“Music is only metaphorically a language; a single work of music may transform and even create an entire musical system, while no act of speech may do more than marginally alter language. If an individual work of music may alter and even create “language”, then the conditions for understanding it must – at least partially – be made evident in the work itself.” (Rosen, 1996, p.19).“This free play is easily to be found in Schoenberg, but the explicit reference to an exterior and relatively stable system of meanings has almost vanished.” (Rosen, 1996, p.20). “Between Mozart and Schoenberg, what disappeared was the possibility of using large blocks of prefabricated material in music. The meaning of an element of form in Mozart was given essentially by the structure of each work.” (Rosen, 1996, p.20).
“By the end of the nineteenth century, these blocks of prefabricated material were no longer acceptable to composers with styles as widely variant as Debussy, Schoenberg and Skryabin.” (Rosen, 1996, p.21). “giving them up, however, led to a kind of panic. It seemed as if music had to be written note by note (…) The renunciation of the symmetrical use of blocks of elements in working out musical proportions placed the weight on the smallest units, single intervals, short motifs.” (Rosen, 1996, p.21).
“The expressive values of these tiny elements therefore took on an inordinate significance; they replaced syntax.” (Rosen, 1996, p.21). “And since they took a preponderant role in composition it was obvious that a composer would choose elements with the most powerful, even the most violent, values, as these small elements had to do the work of much larger groups.” (Rosen, 1996, p.21). “The structures that were most successful between 1908 and 1913 – for Stravinsky as well as for the “Second Viennese School” – were those that made the greatest use of the intervals most dissonant in traditional tonal terms: the minor second, the seventh, the triton (or augmented fourth).” (Rosen, 1996, p.21).
“The primary means of musical expression is dissonance.” (Rosen, 1996, p.23). “There are secondary factors, of course – rhythm, tone color, accent – but they are all subordinate to dissonance.” (Rosen, 1996, p.23). “It is precisely this effect of ending, this cadential function, that defines a consonance. A dissonance is any musical sound that must be resolved, i.e. followed by a consonance: a consonance is any musical sounds that needs no resolution.” (Rosen, 1996, p.24).
“The movement from dissonance to consonance is governed by procedures that constitute the laws of harmony (which are like grammatical rules, and not laws of nature.)” (Rosen, 1996, p.25). “The concept of dissonance must be applied not only to notes that are sung or played together but also to those which succeed each other in time.” (Rosen, 1996, p.25).
“”emancipation of the dissonance” meant, and could only have meant, a freedom from consonance, from the obligation to resolve the dissonance. It was not merely that any combination of notes was to be admitted, but there was to be lo longer any necessity to follow a dissonant chord with a consonance. (…) a release from the basic harmonic conception of the cadence, the movement toward release of tension, toward absolute repose, which had been fundamental to centuries of music.” (Rosen, 1996, p.26).
“The perfect triads are those based upon the primary overtones of a note (for example, on C, the triad is C-E-G).” (Rosen, 1996, p.27). “Tonality is not, as is sometimes claimed, a system with a central note but one with a central perfect triad.” (Rosen, 1996, p.27). “The central triad, called the tonic, determines the key of the individual piece of music. The dissonance of the other triads from the tonic is a relation of dissonance – their place in the hierarchy defines how far away they are from a final resolution. A tonal work must begin by implying the central position of the tonic, and it must end with it.” (Rosen, 1996, p.28).
“When music became triadic in nature, a new and powerful concept of expression was added: to the idea of the dissonant interval was joined the idea of the dissonant phrase or the dissonant section. Modulation is the name given to this process: it is the setting up of a second triad as a sort of polarized force or antitonic against the tonic; the second triad functions as a subsidiary in that part of the piece where it holds sway and acts as a means of creating tension. (…) modulation is dissonance on the large scale, it makes expression for the first time an element of the total structure.” (Rosen, 1996, p.29).
“The dramatic power of tonality has begun to destroy it from within.” (Rosen, 1996, p.30).
“”The main thing to show – one may as well begin with the crucial point – is that the melody, the principal part, the theme, us the basis, or determines the course of this. As of all other, music.”” (Rosen quoting Alban Berg, 1996, p.34).
“individual melodies themselves (…) are no longer conceived in terms of triads and therefore demand a free-moving polyphonic texture. The melodies of early Schoenberg (…) gain their expressive intensity largely through the dissonance implied by the curves they outline, by the juxtaposition of notes which, played together, form dissonant intervals. (…) From Bach to Brahms these dissonances are always conceived as implying a context of triads within the melody itself.” (Rosen, 1996, p.35).
“The breakdown of the harmonic and tonal conception of large form has, therefore, its analogue in the character of melodies. Western music, at least since 1500, has been organized in terms of symmetrical correspondence and even a reciprocal in influence between the largest aspects of form and the smallest details. A lack of correspondence is either a sign of the composer’s incompetence, or else a source of expression – a structural dissonance, in short, that can be confirmed only by being resolved elsewhere in the work, by restoring the correspondence.” (Rosen, 1996, p.36). “Schoenberg’s contemptuous phrase “pseudo-tonal composers” was meant to indicate those of his contemporaries for whom the lack of correspondence between detail and large form was a matter of no concern.” (Rosen, 1996, p.36).
“Erwartung is atonal in the sense that the tonal functions of tonic and dominant no longer exist.” (Rosen, 1996, p.41).“What Schoenberg, consciously or unconsciously, realized before anyone else is that the concept of themes and the system of motivic construction were bound up with a symmetrical system of harmony clearly oriented around a central triad.” (Rosen, 1996, p.42).
“Each phrase can be given an entirely new instrumental color, and is consequently characterized less by its harmonic content than by the instrumental combination that embodies it.” (Rosen, 1996, p.48).
“Tone color was released from its complete subordination to pitch in musical structure, until this point what note was played had been far more important than the instrumental color or the dynamics with which it was played.” (Rosen, 1996, p.48). “What is clear, indeed, is that the simple linear hierarchy must give way to a new and more complex set of relationships in which pitch is only one element among others, and not by any means always the most important.” (Rosen, 1996, p.50).
The harmony implied by these motifs pervades the music completely: they are meant to give any work composed by this method an individual and characteristic sonority.” (Rosen, 1996, p.52). “The method is an old one, going back to Bach and even to the late fifteenth-century Netherlandish composers and it received the greatest expansion of its range before Schoenberg in the late music of Beethoven and in a new and striking form in Brahms.” (Rosen, 1996, p.52).“only Beethoven was able to relate the development of the smallest details directly to the larger elements and this by deriving the motivic kernel immediately from the most basic elements of tonality, by which large forms were organized. These tonal prinicples no longer governed Schoenberg’s musical language: the construction of large forms was therefore an overriding problem.” (Rosen, 1996, p.52).“This technique is that of motivic construction, in which a small kernel provides the complete material for the work.” (Rosen, 1996, p.54).
Pierrot Lunnaire has the form of a cannon “In complicated forms the original line may be introduced backward, upside-down, twice as fast or slow, etcetera.” (Rosen, 1996, p.55). “While the ingenuity of design of Schoenberg’s canons may dazzle and charm, the virtuosity, however, has vanished with the disappearance of tonal harmony. The difficulty of the tonal canon consisted almost entirely in the proper resolution of dissonance and most of all in the correct placing of the final absolute cadence.” (Rosen, 1996, p.55).
“As long as no substitute had been found for the absolute final consonance of tonal music, the creation of large forms would remain a problem.” (Rosen, 1996, p.55).The last page of Erwartung: “This massed chromatic movement at different speeds both up and down and accelerating, is a saturation of the musical space in a few short seconds; and in a movement that gets ever faster, every note in the range of the orchestra is played in a kind of glissando. The saturation of musical space is Schoenberg’s substitute for the tonic chord of the traditional musical language.” (Rosen, 1996, p.57).
The weak form of this ending: “this is the filling out of chromatic space by playing all twelve notes of the chromatic scale in individual order determined by the composer.” (Rosen, 1996, p.58).
Harmonielehre of Schoenberg uses six-note chords: “Schoenberg remarks that a first chord of this type is generally followed by a second chord that contains as many notes as possible that are, in Schoenberg’s words, “chromatic heightenings” of the first – that is, that are a minor second above those of the first and that fill out the rest of the chromatic scale.” (Rosen, 1996, p.60). “Schoenberg, who confeses to not understanding why, they do not sound like minor seconds – that is, they do not sound like dissonances, and they imply no need for resolution. In short, in tonality, the piling up of seconds creates tension; in Schoenberg’S music after 1908, however, the filling out of the chromatic space is clearly a movement toward stability and resolution.” (Rosen, 1996, p.60).
“The condition for resolution was the filling ut of the chromatic scale: a redundancy, a note played twice, was beginning to seem like a dissonance, a disturbance of order. “I had the feeling,” Webern wrote, “that when the twelve notes had been played, the piece was over.” (Rosen, 1996, p.62).
Serialism and neoclassicism
“All five pieces are governed by two long-familiar principles of composition: the principle of unity of musical material, and the principle of motivic development and variation. From these two is derived – by extension and systemization – the technique of twelve-tone composition. These principles were expanded to fill the void left by the disappearance of tonality and to take over its functions.” (Rosen, 1996, p.74).
“As for the first piece, nine notes of the chromatic scale are introduced at once before any is repeated, and the remaining three follow without dealy.) Almost all the accompanying figures as well as the main voices spring from the opening motif.” (Rosen, 1996, p.75).“From this method of motivic development filling all the chromatic space almost immediately, it is only a small step to the strict serial technique of opus 23 no. 5. In this waltz, the motif has twelve notes and now covers all the notes of the chromatic scale. The principle of derivation has been made absolutely rigorous: every note of the piece, accompanying voice or main part, comes from the twelve-note motif. The order of the notes within the motif – which may now be called a ‘series’ – has also been made rigorous: few liberties are taken with the order fixed at the opening.” (Rosen, 1996, p.76).
“Everything in this piece depends on three kinds of variation: different rhythmic groupings (and the dynamics implied by these), octave displacement (playing two continguous notes of the series in different registers), and chordal groupings (playing several continguous notes simultaneously instead of one after the other as they are first presented).” (Rosen, 1996, p.76).
“except at the beginning, the order of twelve notes is not a melody, but a quarry for melodies.” (Rosen, 1996, p.77).
“The only transposition that Schoenberg uses in opus 25 is an augmented fourth, in order to take advantage of the character of this particular series, which begins on an E and ends on a B-flat, a tritone apart. In this way both the retrograde form of the original series and the transposed form begin with the same note.” (Rosen, 1996, p.80). “This suggests the basic rule for Schoenberg’s serial aesthetic: the large form of a piece – its transformations and developments – should arise from the character of the particular series chosen.” (Rosen, 1996, p.81).
“There is no reason why a note (…) should not have two places in a motif. But a note that occurs at two separate points of a motif will generally have a different function each time.” (Rosen, 1996, p.83).
“By partitioning the series into well-defined motifs and by using transpositions to bring the character of the motifs into sharp relief, many of the functions of tonality could be reconstructed within serialism.” (Rosen, 1996, p.84).
“For Schoenberg, on the contrary, the forms are not imposed on the music, but realized through it: they are, in a sense, to be identified with the expression. Schoenberg, steeped in tonality and still in love with it, used these forms as if they had innate expressive properties. If these properties, Schoenberg must have thought, were being lost through degenerate pseudo-tonal procedures, they could be restored by serialism.” (Rosen, 1996, p.88).
“Combinatoriality allows the same few pitches to be given very different shapes.” (Rosen, 1996, p.91).
“Like many of his later works, it is based on a series that permits the introduction of the perfect triads associate with tonality. (…) Schoenberg uses these perfect triads for what might be called their latent aspects of sweetness and repose, but he avoids using them for any sense of cadence; they initiate but do not close.” (Rosen, 1996, p.95).
“In one respect, it (serialism) was a grave step backward from the vision of his early work, when he had seen that timbre, tone color, and texture were not merely accessories but could be as fundamental to music as pitch.” (Rosen, 1996, p.96). “In Serialism as Schoenberg conceived it, it is not pitch itself that becomes tyrannical, but intervallic relations. Through all the transformations of the row, the intervallic relations remain absolutely unchanged, pre-empting all relationships of rhythm, dynamics, and timbre.” (Rosen, 1996, p.97).
“Serial technique was invented to sustain this expressivity when tonality had grown so weak and so diffuse. (…) By its toughness, serialism restored expressivity at first – literally by being so difficult to use for that purpose. The attempt to create “melodies” against the grain of serialism restored the necessary tension that had gone out of tonality. Motif generated melody: that is the traditional relation between them. Nevertheless, the generative powers of a motif means that it already contains a melodic structure in miniature.” (Rosen, 1996, p.100).
“Beethoven, one of the greatest melodists of all time, could often concentrate on this motivic power to the exclusion of all other linear orders, and the melody is bypassed as we move from the motif directly to the largest aspects of musical form.” (Rosen, 1996, p.101).