Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Expressionism in Music: Arnold Schoenberg

This week we are exploring Expressionism in both art and music. On Monday we looked at Edvard Munch as an example of an Expressionist painter. How do characteristics of Expressionism find their way into music?

Arnold Schoenberg is an example of a composer who used Expressionism in some of his compositions. Like Expressionist painters, Schoenberg uses distortion (in melody rather than brushstroke) as well as dissonances and fragmented rhythms to convey fear and anxiety in his work. His Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16 is one example of Expressionism in music. Listen to the first piece and notice Schoenberg’s attempt to create a sense of fear of oncoming undesirable circumstances. This first piece of Op. 16 was later titled “Premonitions” at the request of the publisher.

Listen to this first piece and let me know if you think Schoenberg effectively conveys the Expressionism seen in Munch’s The Scream.