Dissertation Index

Author: Cramer, Alfred W.

Title: Music for the Future: Sounds of Early Twentieth-Century Psychology and Language in Works of Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg, 1908 to the First World War

Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Begun: unspecified

Completed: April 1997


Although scholars and musicians have met with some success in explaining the structure of the Second Viennese School's early atonal music, a comprehensive understanding of this music does not yet exist. This dissertation argues that this elusiveness is an inherent part of the musics purpose. It identifies hitherto unnoticed relationships between the Viennese School's music and early twentieth-century culture, technology, psychology, and phonetics. These account for several structural and harmonic aspects of this music. Statements by the Viennese School and others imply that atonal works were not intended to convey ideas through rational structure but through musical representations of perception, thought, and language, whose functioning was regarded as illogical at that time. This illogic may explain why the Viennese School's atonality has eluded comprehensive rationalistic explanation or codification of its language. Part I positions the Viennese School within early twentieth-century Viennese culture and identifies its motivations for overturning the established musical order with a music that was supposedly untainted by convention. In retrospect, the music appears conditioned by conventional early twentieth-century conceptions of mind and meaning.

Part II ascertains the sounds of atonality by closely examining the performance practice developed by the Viennese School and its associates. Their performances were guided not by analyses of compositional structure but by the imperative to realize as much as possible of the scores sonic potential. Such performance was expected to transcend the performers understanding, a fact explained with reference to performance practices of the Viennese School's day, to recent discussions about performance practice, and to the Viennese School's belief that its music was of the future.

Part III, tying writings by Swedenborg, Broch, Rilke, Strindberg, William James, Mach, and others to the Viennese School, explores atonal representations of raw perception, mental associations, streams of consciousness, and the sounds of language as theorized in the early twentieth century. As in the early twentieth-century mind, these disparate types of cognition are often indistinguishable when represented in the music. Evidence suggests that musicians and audiences expected to transcend such mental disorder aesthetically, by experiencing its musical representation.

Keywords: meaning, phonetics, performance practice, klangfarbenmelodie, Kolisch, Steuermann, Swedenborg, Rilke, Broch


Part I. Culture, Psychology, And The Viennese School at the End of a Musical
Century 1
1. Introduction: On Studying the Second Viennese School
2. The Viennese School's Social and Political Background
3. Music and the New Psychology

Part II. Performance Utopia
4. Performance in the Schoenberg Circle
5. Performance Practices
6. Utopia

Part III. Constructing Meaning in Atonal Music
7. Grasping Meaning in Empiricism
8. Empiricist Tropes in Atonal Music
9. Language in Atonality


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