My Experiences at the Arnold Schoenberg Archives in Vienna
With my International Experience Grant, I took the Yale University course:
"Music of Arnold Schoenberg, 1908 to 1923: From Romanticism to Dodecaphony"
at the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna, Austria. My course work gave me the
opportunity to conduct in depth study of the development of one of the twentieth
century's most important composers in his home city. However, in Vienna, I also
enjoyed many opportunities to learn outside of class. Perhaps the most significant
of these experiences was viewing the archives of the Arnold Schoenberg Center.
The archives at the Schoenberg Center contain thousands of pages of sketch
work, manuscripts, and letters. During my stay in Vienna, I visited the archives
several times to explore sketches and manuscripts to various compositions in
order to gain a greater understanding of Schoenberg's compositional process.
One sketch that I found particularly fascinating was the beginnings of Schoenberg's
work on Pierot Luinare, a composition that I studied in class for spoken
voice and chamber ensemble. In my analysis of Pierot, I focused on
a three-note motif (F#-A-F) that appears in many contexts throughout the composition.
As I began to look through the section of Schoenberg's sketchbook devoted
to Pierot, I saw the three-note motif written at the top of the page
followed by its inversion written for reference. These initial notes proved
to me that composers do not work fully on intuition, writing down whatever
comes into their heads; they showed me that composition is a detailed process
that involves painstaking work at every step of the way.
As I continued through the sketchbook, I saw how Schoenberg worked with
the three-note motif. At first, he simply exchanged the three notes of the
motive between several, then unorchestrated, voices to create a canon with
multiple statements of the theme going on simultaneously. I could easily find
the place in Pierot where this cannon was later orchestrated.
Further into the sketchbook, the use of the motive became increasingly complex.
The latest sketches contained statements of Schoenberg's motive on multiple
levels of music; three statements of the motive were grouped in such a way that
the first note of each statement produced yet another appearance of the motif.
After looking through Schoenberg's work creating and developing musical material,
I considered how the ideas in the sketchbook translated into a final musical
work. I first looked at sketches that I could not readily find on the score.
Some appeared and were masked inside the music; placed in an inner voice or
appearing as the highest note of several consecutive measures. Other ideas
did not appear anywhere in the score. I began to look for reasons why these
would be rejected and saw how they could not fit into the large-scale structure
Finally, I explored the final orchestration of Pierot. The way in which Schoenberg
chose instrumental and vocal colors for ideas that he developed independently
of instrumentation fascinated me. One particularly striking example to orchestration
appeared where Schoenberg changed the voice part from speech to song on an appearance
of the works three-note motive.
By exploring Schoenberg' sketches for Pierot Luinare from their earliest
phases to a final score, I received a great deal of insight into the compositional
process. Studying the work f a master reinforced my belief that every aspect
of a piece of music is significant. By studying sketch work, I expanded my
understanding of the inner workings of music.