SWARTHOUT: Mr. Schoenberg: You have taught at the University of Southern California during the recent summer Session and I am happy in the knowledge that you are to be associated with us at the School of Music during the coming year. Doubtless you had a number of interesting experiences during the past six weeks that you have been with us, as well as during the past two years that you have been in Amerika, and in all probabilities you have formed a number of conclusions concerning American Schools of Music and American Music’s students.
I would like to ask you, if you can tell me why the American student of music goes to Europe to further his education. Is there, in your opinion, any great difference between the American and European School of Music which would justify an American student going abroad for study?
Please state your opinion as fully as you care to do so.
SCHOENBERG: In general, Mr. Swarthout, I find the organisation of the schools here not very much different from that of the European schools. The standard of the American schools for music is the highest I know. There is an astonishing great number of renowned teachers, many of them of international fame. But concerning pedagogics I found out a difference for your credit. Whilst old Europe is resting somewhat on her tradition, America advances and develops pedagogic through very scientific means and with the ardent ambition of her happy youth. And the same I find among pupils: Their eagerness to learn is of the same youthful ardor and I feel young with them, when I feel the tough of their power.
Thus, to answer your question, I have therefore to speak from some other differences, whose influence is perhaps explaining the fact, that American pupils go to Europe. These differences concern neither pedagogics, nor the talents of pupils, nor the efforts of the teachers. But their influence is fundamental.
In every country in Europe, where the musical standard is as high as in America, you will find cities with one or more opera houses and with one or more symphony orchestras, which give performances during at least 8 to 9 months, even in summer in the larger cities. By this circumstance already the musician or music lover has the possibility to hear as much music as he likes. But there is also another very important circumstance: almost everywhere in these musical centers these institutions are enabled to be nearly independent in building up their programs, because they do not pay so much attention to the returns of the box office. Many of these institutions are supported by public means and can fulfill artistic necessities. Certainly they can not perform only such works, as have had no success at all. But if the artistic necessity is evident, you will always find the possibility of a performance. By this way, you will find in this places a repertoire of a much more extended compass, than in America, where it has partly to be built of popular pieces and where the box office often forbids the performance of valuable works. As an example I want to mention one of my works, whose performance requires not only a number of about 600 people as performers, but involves also a very great financial support. This work, the Gurrelieder, has been only once performed in America: by Mr. Stokowsky in Philadelphia. But in Europe I have counted nearly one hundred performances.
This number could only be achieved by the circumstance, that even cities of less than two hundred thousand inhabitants had the ambition to perform such a work.
But the independence of the box office is also shown by the very low prices of admission, which enable the less rich people and the students to attend the concerts and the opera performances.
For musicians the knowledge of the important works is as necessary, as it is for a technician, to be acquainted with the achievements of his predecessors. This knowledge is offered to a musician in Europe by the number of performances and by the nature of their programs which are built always according to artistic requirements.
But there is also another circumstance which helps the students to get the necessary background: Nearly every young music student in Europe possesses a small library of a few hundred copies of the most important musical works. This is possible because of the very low prices of printed music. A musician has not only to listen very often to the works of the masters, but he has also to study them, to analyze, to memorize, to acknowledge the inumberable variety of artistic means. And for that purpose he has to possess the copies.
I find there is in America so much talent for music and so much love for it, that America will certainly in a short time be the first as regards to musical culture, if only the interest of the public could be concentrated on these two facts, and if it would change this circumstance with such a speed, wich fulfills us Europeans with astonishment and admiration:
Firstly to give the music lover and the music students the possibility to hear the works of the masters at low prices and as often as it done in Europe.
Secondly to provide the music students with the necessary music and scores.
But that means: to publish music at low prices.
SWARTHOUT: What do you think would be the influence of such an achievement on musical education?
SCHOENBERG: I find that the education of not only composers, teachers of harmony, counterpoint and composition, but also of conductors and other performers and of teachers of the different instruments must based on an acquaintance with works of the masters.
By some circumstance the musical teaching has become a little abstract, a little mechanical. It seems to me as if the teaching is by this way too technical, but not enough essential. Certainly the pupil is enabled by such a manner of training to conquer every technical difficulty he encounters. I understand that a boxer can be trained this way. If he is taught to counter every attack, known by experts, he will quickly learn to fight correctly in each instance, because, if he did not, he would feel it not only on his body, but on his record. But there is no similar possibility for a musician or for a composer. He may know every possible trick, but he will not feel it, when he composes or performs poorly.
To know how to make a modulation is of no use if the pupil does not know how to employ this in a composition. But even if he knows, he may perhaps be able to harmonize a given theme, but will not know how to invent themes on a basis, from which you can look forward to the further development and which garantees the constructive purposes of harmony. The same is true in counterpoint: you have to write a canon or a fugue when you are a pupil. But in free composition you would write a canon or fugue only if you did not understand how to develop counterpuntal ideas according to their true nature and according to constructive purposes. And the same things happens with the knowledge of musical forms, if the student does not know the true meaning of musical formation, that is, to arrange and to build up ones ideas in such a manner that the pictures produced show ones ideas in an understandable and sound manner. In such a way the listener may be convinced, that one has spoken only of his ideas and has carried them out thoroughly and fancifully.
I think this can not be brought about without a profound knowledge of the achievements of the great thinkers of music. You will admit, that I do not ask a pupil to write like Bach, or Beethoven, or Mozart or Brahms. But I do ask that he realizes how profoundly the carried out their ideas and how manifold the means were, by which these great masters did their work.
And therefore my teaching is based on the knowledge of the works of the masters. And therefore I find it so necessary to strive that the students may have enough opportunity to hear these works and to possess a small library of the most important compositions.
And now Mr. Swarthout let me tell you that I am very, very happy not only to live in this marvellous country, but also to be associated with you and the University of Southern California, and to take advantage of your experience and your knowledge. And let me thank you for giving me the opportunity to work together with you for the education and the future of young American musicians.
SWARTHOUT: Thank you, Mr. Schoenberg, for your most interesting comparison of the American and European School of Music.
As one who felt the necessity himself, some thirty years ago to go abroad for advanced music study, I feel that your analyses of present day conditions as regards music study, is well considered. However, may I not, in conclusion, state, that in my opinion America has made splendid progress in musical appreciation during the past quarter of a century, and may it not be hoped, that such help for the Music Student as you have suggested inexpensive concert and opera, and inexpensive music-may shortly come to stimulate still further American Music Schools for American Music students!
Radio talk, KHJ, 1935; transcribed from typescripts, Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien (T 18.06, T 19.09; T 56.12)
Friday, May 24th
Last update:07:40:51 AM GMT