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ON

THE

AND
HORIZONTAL

VERTICAL PRESENTATION
OF
MUSICAL
IDEAS
and
on
Musical
Space
(I)

Regina

Busch

'HIS OWN ATTEMPTSAT EXPLANATION,just like his compositional work, lend themselves to

misunderstanding'.This opinion dominatesWebern literaturenow as in the past, though


naturallynot always in this formulationof Dohl's.' Sometimeswe readof contradictions,
of imprecisions;errorsof fact or of mentalprocessescanbe 'demonstrated';and,depending
on the particularauthor'sfield of interest and study, these are treatedwith indulgenceor
gentle annoyance, with indignation or knowing dismissal. Who could expect of a
composer-a composer, moreover, like Webern: naive, at times culpably naive,
withdrawn from reality; with a music so 'abstract',so in need of help or redemptionby
meansof interpretation-who could expect of sucha composerpertinentandconsistent,or
at least apt, music-theoreticalconceptsor utterances?Hardlyanyone,in fact, seemsto have
dared to expect this kind of thing of Webern so far. That this might indeedinvolve some
daring can be recognized from the conditions, the fuss, and circumstancewith which
Webern is approached.Whether they have sprungfrom the soil of serialmusicor not, all
the systematicinvestigations,the numberingof note-rows, classifyingof pitches,durations
and so on, considerations of 'structure' (many investigations, too, of 'form', of
symmetries)-they all seem like precautionsagainst the music. Since the music is not
trusted,the traditionalmusic-theoreticalconceptspresentedby Webern (and Schoenberg,
too) are also regardedas unsuitedfor coping with the music. Instead,attemptsare made
using, for instance, the idea of a cell (usually a three-note basic cell) and its
metamorphoses-an idea which is at leastas anachronisticas the traditionalones, is scarcely
strongenough to bear the burdenof explication,andis exactly as vulnerableto criticismon
scientific and ideological grounds as a serious preoccupation with Weber's own
statementsis alleged to be.
It may be that everything about Webern invites misunderstanding;
it may be that the
musicand the attemptsat explanationget in each other'sways. The musicevidently seems
1Friedhelm D6hl, 'Zum Formbegriff Weberns. Weberns Analyse des Streichquartetts op.28 nebst einigen
Bemerkungen zu Weberns Analyse eigener Werke' (On Webern's Concept of Form. Webern's Analysis of the
String Quartet op.28, together with some observations on Webern's analysis of his own works), in Osterreichische
Musikzeitschrift27 (1972), pp.131-148, especially p.137. Cf.also D6hl's 'Weberns Beitrag zur Stilwende der neuen
Musik' (Webern's contribution to the change in style of the New Music) in Berlinermusikwissenschaftliche
Arbeiten
Vol.12 (Munich-Salzburg 1976), p.337ff.

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HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL

to frighten people; at all events it does not make things easy for them. It has not become
familiar, or at least not self-evident, even to experienced interpreters.
Above all, it is hardlyloved-and the blame for this cannotlie only with the fact thatit
is mostly performed badly and without understanding.It seems only to give genuine
pleasureto a very few, and often not even then as music but more as an elitist occasion.
Access to this music is thereforecertainlynot easy. But providedthat one doesnot propose
simply to forget, displace, ignore or proscribeit, but regardsit as interestingand full of
promise(not merely significant),one will nonethelesshave to involve oneself andactively
come to terms with it. Webern's own statementscould facilitate this access and provide
helpfulcommentaries,especiallyif one does not get on too well with the scores,but only as
long as they are not robbed of their possible causes of misunderstandingand their
contradictions.Holding fast to the inconsistenciescould turn out to be more revealing,as
far as the understandingof his music and its general evaluation are concerned, than the
applicationto it of decisive interpretationmodels in which problemsand difficulties are
degradedinto errorsandaestheticflaws. Forit cannotsurelybe a matterof ascribinga place
in (musical) history to Webern and then consigninghim to the historical records?
Webern's 'attemptsat explanation'have in general sufferedthe samefate as his music:
they havebeen kept at a safedistance,or repelledaltogether.The vocabularymainlyusedin
talkingand writing about the music is peculiarlyneutral,cautious-one might almostsay
timid. The concepts have a sterilizingeffect upon the way the musicis heard,bluntingthe
effect of the sounds,blurringthe music.At any rate-and thiscan even be heardin the most
obscure interpretation-they are remote from the music and inadequateto it. They only
mirror the perplexity that Webern's music causedand causes;they do not removeit. The
conviction (which is widely disseminated)that one cannot, on the other hand,get on well
with or close to the music with 'traditional' music-theoretical concepts or ways of
describingmusic-and these after all includeWebern'spreviously-mentionedattemptsat
explanation;attemptswhich may not even be intendedto explain!-is in no way basedon
the actualexperience of the music. One may even askwhetherit reallywas thismusic-or,
more generally, non-tonal music-that provoked the re-examination, modification, or
even the throwing overboardof the concepts.
It is nonsensicalor falsifying-so it has been argued, for example, in connexion with
Webern-to apply the traditionalconcept of a period (a concept directed above all at
regularity) to him; it is similarlyheld inappropriateto speak of sonata form, unless one
means an ABA form in the most general sense-that is, once again in that neutral, and
perhapsalso neutralizing,sense. This kind of argumentcan be appliedconcerningvirtually
every music-theoreticalconcept to almostevery music:a consequenceof the naturallyand
inevitablycomplex relationshipof theory to thatof which it is a theory.Whether, over and
above this, the relationshipbetween musical circumstancesand 'traditional'concepts is
especiallyproblematicin the case of Webern, andwhy andto what extent, would firstneed
to be found out. Be that as it may, Weber, Schoenberg,Berg (and some of their pupils)
have spokenand written about their own music with the help of these concepts, to which
they, too, have linked concrete musical experiences concerning 'traditional'music. To
renouncethe use of this terminologybefore testingit-and this would, after all, also mean
giving up certain ways of thinkingand hearing-would be a luxury, or a sacrifice that
would only be worth while if one thenunderstoodthe musicandenjoyedit better. And that
is by no meanscertain:up to now, at any rate, we havenot got any furtherthanintellectual
satisfaction.To expect no more from a musicologicalengagementwith Webern,however,
is surelyalso an exampleof'stupidity in music',in the senseof Eisler'scategoryas described
by Karoly Csipak.2
2German'Dummheit'-see Karoly Csipak, 'Problemeder Volkstiimlichkeitbei HannsEisler'(HannsEislerand
the problem of popularity)in Berliner
ArbeitenVol. 11 (Munich1975);Karoly Csipak, 'Was
musikwissenschaftliche
heisst "Dummheit in der Musik"?Uberlegungenzu HannsEislersMusikdenken'(What does 'stupidityin music'
mean?Reflectionson HannsEisler'smusicalthinking),in Notizbuch5/6: Musik,edited by ReinhardKapp(BerlinVienna, 1982), pp.175-202.

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Yes!

TEMPO

It is also partof the characteristicway of dealingwith the terminologyof Schoenberg's


Viennese school to proceed, as it were, globally (another method of preservingone's
distance),especially in the case of concepts which had not up till then been establishedas
music-theoreticalones in the narrower sense: musical space, musical idea, comprehensibility, coherence, emancipationof dissonance,timbre, musicallogic, for example. The
fact thatsuchconceptsoccurin the work of differentauthors-Schoenberg, Webem, Berg,
Ratz, Spinner,Stein, Rufer,and out to the most remotecircles-is relatedto the formation
of this school, but it also says somethingabout their statusas terms.On the other hand,the
varying uses and to some extent variable meaningsof the concepts stand in the way of
precisedefinitions,and are a temptationto regardthem in each case as no more andno less
thana privateterminology:one, however, which-especially in the case of Schoenberg-is
not denied a claim to theoretical significanceand far-reachingeffect.3
Proceedingglobally:that meansthat virtuallynothingis known about the evolutionof
even a single one of these concepts in the musical thinkingof a composer-neither of the
'history' of the concept itself nor of its gradualdevelopmentin connexion and reciprocal
interaction with his composing. That is astonishing,when one considers that it was a
characteristic, indeed a defining characteristic, of Schoenberg'sViennese school that
composingand theorizing went hand in hand with and influencedeach other. Globalalso
means-on the one hand-that these concepts are (more or less) expected by and large to
mean the same regardlessof where they appear; that is, to be freely available. Since
contradictionsariseout of this, they are, on the other, creditedas conceptswith nothingor
everything: ambiguous, imprecise, capable of being arbitrarily combined, subject to
'musicological'interpretation-thus could their statusin today's thinkingabout musicbe
described.Yet things look better in Schoenberg'scase than in Webern's;a few scattered
pieces of preliminarywork exist.4 But the generalstateof knowledge,even with reference
to Schoenberg,is such that it is impossibleto determinewhether the inconsistencieslie in
the concepts themselvesor in Schoenberg'sthinking,or whether they originate from the
fact that in each case the verbalexpressionshave not been examinedwhere they occur,but
have been torn from their context, historical, musical, and of subject-matter.
In any examinationof Webern'stheoreticalutterances,the role thatmightbe playedby
the medium of communication must be taken into consideration-in contrast to
Schoenberg'swritings, publishedor intendedfor publication,andhis publiclectures,or the
publishedessaysandbooks of Rufer,Ratz, or Spinner.Webern'sstatementsmaybe binding
to a different degree, or in a different kind of way. A large proportionof his statements
concerninghis own music is to be foundin his letters, a few in his diaryentries.The notesof
two seriesof lecturesgiven by Webern in 1932and 1933in a privatehouse in Vienna, to an
audience of musiciansand musical laymen, are of central significance.These notes were
taken by a friend of Webern's, the lawyer Ploderer, who contributed to the musical
periodical23-as did Willi Reich, who reportedon these lectures in 23 and in Musik,and
who publishedthem in 1960under the title Der Wegzur neuenMusik.5The printingof the
lecturesin 23 was plannedat the timebut provedimpossible;in anyevent Webernwill have
known about this plan. No doubts have therefore been raised about their subjectively
bindingnature:that Webern expressedhimself in an entirelyconsistentmanner,especially
in mattersof 'terminology',in his letters to Schoenberg,Berg, Reich, HumplikandJone,
Kolisch,and Stein(to mentiononly a few of the most pertinentamongthose thathavebeen
published)is firmly established.Only occasionallydoes the fact that those whom Webern
3Cf. for example Carl Dahlaus, 'Schonbergs musikalischePoetik',
inArchivfurMusikwissenschaft33(1976), pp.81-88.
4For instance, Rudolf Stephan, 'Der musikalische Gedanke bei Schonberg'(The musical idea in
Schoenberg), in
RudolfStephan, lom musikalischenDenken. GesammelteVortrdge,edited by Rainer Damm and Andreas Traub (Mainz,
1985), pp.129-137; also Rudolf Stephan, 'Zum Terminus "Grundgestalt"'(On the term 'Basic Shape'), ibid.,
pp.138-145.
SAnton Webern, Der Weg zur neuenMusik, edited by Willi Reich (Vienna, 1960); English Version The Path to theNew
Music (Bryn Mawr and London, 1963), translated by Leo Black. (The passages appearing in this article have been
translated by Michael Graubart.)

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HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL

addressedincludedmusicallaymen serve the musicologicalauthors-when they permit(as


they think) Webern, but in reality themselves,a few liberties in mattersof thought. For
Webern, however, who throughouthis life felt himselfindebtedto the ideasof KarlKraus,
the binding natureof his utterances,musicalas well as verbal, was independentof whom
they were addressedto: 'In the end the words after all make the thought'he once wrote to
HildegardJone.
andthe vertical
The title of this essay promised that it would deal with the horizontal
of musicalideas.These are central concepts in Webern's thinkingabout music
presentation
insofar as they are for him the conceptual starting points from which the principal
developmentsof music-history,includingthat of his own time, canbe properlyunderstood
and described.A similarrole is played for Halm by the two 'cultures',fugue and sonata;6
analogousideasunderlieKurth'sbookson Bach, Romanticharmony,andBruckner.It is the
relationshipbetween homophonyand polyphony,between harmonyandcounterpoint(and
the theory of harmonyand the theoryof counterpoint),thathasalwaysdetermined,though
in continuallydifferent ways, the historyof musicandhas always been the subject-matter
of music-historyand musicology. They are central to Webern's thinkingalso becausethe
remainingconcepts, 'traditional'ones and others, group themselvesaroundthem and are
brought into relationshipwith them. They are of central significance,finally, becausea
peculiarityof the conceptualizationof musicalspacethat has developedmainly within the
Schoenbergschool can be attachedto them. This specialmeaningof horizontalandvertical
presentationmay perhapshavebeen observed-I do not know-but in anycaseignored.On
the other hand, these expressions are in common use everywhere. The incalculable
consequencesof this ignoringof their specialmeaningwithin the Schoenbergcircle include
extraordinary,diffuse, inaccurate, and in all manner of ways wrong ideas about what
Webernmight have meantby the synthesisof horizontalandverticalpresentation.Thereis
talk of the identity of the horizontal and the vertical, of the interpenetrationof the
horizontaland the vertical or of their annulment;some authorsobviouslyeven manageto
imagine somethinglike a diagonal.The presentstate of researchinto musicalspace, which
can only be sketchedhere, must at any rate be assessedas not yet scientific. And this not
because 'musical space'-whether this is a philosophicor aesthetic concept or a physical
one-is so difficult to treat, but becausein Webern's and Schoenberg'scase the pieces of
informationthat exist have not yet been takeninto considerationat all; or, to put it even
more polemically:becausethe texts have till now not been readcorrectlyor have onlybeen
read incompletely.
Space

'THE TWO-OR-MORE-DIMENSIONALSPACE IN WHICH MUSICAL IDEAS ARE PRESENTEDIS A


UNIT.' This formulationof the 'law' that is of such importancefor twelve-note music, as

Schoenbergsaid, is to be foundin the essay 'Compositionwith Twelve Tones'.7The text is


basedon extensive drafts,dating fromJanuary1934,for a lecture in Princeton.8There, the
talk is of'the law9 concerningtheunityofmusicalspace'and 'the law9 of the absoluteview10
of musical space';in the version of 1941/50, the statementthat correspondsto this is: 'the
an absoluteandunitaryperception'
(p.223). The relationshipof
unityof musicalspacedemands
Schoenberg'sthinkingin 1934to that of 1941or 1950cannotbe investigatedhere. Among
other aspects, this discussion would have to concern itself with the tendency towards
6Cf. for example August Halm, Von zwei Kulturender Musik (Of two cultures of music) (Munich, 1913, reprinted
Stuttgart, 1947); see also Regina Busch, 'August Halm Uiberdie Konzertform'(August Halm on concerto form), in
Notizbuch 5/6: Musik (Berlin-Vienna 1982), pp.107-153.
71941; first published 1950 in Style andIdea(New York), ed. Dika Newlin; the above quotation, and those following,
are taken from the new edition of Style and Idea (London, 1975), ed. Leonard Stein, where the essay appears as
next
'Composition with Twelve Tones (1)'. (Claudio Spies, in his introduction to the 1934 lecture-notes-see
note-states that the 1941 essay was originally given at UCLA in March 1941 and repeated at the University of
Chicago in May 1946.-M.G.)
8Published in Perspectivesof New Music, Fall-Winter 1974, Vol.13 No.1.
9'Gesetz'. Spies's translation, 'notion' (loc.cit) misses the binding force of Schoenberg's expression.--M.G.
io'Anschauung' ('way of regarding'); Spies's 'conception' does not convey the implication.-M.G.

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TEMPO

general validity that inheres in 'two-or-more-dimensional' or 'absolute and unitary'. In the


present context, we need only hold on to the fact that two components of this
conceptualization of space, namely 'absolute' and 'unitary', were retained. It is not yet
known, unfortunately, how Schoenberg arrived at this law, and when its formulation as a
'law' was definitely established. In the 'Diskussion im Berliner Rundfunk' ('Discussion
broadcast on the Berlin Radio') of March 1931,11Schoenberg refers literally to the law
'established by himself'. It can therefore be assumed that Webern knew of it at the latest by
this time, and had thought about it. And surely he must not only have known this law, but
must have been familiar with Schoenberg's theoretical investigations and plans connected
with it; to what extent, is still to be discovered. At any rate, the concepts 'musical idea',
'comprehensibility', 'coherence', '(musical) logic', 'presentation' entered into his musical
and theoretical thinking (and that of the Schoenberg school in general) and were used as his
own. The majority of these concepts correspond to the working titles of Schoenberg's
theoretical reflections, which centred primarily round the 'musical idea'. The 'law of the
unity of musical space', however, assumed quite exceptional significance for Weber's
musical thought; his thinking orientated itself around this law even after Schoenberg had
already emigrated and postal contact between them had loosened. This was especially the
case when he spoke or wrote about his own music and drew theoretical consequences
towards which Schoenberg had not pointed the way.
The very first series of lectures that Webern gave, The Path to Compositionin Twelve
Notes, January to March 1932, goes back to an outline which Webern wrote for a course in
Mondsee in 1931. He had already occupied himself with this and reported details of his plans
to Schoenberg as far back as 1929. Webern's course was planned as an introduction to some
of Schoenberg's lectures and the idea of discussing it with Schoenberg was an obvious one.12
It was Schoenberg's suggestion that 'only I would recommend your arranging the analyses
possibly in such a way (by the choice of works) as to show the logical development towards
twelve-tone composition'; the title, too, originated with Schoenberg, yet with a variant:
'Composition with 12 Notes'. In his 1932 lectures, Webern continued to speak of
composition in 12 notes. This enabled him to create in his listeners' minds the connexion
with a conception of music into which the new methods of composing could also be
seamlessly incorporated. Thus the 'way' can also be followed thus:
Then I did write a quartetagain thatwas in C major-but only in passing...Schoenberg's
songs,op.14:...Here,too,
we still find a tonality-but no cadence. (Lecture IV)
Schoenberg'sop.1t...No.1: the close is Eb,-it does not close in any key;...In this musicalmaterial,new laws have
asserted themselveswhich have made it impossibleto describe a piece as being in this key or that. (LectureV)
'atonal music' can be more appropriatelydescribedas 'music that is not in a particularkey' (Lecture I)

finally, too:
The chromaticpathhasbegun, i.e. the path that entails stridingforth in semitones.(LectureII, with referenceto
Brahms'sGesangderParzen).13

It is not only important that the formulation 'Composition in Twelve Notes'can be readily
joined onto the above formulations and functions in a suggestive way; it is above all
important that the conception which Webern arouses or addresses by means of these
formulations is a spatial conception. One might say even one with some degree of
concreteness, insofar as this spatial conception enables the 'concrete' musical experience of
music that 'is in C major' to be communicated by analogy. This becomes plain if one reads
the lectures through for the formulations tied to spatial conceptions. It is, of course, true
that our vocabulary, at least as soon as thinking is concerned, is in any case tied to spatial
conceptions; and perhaps music, which is known to have 'a close relationship with time', is
especially affected by the fact that temporal and spatial relationships can only be conceived
and described in dependence (including linguistic dependence) on each other. Weber's
"In Arnold Schoenberg,GesammelteSchriften,edited by Ivan Voytech (Frankfurt, 1976), pp.272-282.
12Cf. Hans and Rosaleen Moldenhauer, Anton von Webern.A Chronicleof his Life and Work, (New York, 1979),
pp.373f. Schoenberg's suggestion in the following sentence is quoted from p.374.
"My translations.-M.G.

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MUSICAL SPACE

mode of speech,however, makesuse of the dependenceon (or relationshipto) spacein that


it raisesinto consciousnessthe musical and spatialexperiences enshrinedin concepts like
'foundation14note', 'returning to the foundation14key' or 'relationshipbecoming ever
looser' as experiences (andnot as facts of nature).As a resultof this, 'suspended15
tonality'
acquiresa positively sensuousquality:
Everything,however, still had a relationshipto a key, aboveall at the end...[abouthis quartet,that 'in passing'was
still 'in C major'].The foundationnote itself, however, was not there-it was suspended15in space, invisible,no
longer necessary. On the contrary; it would already have been disturbing if one had really referred one's
experience to the foundationnote.13

And the idea that the note-row shouldtake over certainof the functionsof the foundation
note is soundedin formulationslike: 'The twelve notes in a quite specificsequenceform the
for the whole composition'(LectureVI), and:composingor inventingis 'founded
foundation
on the row' (Lecture VII).13
in space':that is alreadya different spaceor spatialdomainthanthe one in
'Suspended15
which a piece is situatedif it is 'in a key'. Whetherit is tonalityin generalor a particularkey
that yields the space in a given case cannot be clarified here. But the space in which the
foundationnote referred to is floating15seems to be an altogetherdifferent kind of space
(the meaningis not merely that of 'extended'tonality),a spacenot formedout of tonalities.
The way in which the twelve notes, which now have 'equalrights'and 'haveenteredinto
their dominion'(LecturesIII,V), relateto thisspaceor are locatedin thisspaceis againonly
metaphoricallyexplainedby Webern: 'The row in its originalformandat its originalpitch
gains an analogousrole to that of the "principalkey" of earlier music;the "reprise"will
naturallyreturnto it. We close "in the samekey"!'16(-a quotationfromTheMastersingers,
in which the formulations'in' a key, 'in' twelve notes resonateonce more. Schoenberg,
incidentally,had also quoted the sameplace in similarcontexts:in the chapteron closesand
and at the beginningof the essay 'Problemeder Harmonie'
cadences in the Harmonielehre,
Erwin
of
Stein, in 'Neue Formprinzipien',hadalso alludedto it with
Harmony);
(Problems
'You set the rule yourself and then obey it'.17)At the end of his secondlecture-series,in
April 1933,Webern once more took up the earlier conception:'As earlierone wrote in C
major, so we write in these 48 forms'. Otherwise he generally employed Schoenberg's
'compositionwith twelve notes'. Whether it was Schoenberg'slecture in Vienna at the
beginningof 1933that causedhim to changehis formulation,or he had chosen the version
with 'in' for didacticor similarreasonsin the first lecture-seriesonly, cannotbe determined
at present. Spinner and Reich have assuredme in letters that there was no difference
between 'in' and 'with', or that the differencewas negligible. In our context, however, in
which we are concerned(amongstother things) with changesin spatialconceptions,it is
perhapsuseful to rememberthat at one time both formulationswerein use.
Webern'sexample of the ash-traywhich, from whatever sideit is viewed, remains'the
same' (Lecture VII, 1932)is also of significancefor the conception of space. In the essay
'Neue Formprinzipien', Stein reports that Schoenberg once picked up a hat during a lecture
and turned it 'in all directions': 'Do you see-this is a hat, whether I look at it from above,
from below, from in front, from behind, from the left, from the right; it is and remains a hat,
even if it looks different from above than from below'. Schoenberg always held firmly to
this example with precisely this description: in 'Composition with Twelve Tones (1)'
(1941/50) we have knife, bottle, watch; in the draft for this (1934) watch, bottle, flower.

14German
'Grundton','Grundtonart'.I have chosen 'foundation'in preferenceto the usual'fundamental'because
the latter word has (at least in common usage) lost the literal connotations'ground','earth'(underfoot)and the
derived connotations 'cause', 'reason (for)' of the German 'Grund'-M.G.
15'Suspended
tonality'is Schoenberg'sEnglishphrasefor 'schwebendeTonalitat'. 'Hovering'or 'floating'ismore
exact: '...floating in space...'.-M.G.
16'Wir schliessen im gleichem Ton'.

"7ErwinStein, 'Neue Formprinzipien'(New Principlesof Form) in Musikbldtter


desAnbruch6. Sonderheft:
Arnold
zum 50. Geburtstage,
13. September
1924, pp.286-303,quotationsfrom pp.291 and 295.
Sch'nberg

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TEMPO

That the idea was importantfor him is shownby his 'stage-direction'18


which he notatesin
his script:'(show)'.19It is his attempt to symbolizethe 'law of the absoluteview of musical
space', in which-in the 1934formulation-'there is no absolute upwards,downwards,
forwards or backwards, since every direction becomes a different one from a different
point of that space'.
'Froma different point of that space':thatmeansthat fundamentallyevery pointin this
space is capableof becoming the ideal vantagepoint of the observer,the vantagepoint for
the 'view'; there is no single, predeterminedor fixed pointfromwhich the directionscould
be determinedin a particularcase or to which they could be referred.That which is right,
left, etc., changes with the point occupied in space. 'Absolute', therefore,in the senseof
independent, unrestricted, released from every tie (certainly from the tie to a fixed
referencepoint in space):specifically,not relative.Thisconceptionwas alreadyfamiliarto
the Schoenbergschool in the 1920'sas is shown by the example of Stein, or, too, that of
Greissle(essay on Schoenberg'swind quintet).20It can be conjecturedthat the 'absolute'
conception of space was seen as a contrast to one referred to a foundationnote; the
foundationnote would thenbe a predeterminedreferencepointthatwould remainin force
throughoutthe piece.
What sucha kind of spacewould look like, andhow the objectswithin this spacecould
be recognized and modified-about this, nothing is known. The only thing that is firmly
establishedis that in the Schoenbergianand Weberian space,in place of relationshipto a
foundationnote, the interrelationshipsbetween the notes (the twelve notes relatedonly to
each other, and, further,all the notes that occur) prevail,and 'only the note-relationships
are perceived and compositionally worked out21absolutely'.19'Absolutely' therefore in
particularmeans the independentexistence (independentof the foundationnote) of noterelationships,'absolutely'takenas a quality turnedto some extent into somethingpositive
which belonged, in music referredto a foundationnote, only to the foundationnote or the
'tonic': hence no absoluteupwards,downwards,etc., but absolutenote-relationships.The
space in which music referred to a foundationnote-or a piece referredto a foundation
note-is playedout is not simplya specialcase of the Schoenbergianspace (with a vantage
point fixed for a particularpiece); the spacesare differentin kind. Inversions,retrogrades,
etc., also occur in tonal music, and in this too an identity-relationis contained in their
relationshipto what they invertor revert,and thedifficultybecomesplainerstill in the case
of variationor reprise:in this music, too, the factorsuponwhich identificationor identity
depend, or by which they are influenced,are determinedby very varied conditions.It is
obvious that the concepts of identity and variationmust be consideredanew for musical
events occurringin twelve-note music. Variationin the 'traditional'sense-about which,
indeed, agreement ought also still to be sought-is too close to elementarytwelve-note
procedures;in the twelve-note context what it could encompassis too trivial-something
which at least everyone who has tried to understandWebern's piano variations has
experienced. Guidedby the circumstancesin twelve-note music, we shallhave to modify
the concept; but only modify it, not abolish it.
A further aspect of the 'absoluteness'of Schoenbergianspace must also be discussed.
The description of the 'absolute' in the essay of 1941/50 reads: 'In this space, as in
thereis no absolutedown, no rightor
Swedenborg'sheaven (describedin Balzac'sSeraphita)
left, forward or backward.22 Comparedwith the version of 1934(or, too, that of Stein,
1924), this, therefore, speaks only of 'absolute down', no longer of 'up and down' or
'upwards and downwards'. We are dealing here not with a quotation from Balzac or
"'Vortrags-Anweisung': Regina Busch's pun is untranslateable. The phrase means 'mark of interpretation' in the
musical sense (dynamics, tempo, etc) but 'Vortrag' also means 'lecture'.-M.G.
19Perspectives,Fall-Winter 1974, pp.84-85.
20Felix Greissle, 'Die formalen Grundlagen des Blaserquintetts von Arnold Schbnberg' (The formal foundations of
the Wind Quintet of Arnold Schoenberg), in Musikblatterdes Anbruch 7 (1925), pp.63-68;
especially pp.65-66.
21German
'auskomponiert'-M.G.
22Styleand Idea (1975),p.223.

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MUSICAL SPACE

Swedenborg, but with Schoenberg's synopsis of what Balzac's Seraphita relates of


Swedenborg'steachingin the chapter'The Cloudsin the Holy Place'andthe descriptionof
the 'ascension'of Seraphitawho hadby thenbecome the 'soul'.To what extent Schoenberg
derives his bearingsfrom Balzac/Swedenborgand to what extent more generally from a
'centre-point theory' with antique or Goethean roots23cannot be investigatedhere. If it
shouldreallybe the case that we are dealingwith sucha theory, thenat any rateit conflicts
with the conception, taken-and aptly taken-by Schoenbergfrom Swedenborg/Balzac,
of an ascentfrom centre to centre or from circle to circle into the actualcentre. Forin this
'heaven' there is indeed no absolutedown, but evidently an absoluteup. It can hardlybe
denied that this conflict musthave implicationsfor the conceptionof musicalspace,for the
presentationof ideas within that space, and also for the possible presence of a musical
'centre'.
This problem remains unclarified as much in the case of Webern as in that of
Schoenberg. It will be possible to take as a starting-point the fact that Schoenberg
concerned himself with both (conflicting) conceptions at the outset, i.e. undoubtedly
already at the time he was working on Die Jakobsleiter-towhich, as we know, he was
and Strindberg'sJacobWrestles.In
stimulatedby amongst other things Balzac's Seraphita
Strindberg'sfragment,too, he was able to encounterthe experience, pertinenthere, of the
loss of the familiar sensationsof space and time: the appearanceof the Swedenborgian
'unknownone' causes the normal space-time relationshipsto be put out of action: '...that
the churchseemsto be so distant.It hasrecededby at least a kilometre...HaveI lost my sense
take half an hour to walk along thisbit of the RueBonaparte,
of distance-measurement?...I
which otherwise only takesfive minutes...Iacceleratemy steps,I run,but the unknownone
pursueshis pathwith so exactly correspondingspeedthat I do not succeedin shorteningthe
distance that separates us.24 Schoenberg'sTotentanzder Prinzipien(Death-Danceof the
(written, like the text of Jacob'sLadder,in the middle of January1915)begins
Principles)
a
similarly: peal of bells that does not stop strikingafter the twelfth stroke;a sequenceof
associations: midnight-the blackest-darkest-eternally infinite-unimaginable-'one
sound!Without any differentiation'.After differencesare perceived,first by the sensesof
seeing and hearing, then by the other senses, a stage is reached in which the senses
differentiate too much. Finally the stage of 'recognition'25:
We recognize25that it lives;by its pallorandinsipidity;by its wealth of indistinctnesses;...Bythe fact thatits pallor
and insipidity now resolve themselves into colours and shapes; that is called binding oneself together...it
disintegratesmore andmoreandis in motion...Somuchandevery individualthingseemsimportant...Nowit sings;
each one sings somethingdifferent, thinksthat he sings the same,and really in one directionit soundsin unison26;
(in amazement)in anotherpolyphonic.Ina thirdandfourthit soundsdifferentagain;but thatcannotbe expressed.
Altogether, it has countlessdirections,and every single one can be perceived. (Heightening)And all of themare
lost towardssomewherewhere one could find them. It would be easy to follow them, for now one has the way of
viewing.27

This degree of recognition25is not exceeded furtherin the Totentanz,in contrasttherefore


or Balzac's/Swedenborg'sascension.Thenin the last partof the text almost
withJakobsleiter
'normal'conditions are attained again:
Zur
Webernsund GoethesMethodikder Farbenlehre.
23See, for instance, Angelika Abel, Die Zwolftontechnik
Schule(Webern'stwelve-note techniqueandGoethe'smethodology
derNeuenWiener
undXisthetik
Kompositionstheorie
of colour-theory. On the compositionaltheory and aesthetics of the new Viennese school) (Wiesbaden,1982).
24Translatedby the present translatorfrom the Germantranslationby E. Schering,Inferno.Legenden
(Munich,
1920)-M.G.
25German'Erkenntnis; erkennen': recognition, recognize; cognition, cognize; apprehension, apprehend;
knowledge, know-M.G.
26TheGerman'einstimmig'(lit. 'one-voiced') means'monophonic'(or even 'for one voice') in the musicalsense,
but also carries implicationsof 'joining in together', 'being of one voice (unanimous)',etc.-M.G.
27Texte(Vienna, 1926) p.25 (shortened)-M.G. translation.

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TEMPO

10
(It strikes thirteen.) Thirteen.-Not,

indeed, twelve, but at least a boundary in this emptiness!

As late as 1932, Schoenberg pointed out similar circumstances in his second orchestral song
from op.22, composed at almost exactly the same time (30 November 1914-8 January
1915):
...or, however, one has, as in an aphorism or, too, in the lyric, to invest every smallest component with such a great
richness of relationships to all the other components that the minutest change of position allows as many new
shapes28to be seen as in other contexts does the richest working-out and development. The shapes are then situated
as in a cabinet of mirrors and can continually be seen simultaneously from all sides and display relationships in all
directions.29

The difference from the ideas of Balzac/Swedenborg is not only a matter of the conflict,
mentioned above, between a centre-point conception and one of ascending degrees.
Schoenberg's space is not one in which terrestrial conditions are put out of action or at least
have become irrelevant; it is not described negatively ('no up, no down', etc.), but is a space
with other (than the usual) properties, but quite 'concrete' ones: in one direction it sounds
single-voiced, in another polyphonic-but the directions can evidently be distinguished
from one another. 'Altogether, it has countless directions, and every single one can be
perceived.' Countless: that is not anything uncertain, unlcear, unfocussed-just'countless'.
That for Schoenberg unusual spatial conceptions could be based on, as it were, real
experiences, is shown by his description of Loos's architecture:30
His houses are conceived of in three dimensions from the beginning, instead of being thought of in terms of a series
of planes fronted by a facade. They are so constructed that, with the use of only a few occasional steps, one can
proceed from the first floor to the second without being conscious of the change. Uncle Arnold compares them to
once.
sculptures made of glass, in which one can see all the angles at

Really conceived three-dimensionally, a glass space in which one can see all the angles at
once, or, as in Totentanz, in which it sounds single-voiced in one direction, polyphonic in
another, in which everybody sings something different but believes himself to be singing the
same: these conceptions paraphrase one of the principal properties of Schoenberg's and
Webern's musical space, the one which finally also makes possible the synthesis of the
horizontal and vertical presentations of a musical idea. Schoenberg laid this down in the law
of the unity of musical space; he was conscious of the fact that 'absoluteness'and 'unity'are
closely related.
(To be continued)

28'Gestalten'.
29My translation-M.G.;
Claudio Spies.

see also leaflet in record-set The Music of Arnold Schoenberg,Vol.III (CBS): notes by

Diariesand Recollections1938-1976 (New York, 1980), p.133 (diary entry of 3


30InDika Newlin, SchoenbergRemembered.
November 1939).

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