHOENBERG: Ah, no, don’t say atonal, I do not like the word “atonal”.

LUNDELL: But there is distinct difference in your styles. Have you developed any theory
of composition based upon your later style?

SCHOENBERG: Not in this sense: I am never after a theory; and for the general public there is no difference between my present manner to compose and my earlier manner to compose. I am always writing that, what my fancy gives me, and always I can only write if I have seen a musical idea.

LUNDELL: When you have seen that musical idea, how do you seek to express it?

SCHOENBERG: Well, it is hard to explain. With the musical idea I get an impression of musical form and extension, and of the whole and of the parts. By and by I am seeing this form more exactly, and I begin to hear themes and sonorities, and then I begin with the writing with the pen. Sometimes with sketches, and sometimes I write the music directly. And then, there the music is.

LUNDELL: About the appreciation and understanding of your music, Mr. Schoenberg. As we know, it took people generally many years to understand and appreciate Wagner and Berlioz, Ravel, Stravinsky – but they are all nor so well accepted as to be performed in movie theatres, and in one instance, in a musical comedy. Have you any anticipation as to the length of time that will be needed for an understanding of your compositions?

SCHOENBERG: Ach, I only hope it will not be so long, but I am not sure. The difficulty for the public to understand my music is the conciseness and the shortness.

LUNDELL: You mean that you speak musically in a kind of aphorism, epigrams – I almost said enigmas, Mr. Schoenberg.

SCHOENBERG. Yes, my works are apparently enigmas to many people, but there is an answer to all of them. What I mean is, I never repeat. I say an idea only once.

LUNDELL: But even saying it once, Mr. Schoenberg, was too much for some people 25 years ago. Did those riots among the critics and the audience during that celebrated concert in Vienna when the public was so excited about your music as to let fists fly and shout and scream – did all that uproar discourage you? And does the present day failure to understand your work trouble you?

SCHOENBERG. Yes, my feelings are always offended by trouble and misunderstanding. For
I think the public could know that I have worked with the greatest sincerity and I think I have the right to demand the respect of the public for my work.

LUNDELL: Now that you have come to America from Europe, Mr. Schoenberg, to be at the Malkin Conservatory of Music in Boston and New York, and from your knowledge of modern music –what would you say is the greatest need in contemporary music?

SCHOENBERG: I think what we need in music today is not so much new methods of music, as men of character. Not talents. Talents are here. What we need are men who will have the courage to express, what they feel and think.
 
LUNDELL: Are there any men like that on the musical horizon today?

SCHOENBERG: Oh yes, I have seen some of them. For instance, I have some of them among my pupils. Alban Berg, Anton von Webern, and others. For it is my important intention to fortify the morale of my pupils. The chief thing I demand of my pupils, with their basic technical knowledge of music taken for granted, of course, is the courage to express what they have to say.

(LUNDELL: Would you care to tell something about your new work – “Moses and Aaron”?)

Radio talk on NBC [?], (November 19, 1933); transcribed from typescript, Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien (T 17.04)