===       ===     =============        ====
             ===       ===           ==            ==   ==
            == ==    ====           ==           ==      =
           ==   ==== ===           ==           ==      ==
          ==     ==  ==           ==            =      ==
         ==         ==           ==             ==   == 
        ==         ==           ==               ====
       M U S I C          T H E O R Y         O N L I N E
                     A Publication of the
                   Society for Music Theory
          Copyright (c) 1993 Society for Music Theory
| Volume 0, Number 1     February, 1993    ISSN:  1067-3040   |
  All queries to: mto-editor@smt.ucsb.edu or to
AUTHOR: Neumeyer, David, P.
TITLE:  Schoenberg at the Movies: Dodecaphony and Film
KEYWORDS: twelve-tone method, Opus 34, commutation test, 
Frankenstein, cinema
David P. Neumeyer
Indiana University
School of Music
Bloomington, IN 47405
ABSTRACT:  Composers used the twelve-tone method in film scores 
from the 1950's and 60's. This essay, however, focuses on a much 
earlier work: Schoenberg's *Begleitungsmusik zu einer 
Lichtspielszene,* Op. 34 (1930), which was, however, commissioned 
for a cinema-music library, not a specific film. I apply simple 
commutation tests to gauge how Opus 34 might actually function as 
background music, and I assess the implications of questions that 
arise about musical culture and class differences.
ACCOMPANYING FILES: mto.93.1.1.neumeyer.gif, mto.93.1.1.neumeyer.fig
[1] The play on words is tantalizing, but, alas, no evidence to 
date suggests that twelve-tone music was written for any of the 
serials so popular in American film theatres in the Thirties and 
Forties. Serial music, however, did eventually find its way into 
feature films of the psychological-drama, sci fi, and horror 
genres. The majority of film composers who used serial methods 
picked them up about the same time Stravinsky did, in the early 
to mid Fifties. Leonard Rosenmann, for example, claims to have 
written the first fully serial score for a full-length feature 
film in 1955, for *The Cobweb* (1), though by that time Roman 
Vlad, Kenyon Hopkins, Elisabeth Lutyens (2), Roberto Gerhard, and 
perhaps others, had already used serial methods to varying 
degrees in their own work for films produced in Britain and 
Hollywood. By 1962, one might have been excused for thinking that 
the gulf between concert and film composition, and between the 
movie theatre and television, had been fully and irrevocably 
bridged--with Jerry Goldsmith's serial score for the film 
biography *Freud* and NBC television's premiere of *The Flood*, 
which had been commissioned from Stravinsky.
1. Roy Prendergast, *A Neglected Art: A Critical Study of Music 
in Films* (New York: NYU Press, 1977), 119.
2. According to an unpublished finder to film-music holdings in 
the British Museum. I am grateful to Alfred W. Cochran for 
sharing his copy. Note to format: The asterisks indicate italics.
[2] Any number of questions arise from the historical 
circumstances sketched above. Among those that interest me is the 
obvious "Does twelve-tone music work, by the professional and 
critical standards of film composition?" Since "twelve-tone" 
designates a technique, not a style, however, the question 
becomes more meaningful if we substitute for "serial music" the 
broader "atonal music"; that is, the style of Viennese 
Expressionism. Research to this question can be carried out to a 
surprising extent without scores, by close study of film prints. 
Obviously, however, traditional close analysis--such as row-
counting, location and interpretation of subtle intertextual 
references (such as B-A-C-H motives) or of relationships between 
row choice, row "progression," and film action--does require 
scores, which are not generally accessible. 
[3] I will pass by the "does it work?" question here, remarking 
only that I think the answer (for the classical Hollywood 
repertoire at least) is "yes, it does"--the most compelling 
instances, by far, to my ear, being not in the serial scores 
mentioned above, but in Rosenmann's music for *East of Eden*, 
which transplants the manner of Schoenberg's Opus 16 to turn-of-
the-century Monterey and the inner turmoil of the James Dean 
character. In what follows, I shall concern myself with the 
earliest of all twelve-tone film scores--Schoenberg's 
*Begleitungsmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene,* Op. 34 (1930). In 
particular, I discuss application of some simple commutation 
tests to gauge how this composition might actually function as 
background music. In the conclusion, I touch on a broad question 
that aims directly at matters of music and musical culture, 
namely, "How does film composers' early use of serial methods 
affect widely held notions of class differences in twentieth-
century composition?"
[4] As Dika Newlin has it, Schoenberg's Opus 34 "was not really 
for the movies, but only symbolically."(3) The facts, however, do 
not quite support this ideologically convenient assessment. The 
composition was requested by Heinrichshofen's Verlag, which at 
the time specialized in music for use in silent-film 
performances.(4) Walter Bailey discusses Schoenberg's contacts 
during this period with the German society of film-music 
composers; these clearly suggest that he had practical, not 
"symbolical" motives in accepting Heinrichshofen's commission.(5) 
Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that the publishers 
thought they might receive something more than a "prestige" item-
-in fact, a composition they could license for performance. If 
they were disappointed, it would have been by the music's 
difficulty, rather than its style, but, indeed, "it's hardly to 
be assumed that this piece was played in theaters in the early 
3. Dika Newlin, *Schoenberg Remembered* (New York: Pendragon, 
1980), 206.
4. Arnold Schoenberg, *Saemtliche Werke*, IV, vol. 14,1: 
*Orchesterwerke III*, ed. Nikos Kokkinis and Jrgen Thym (Mainz: 
Schott, 1988), B (Critical Report), xiii-xiv.
5. Walter Bailey, *Programmatic Elements in the Works of 
Schoenberg* (UMI Research Press, 1984), 21-22.
6. Schoenberg, *Werke*, xiv.
[5] Opus 34 is not a single-movement composition; it consists of 
three more-or-less independent cues given titles by Schoenberg 
himself: "Threatening Danger" [Drohende Gefahr] (=bars 1-43), 
"Fear" [Angst] (=bars 44-155), and "Catastrophe" [Katastrophe] 
(=bars 156-219). The first cue is divided into two main sections 
of similar duration (1:21, 1:10, respectively). The first of 
these begins slowly with sinister ponticello string tremolos and 
motivic fragments cast about between the woodwinds and brass. 
This builds to a fortissimo tutti by 0:38, at which point the 
tempo picks up a little. Till the beginning of the second section 
at 1:22, tutti with abrupt changes between dynamic extremes 
(especially sharp brass chords at 1:08) must be treated as 
stingers. The second subdivision of the first part ("Maessig)" 
is somewhat more consistent. At first it hints at a waltz, with a 
clear, continuous melody in doubled winds. A short sforzando 
brass chord at 1:41, however, begins a slow process of 
melodic/thematic development that coincides with increasing 
tension until the end (2:21 ff), which is another tutti, very 
heavy and slowing down greatly. The music goes out loudly with a 
strong cutoff. 
[6] The second cue ("Angst") has four main divisions, the first 
and last very fast, the second a stretto (increasingly fast), the 
third section slower. The tempi of the first and last sections 
are stable, those of the intermediate sections vary. Timings are: 
1:05, 0:22, 1:40, and 0:17. The final cue ("Katastrophe") has two 
main sections. The first begins "Presto" and gradually slows down 
over the course of 43 seconds. A triple-forte climax is reached 
after 9 seconds and a loud dynamic level persists till 
approximately 9-10 seconds before the beginning of the second 
section, which is a long spun-out adagio (2:31) with a clear 
melody, mostly consistent (and relatively light) texture and low 
dynamic level. 
[7] The descriptions given above concentrate on characteristics 
that point to certain practical problems of film underscoring--
timings of cues and their subdivisions, dynamic range, tempi, and 
unusually marked events. In this, they prepare for comments on my 
informal experiments using Schoenberg's Opus 34 as a cue for 
scenes from several early films. This process amounts to a simple 
commutation test,which, as Claudia Gorbman describes it, "focuses 
attention on the existing music versus the music that might have 
been [and so] brings out stylistic and cultural information that 
goes unrecognized in the usual processes of film viewing."(7) 
Commutation assumes that cinema is a well-defined code including 
several clearly recognizable, separable sub-codes (images, 
dialogue, sound, music). The normal mode of cinema is to invite 
the spectator/listener to coordinate those several elements 
during each segment of the film. This constitutes cinema's 
cognitive baseline, so to speak, and thus "whatever music is 
applied to a film segment will do something, will have an 
effect...because the reader/spectator automatically imposes 
meaning on such combinations."(8) 
7. Claudia Gorbman, *Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music* 
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 18.
8. Gorbman, 5. I am grateful to Stephen Simms for his recent 
reminder that David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson use simple 
commutation tests in their *Film Art: An Introduction,* third 
ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1990).
[8] Gorbman herself considers the effects of altering Georges 
Delerue's music for a scene from *Jules and Jim* by changing the 
mode to minor, making the tempo faster, or altering orchestration 
or articulation. She also substitutes for the cue a diegetic song 
from later in the film, a piano boogie-woogie, or Beethoven's 
Fifth. In every case, it's not difficult to predict the effect 
created, but what may be surprising is the extent to which a 
viewer's basic understanding of visual and narrative contexts may 
be influenced by the musical accompaniment.
[9] For my purposes, it was convenient to flip the terms of 
Gorbman's test--I took the first cue from Schoenberg's Opus 34 
("Drohende Gefahr") and applied it to three scenes from 
*Frankenstein* (1931), as well as to scenes from several other 
films released in the period 1929-1932, including *The Blue 
Angel* (1930) and *Public Enemy* (1931).(9) It was perhaps a bit 
unfair to Schoenberg that these are all sound films, but they are 
closely contemporary to Opus 34 and very early in the history of 
sound cinema. Furthermore, it was easier to make comparisons with 
the familiar conventions of Hollywood sound-film scoring practice, 
many of which were established in the years immediately thereafter 
(roughly 1932-35). In the following paragraphs, I make some general 
comments about the tests and discuss certain details of the 
"Monster's Birth" scene from *Frankenstein*.
9. Newlin (207fn) writes that Opus 34 was "used as background for 
several films; I have seen only Jean-Marie Straub's, in which a 
narrative of anti-Jewish atrocities is imposed on it." I haven't 
been able to verify her claim to date and would be very pleased 
to hear from anyone who knows of films which use Schoenberg's score.
[10] The "Monster's Birth" lies at the end of a long (11 minute) 
scene in which preparations are made in the lab, unexpected 
visitors arrive, and the Monster is "born."  Next to the ending 
scenes (Maria's father carrying her body through the town square, 
and the search for the Monster), this is the most famous sequence 
in the film. It contains opportunities for some fairly continuous 
writing, the biggest obstacle being an active (and complex) 
sound-effects track, with much storm noise, "sizzling" of 
electrical gadgets, and so on. The "Monster's Birth" begins with 
a flash of lightning and quickly following thunderclap which spur 
Henry Frankenstein and his assistant Fritz into action, while 
their three guests sit and watch. (The guests are concerned 
friends of Henry: his former professor Dr. Waldman, his close 
friend Victor, and his fianc'ee Elizabeth.) There is no 
substantive dialogue until Henry's increasingly hysterical 
response to the Monster's first auto-movements at the end of the 
scene. The action consists of Henry and Fritz moving about the 
lab, first checking electrical equipment, then unrolling covers 
from the Monster, raising the carriage up to an opening in the 
ceiling, later lowering same, the movements of the Monster's 
right arm, and Henry's response.
[11] Below is a detailed description and shot list for the 
"Monster's Birth." (For a segmentation of the entire file as well as
a shot list for the scene which ends with the "Monstor's Birth," see
the .fig file.)
a. Flash of light at 8:39, then loud crash of thunder,
      at 8:39; 44" long
      then electronic sizzles as Fritz and Henry go to work. 
      Very little dialogue through this
      1. LS of lab from behind carriage (8")
      2. carriage (3")
      3. Visitors in their seats (2")
      4. as in 2 (14")
      5. Henry & Fritz at carriage (roll away blankets) (11")
      6. as in 3 (Visitors sitting) (2")
      7. as in 2, 4 (carriage) (4")
b. Monster goes up in carriage;
      at 9:23; 70" long
      8. LS from above; carriage goes up, camera following (22")
      9. MS Henry (3")
      10. CU Fritz (1")
      11. LS lab, as at the end of shot 8 (3")
      12. CU Victor & Elizabeth (2")
      13. CU Dr. (2")
      14. Carriage from a different angle (5")
      15. as in 9 (MS Henry) (2")
      16. as in 12 (CU Victor & Elizabeth) (2")
      17. MS Henry (2")
      18. carriage (as in 70) (2")
      19. CU Fritz (2")
      20.-21. Electrical equipment (3")
      22. MS Henry (2")
      23. Carriage followed down from ceiling (17")
c. The Monster's hand moves; Henry goes wild
      at 10:33; 30" long
      24. CU Monster's hand (3")
      25. MS Henry, with hand in foreground (7")
      26. as in 24 (3")
      27. MS Henry at carriage, others enter shot (18")
d. End of scene
      at c. 11:05
[12] Mapping any kind of music onto a sequence will cause 
problems because of the force of film-music conventions. I 
leave aside whether these conventions have arisen from natural 
(universal?) cognitive biases that would set up probabilities 
for most of us whenever we combine film and music, or whether 
they were something established in the silent and sound film 
cultures of the Hollywood production companies. The practical 
problems can be understood in terms of Gorbman's seven "principles 
of composition, mixing, and editing," her summary of the 
conventionalized solutions to practical problems of film-music 
composition.(10) Several do not apply to the matter at hand, but 
others--emotion, narrative and connotative cueing, formal and 
rhythmic continuity, and unity--flow directly out of the immediate 
task of spotting a film or film scene. 
10. Gorbman, 73.
[13] I will start with the problem of the stinger, a sforzando 
chord or sharply marked short gesture which draws attention to 
something on the screen, a sudden turn of action or a shocked 
response--as it were, an accent in the imagetrack coordinated 
with an accent in the music. Stingers were used in silent-film 
accompaniment but came into their own with the recorded 
soundtrack and extensive employment by Max Steiner. (Later on, 
they were used most often in cartoons.) Any unusually marked 
music--but especially if marked by dynamics--must be regarded as 
a potential stinger. Opus 34 is full of them, especially the 
second section, but, in fact, since the stinger is meant to be an 
unusual event, the second section is actually easier to use as a 
cue. The first section has only a few potential stingers, and 
their use has to be planned fairly carefully so as not to seem 
silly (like the misplaced chords of a bad silent-film 
accompaniment). In one early application to the "Monster's Birth" 
scene, I found that the lack of a stinger actually emphasized the 
failure of clear motivation for the exaggerated wincing of Victor 
and Elizabeth in shot 12 (lightning is seen and thunder heard 
throughout, but nothing unusually sharp either before or during 
the shot). The discrepancy was the more obvious because a stinger 
did coincide with the Doctor's similar gesture in the following 
shot. In later moments, I caught myself asking why the Doctor was 
singled out in this way--and was even able to answer the 
question: the "scientific triumph" of Henry over the doubts (and 
even obstruction) of the establishment (the Doctor) is given 
physical interpretation by this sudden, involuntary (and 
undignified) gesture.
[14] From the above, two points arose which couldn't be resolved 
with the means at hand--solutions would require rerecording using 
a mixer or a newly recorded performance. First, the volume levels 
of the music needed to be flattened--the range was too great to 
work well throughout the scene. Dialogue was sometimes lost under 
the music, the music sometimes inaudible under soundtrack noise. 
(In general, I actually found myself "disappointed" that the 
piece was less heavily scored and much less emotionally intense 
than I expected. On the other hand, the strong--and somewhat 
unexpected--build-up at the end of section one (bars 36 ff) 
matched very neatly Henry's surprisingly intense (and overly 
dramatic) reaction to the Monster's first movements.) Second, the 
tempi would need adjusting in several places in order to shift 
events such as stingers forward or back a few seconds. This 
"elasticity" has long been a requirement of film music and 
obviously arises from close temporal constraints unknown in 
concert music.(11)
11. Gorbman, 76.
[15] Another significant factor is that *Frankenstein* already 
has some music in the soundtrack: cues for the main and end 
titles, as well as source music for the dancing of Goldstadt 
citizens. We may safely ignore the music for the end title and 
cast list--even in the silent-film era, this was heavily 
conventionalized "framing" music whose source is the "up-and-out" 
closing progressions for opera and operetta overtures and scene 
or act conclusions. The dance music, likewise, is conventional, 
its melodies usually less clear than one might like, as the music 
competes with crowd noise. (Nor is any one tune linked closely 
enough with the citizens to become a naming theme.) More 
important, perhaps, is that it is very difficult to think of 
other places in the film where this music might appropriately be 
used. After this scene, the citizens are heavily involved in the 
film's action, but the extended search for the monster and the 
burning of the windmill both call for "hurries," a topos which 
can incorporate fleeting references to naming themes but is more 
likely to be thematically indifferent.
[16] The music for the main titles is another matter. David 
Broekman's cue is rich in "exotic," "grotesque," and "sinister" 
affects , but it is poor in narrative referential functions (no 
suggestion of the general physical locale of the film nor even 
that of the opening scene; no suggestion of attributes of the 
main characters). Indeed, it relies in the earlier moments rather 
too heavily on a conflated exotic/oriental affect and so 
threatens to misplace the locale to (at least) the Caucasus 
rather than the mountains of middle Europe. As in the 
opera/operetta overture, the clearly presented theme would be 
expected to play a very important role in any underscoring for 
the film. Thus, the lack of any reference to this theme in the 
Schoenberg cue has to be taken as a disadvantage.
[17] A related problem is recurrent themes or motives within the 
cue itself. If a theme is established in relation to something--a 
character, place, situation, or even object--then recurrence of 
that theme will tend to recall or "name" that thing. (Indeed, the 
recurrence is necessary: the appearance of a melody sets up a 
referential possibility, but the recurrence confirms it as a 
narrative referential function.) The oboe theme at 0:38 (bar 9) 
is the first strongly melodic entity--extended melody rather than 
fragmentary motive--but it arrives just a bit too late: beginning 
at 0:26, the eleven seconds of shot 5 would have been perfect, as 
Henry & Fritz roll away blankets to give us our first full view 
of the Monster (Ex. 1: Schoenberg, Opus 34, bars 9ff, oboe 
melody; Ex. 2: Schoenberg, Opus 34, series Po). The oboe theme, 
thus coordinated with a long shot, might have "named" the Monster 
(and, at another level, set up a conjunction of terms 
Monster/theme/(oboe)/Po.) At 0:38, we see the visitors sitting, 
not an occasion for a naming theme, even if the shot were longer 
than two seconds.
[18] As I suggested earlier, cognitive paths apparently make 
creating a film score no more difficult than playing a CD while 
the film is running; but commentary to the commutation tests 
should also have suggested that the interplay between cognitive 
biases and the traditions of film composition are such that 
standards of judgment are available--in short, that we can tell 
what a *good* film score is. I would further claim that the 
practical problems with the tests support an assertion that 
composing a *good* film score is not at all easy. 
[19] The fact that film and "non-film" composers were 
experimenting with twelve-tone method at the same time also tends 
to undercut the assumption that popular culture lags behind the 
intellectually aristocratic "avantgarde," a notion that goes back 
to the earliest days of the Romantic/modernist conjunction. One 
might also ask about implications of the fact that I found little 
use for the typical language or methods of musical analysis in my 
"mix-and-match" commutation tests. But then, I suppose it is no 
secret that our language or methods are not designed to 
facilitate judgments of value, but only to support them after 
they have been made. Perhaps the most far-reaching implication is 
that the link between the tools of technical musical criticism 
and the ideology of masterwork culture is not at all secure. If 
this suggests a crisis (I hope it does), possible solutions would 
seem to be: (1) entrenchment (a strategy of which music theorists 
were accused--with hilarious irony--by Joseph Kerman some years 
ago); (2) adoption of the socio/anthropo-logical stance (whose 
ideal--if not whose practice--emphasizes ideological detachment 
from the cultures being studied); or (3) serious modification of 
the dominant humanistic stance music theorists have shared with 
historical musicologists (in the direction of self-consciousness 
and inclusiveness). The first option doesn't appeal to me; either 
of the others seems plausible.
[20] The class distinctions that have been supported by 
humanistic music scholarship can no longer be concealed. But, if 
so, where do we go from here? Where's the real tinsel, anyway?
Copyright Statement
[1] *Music Theory Online* (*MTO*) as a whole is Copyright (c) 1993,
all rights reserved, by the Society for Music Theory, which is
the owner of the journal.  Copyrights for individual items 
published in (*MTO*) are held by their authors.  Items appearing in 
*MTO* may be saved and stored in electronic or paper form, and may be 
shared among individuals for purposes of scholarly research or 
discussion, but may *not* be republished in any form, electronic or 
print, without prior, written permission from the author(s), and 
advance notification of the editors of *MTO*.
[2] Any redistributed form of items published in *MTO* must
include the following information in a form appropriate to
the medium in which the items are to appear:
	This item appeared in *Music Theory Online*
	It was authored by [FULL NAME, EMAIL ADDRESS],
	with whose written permission it is reprinted 
[3] Libraries may archive issues of *MTO* in electronic or paper 
form for public access so long as each issue is stored in its 
entirety, and no access fee is charged.  Exceptions to these 
requirements must be approved in writing by the editors of *MTO*, 
who will act in accordance with the decisions of the Society for 
Music Theory.