About the book
Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) was arguably the central musical personality of the 20th century, whose innovative, uncompromising musical language opened up new possibilities for composers and influenced generations of musicians and listeners. A major force in the development of modern music, Schoenberg is famous for abandoning tonality and introducing the 12-tone 'serial' method of composition. In addition to his groundbreaking work as a composer, Schoenberg was an important theorist and an enormously influential teacher, with Anton Webern and Alban Berg among his most famous pupils.
This book presents a clear narrative history of Schoenberg’s life, work and cultural context along with essential reference material and striking illustrations, making it a vital purchase for anyone interested in the composer. Brought up in the rich and cosmopolitan cultural life of Vienna, Schoenberg started to play the violin at the age of nine and began experimenting with composition almost immediately, but had no formal training in music until his late teens. Schoenberg first composed in the late Romantic tradition, and his earliest acknowledged works, including the string sextet 'Verklärte Nacht', date from the turn of the century. Over the next decade in Vienna, he developed his musical style, in due course causing a sensation with the dissonance of his 'serial' technique and the harmonic strangeness and complexity of his material.
In 1925, Schoenberg became director of a master class in composition at the Arts Academy in Berlin. He left Berlin for the US with his family in 1933, where he taught in Boston and New York at the Malkin Conservatory. In 1934, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Schoenberg took up a teaching post at USC and a professorship at UCLA. He lived in Los Angeles, where he taught John Cage and befriended George Gershwin, until his death in 1951.
There are those who contend that Schoenberg's uncompromising search for an individual voice led him to create music which is difficult to follow, since many familiar features, which normally enable listeners to find their way through a piece of music, have been removed or radically re-shaped. This is often perceived as the main cause of the isolation of avant-garde music in the late 20th century, but Bujic argues that these accusations are frequently made before Schoenberg’s music has even had a chance to present itself – its difficulty and strangeness are uncritically evoked, often preventing the music from being appreciated in its own right. In this book, Bujic sets out to win more listeners to Schoenberg’s music by introducing his life, work and theories in an accessible, sympathetic manner.