One of the major jobs ahead for creative musicians today is to try to teach the audience to “hear” contemporary music – and of course to do this, the audience must have the opportunities to “listen to” contemporary music.
Arnold Schoenberg, distinguished composer and innovator formerly of Vienna, and now of Pasadena, made this point in an interview last week at the former Gould Estate, which he will occupy for several weeks this Summer while teaching and lecturing at the Music Academy of the West.
“In my teaching work,” he said, “I emphasize ear training. The music student needs most to learn to be correctly receptive. We cannot teach everyone to be a creative artist – that cannot be taught. But we can teach many people to be receptive listeners. What we need in all the arts, is a great number of good amateurs. The greatest periods of creative music were those in which there were thousands of accomplished amateurs, though relatively few professionals.”
Series of Lectures
Schoenberg will give a series of seven lectures at the Academy on Wednesday afternoon at 3, with the following provocative titles: “Criteria for the Evaluation of Music,” “Composing with 12 Tones (two lectures),” “The Brain and the Heart in Music,” “Style and Idea,” “Theme and Melody,” and “How One Becomes Lonely.” There also will be a forum with the other faculty members of the Academy, and some of the students, participating. Two of the lectures will also be given for the general musical public at the Woman’s Club in Rockwood Thursday afternoons, July 29 and Aug. 12.
Brain and heart are both necessary, for the creation and the appreciation of music, the composer said, deriding a popular notion that contemporary music is largely intellectual. “There was a tendency following the first war, of saying ‘Now we can write what we want – we have broken the bonds of the past.’ That was foolish. One could always write what one wants, but the question is, how good is it? I cannot write what I want – only what I must – what I am commanded by some higher force to write.
One must not strive to do something ‘new.’ One must only strive to give expression to the message within him; if in expressing this message, one develops something new in style or form, that is an accident and of no great importance. I personally always strive to write conservatively, in the classical tradition, but when I finish I find that I have not been able to remain within the conservative framework, because what I had to say demanded its own method of expression.”
Modern Music Condensed
In trying to answer the question, “What is the greatest difference between contemporary music, of which yours is typical, and the music of which Beethoven is a representative example,” Schoenberg said:
“The big difference id that the progressive music today is condensed. This is not to say that the ideas in the new music are better – the contrary may be true – but they are expressed more concisely. Musical technique has advanced to a point where something may be said more concisely, without repetition and elaboration. The receptive listeners have become able to understand the more remote harmonic relations and to appreciate the less commonplace melodic successions.
“This is the exaggerated figure of speech, but it illustrates: To describe a house to a cave dweller, you would have to detail such things as floor, the walls, the roof, the doors and the windows. But today we know what a house is, and alle we need say is house, and it expresses all those details without need to enumerate them.
“The same principle of conciseness and condensation and simplicity, applies of course also to modern literature and painting, as well as music.”
Sharing the beauties of Santa Barbara, the comforts of the Gould home, and the enjoyment of musical activities at the Academy, are Mrs. Schoenberg and their three children – Nuria, a 18-year-old daughter who will add her soprano voice to the choral group, Ronald 11, who will sit in with the string ensemble as an extra cellist, and Larry, 7, who will listen.
Despite his 73 years, and his eminence as a composer and musicologist, Schoenberg is far from the “old fogey” in his musical tastes – perhaps because he has three rebust and lively youngsters around the house.
“I like good popular music, I enjoy it for its entertainment,” he said. “But not when it is just a mechanical repetition of things that have been done over and over before; not just commercial mass production. But then, there is some of that in the classical repertoire, too. And I do not like that.”
Santa Barbara News Press (July 18, 1948)