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Title: Arnold Schoenberg's conception of music
Author: Gurney, M. D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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In this dissertation I discuss the development of Arnold Schoenberg's theoretical understanding of music, with particular reference to the period 1906-1935. I thus set out to trace the evolution of Schoenberg's conceptualisation of music as he moves through the two compositional 'revolutions' with which he is associated - first, his renunciation of the tonal system in 1907-8, and, second, his establishment of dodecaphony around 1923. My principal purpose in so doing is to furnish a context within which we can understand what comes to be the key-stone of Schoenberg's late theoretical writing - his concept of the 'musical idea'. I start by discussing Schoenberg's conception of the 'unconscious mind', and I argue that Schoenberg largely holds back from establishing any essential difference in kind between the 'unconscious' and 'conscious' areas of the psyche. Instead, he hopes that a deliberately-adopted practice of 'unconscious composition' will furnish insights into the nature of post-tonal music that can come to be consciously mastered, and thereby form the basis of a non-tonal compositional technique. As he analyses the products of 'unconscious' composition, he indeed sees in them patternings, which he takes to reflect the structures of human thought. Imbued with the conceptualisation of 'thought' set out by his friend Karl Kraus, Schoenberg thus comes to identify the specific process of composition with the general processes of thought. He comes therefore to describe composition as 'musical thought', and the stimulus behind this thought, the inspiration behind composition, as the 'musical idea'. Through this contextualisation we gain insight both into Schoenberg's concept of the 'musical idea' itself, notoriously unexplained in his theoretical writings, and into the relationship between this concept and his earlier theoretical ideas. We come, finally, to understand Schoenberg's own often-disregarded insistence on the fundamental constancy of his conception of music.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available