I understand the dead-end metaphor often voiced in relation to the so-called Second Viennese School of composers but I do not see it that way. To me it is a rather profound but short and elegant, single sentence paragraph in the history and progress of composition with an emphatic full stop and an appendix of largely unnecessary and often irrelevant footnotes (the rest that followed). To my non-professional (in the music sphere), but musically sensitive ears, it is at that point, or perhaps more accurately, in all the following developments which complied with the new paradigm of atonal composition, that practitioners clumped up into a defensive, self absorbed elite to mutually contemplate their own navels with, in some cases, perfectly valid art but no intention or ability to connect to the music loving public at large. The same movement occurred in other art forms especially painting and sculpture. I, by and large, stopped at Schoenberg, Berg and Webern (and their counterparts in other schools of the period). I am waiting still at that emphatic full stop, just one stop beyond the last stop for the late Romantic period where the bus remains broken down whilst the mechanics try to fix it. I am sure genius remains at large but it has not revealed itself as yet, not to me anyway. In the meantime Schoenberg has left us with some ravishing, indeed startling works of art which are both works of genius and works which connect to the real world and the listening public even if this is sometimes only after a deal of perseverance. Amongst my favourites are the Variations, The Chamber Symphonies, Verklarte Nacht, especially in its string sextet form, Pieces for Male Chorus Op. 35 and Guerre-Lieder. This is of course a very personal viewpoint but it has been arrived at by much experimentation, forbearance, listening to a great deal of very unmemorable work and performance of ritualistic, polite applause at the work’s (often welcome) conclusion. I am not sure if there is a way forward from the music listeners perspective. If there were it would not be necessary for promoters to intentionally sandwich small new works between Mozart and Beethoven masterpieces in order to force a captive audience to endure the piece and give their ritualistic response. If there is any composition going on out there which gives any hope I would like to know about it. There have been a number of other single sentence movements which have sputtered out at their respective full stops, even spun off their own footnotes but who, since Schoenberg, has written or even started the next substantial paragraph for the non-professional music lover like me?
- Diana Came
- Highway to Hell