Arnold Schoenberg Quotes

Arnold Franz WaIter Schoenberg (originally: Schönberg), was a great Austrian-born American composer whose pioneering musical innovations are among the major landmarks of twentieth-century musical history. In 1908 he shook the world of Western music by becoming the first composer to write atonally. Then he shook it again when in 1920 he invented serialism – a compositional technique based on permutations of a ‘tone row’ (a specific ordering of all 12 notes of the musical scale). Each development transformed the course of music.

“Today I have made a discovery that will ensure the supremacy of German music for the next hundred years.” – Arnold Schoenberg
He announced to his pupil and assistant Josef Rufer that he had come up with the twelve-tone method.

“Music is only understood when one goes away singing it and only loved when one falls asleep with it in one’s head, and finds it still there on waking up the next morning.” – Arnold Schoenberg

“Great art presupposes the alert mind of the educated listener” – Arnold Schoenberg

“My music is not modern, it is merely badly played” – Arnold Schoenberg
Genette, Gérard. 1997. Immanence and Transcendence, translated by G. M. Goshgarian. p. 102.

“There are relatively few people who are capable of understanding, purely in terms of music, what music has to say.” – Arnold Schoenberg

“My work should be judged as it enters the ears and heads of listeners, not as it is described to the eyes of readers.” – Arnold Schoenberg
As quoted in an interview with José Rodriguez (c. 1936) in Schoenberg‎ (1971) by Merle Armitage, p. 143

“I never was very capable of expressing my feelings or emotions in words. I don’t know whether this is the cause why I did it in music and also why I did it in painting. Or vice versa: That I had this way as an outlet. I could renounce expressing something in words.” – Arnold Schoenberg

“I find above all that the expression, “atonal music,” is most unfortunate — it is on a par with calling flying “the art of not falling,” or swimming “the art of not drowning.”” – Arnold Schoenberg
“Hauer’s Theories” (Notes of November 1923) Style and Idea (1985), p. 210

“There is still plenty of good music to be written in C major.” – Arnold Schoenberg

“I am delighted to add another unplayable work to the repertoire.” – Arnold Schoenberg
On his Violin Concerto (Op. 36), as quoted in Schoenberg‎ (1971) by Merle Armitage, p. 149

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