Chapter

Atonality and the Critical Imagination

Bryan R. Simms

in The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg 1908–1923

Published in print November 2000 | ISBN: 9780195128260
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848843 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195128260.003.0001
                   Atonality and the Critical Imagination

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In a letter to Ferrucio Busoni in 1909, Arnold Schoenberg described his new style of music with which he had been experimenting for over a year. It was an outgrowth of the post-Brahmsian and post-Wagnerian musical languages that Schoenberg had cultivated earlier. Many called this music atonal, pointing to the absence of key. At first, Schoenberg's atonal music was touched by angst and spurred on by a need for liberation from the past. It gradually lost its spontaneous and emotional character, and it came to rely on methodic controls in the fashioning of its materials. His musical style provoked diverging critical interpretations. At the end of the 20th century, Schoenberg's atonal music remained elusive, still among the most complex phenomena in the world of art. Its popular acceptance is small and has not increased much since 1908. However, the music still endures.

Keywords: Busoni; atonal music; Schoenberg; musical style; emotional character

Chapter.  1893 words. 

Subjects: American Music

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