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Schoenberg's Farben: An Analysis of Op. 16, No.

Author(s): Charles Burkhart
Source: Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 12, No. 1/2 (Autumn, 1973 - Summer, 1974), pp.
Published by: Perspectives of New Music
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Today it is no longer necessary to refute the long-lived m

perpetuated by many popular commentators on Schoenb
Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16, that the famous changes of in
combinations in the third piece are applied to just one u
chord. One wonders what started this myth and kept it goi
Perhaps Schoenberg's footnote, directing that entering instr
come noticeable solely by means of their color, was wrongly
imply that changes of pitch did not occur. And the footnote
more accessible than the formidable score,l which even Gus
said he could not read. Then too, the myth's demise was cer
hastened by the fact that until the LP era it was easier to
the novel idea of the changing colors than to hear a perfo
the music. Even today, the remarkable organization of the
edged pitch-changes, and their relation to the instrumentation,
tively little known.
Confusion of a different kind-though less serious-has at t
wrought by the quantity of names and nicknames given thi
the years. Composed in 1909, when Schoenberg was also
painter, all of the five pieces were unnamed in the first publish
issued by Peters in 1912. But at the behest of the publishe
berg had earlier begun to think of names for them and had
in a diary entry for January 27 of the latter year. Accordin
the third piece is there called Akkordfdrbungen (Chord H

1 Though anyone needing to make a quick translation of the pitc

access since 1913 to a very useful pony: Anton Webern's two-piano arr
Op. 16, published by Peters.


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is shortened simply to Farben (Colors) on a sheet of

entered into copies of the 1912 score, and this name
the revision of 1922. A third name, Der Traunsee
listed, according to Richard Hoffmann, on the progr
formance conducted by Schoenberg in Salzburg of S
arrangement of Op. 16 for chamber orchestra. In on
pre-dates all others, since the idea for the piece cam
impression of the colors of dawn on the waters of
two ideas of color and summer morning are combin
Farben (Sommermorgen am See), which was publish
sle's 1925 arrangement for chamber orchestra, and
latter, Summer Morning by a Lake (Colors), is print
German in the score of Schoenberg's 1949 revision f
orchestra published by Peters in 1952. A completely
Der wechselnde Akkord (The Changing Chord), thou
on a score, has had wide use. Schoenberg himself su
program annotator for the second performance anyw
Pieces-in London, February 1914. (This was the fi
Schoenberg conducted.) The piece was subsequent
name in what is probably the first serious analysis of
"Schonberg Explained," by the enthusiastic advocate
ernism, Dr. A. Eaglefield Hull. His analysis appear
March through July issues of The Monthly Musical R
Hull was then editor.

Notwithstanding the names descriptive of nature, Schoenberg's in-

tention in this piece (as in the other four) was never programmatic in
the nineteenth-century sense. But he apparently felt that such a name
might foster a better reception of the music by some of his hearers. And
then the idea had come from a particular personal experience.2
Though the final title is that of the 1949 revision, I will refer to the
work as Farben, since I have based my analysis on the 1922 revision.
The instrumentation there seems to me slightly superior to that of the
later revision.3 I have been fortunate in having access also to a copy of
the short score of the piece.4

2 The complex matter of the names is treated in detail by Erich Doflein in his
article, "Sch6nbergs Opus 16 Nr. 3/Geschichte einer Yberschrift," Melos, May
1969, p. 209.
3 Robert Craft has an excellent comparison of the editions in his "Schoenberg's
Five Pieces for Orchestra" in Perspectives on Schoenberg and Stravinsky, Benjamin
Boretz and Edward Cone, eds., Princeton University Press, 1968, pp. 3ff.
4 Kindly provided by Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles. This document is


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The pitch organization of Farben reveals two gen

stream of five-voice chords (continually subjected to ch
mentation) and a group of very short ejaculatory mot
static in instrumentation) that from time to time occur
the stream of chords, but neither interrupt nor embellish
chords are the essence of the pitch content of the wor
them first, reserving the extra-chordal elements for a late
The pitch material of the chords may be precomposit
(as in Fig. 1) in terms of the ranges of the five voices. E
a mere tritone, and the entire gamut-only slightly ove
is located so as to permit a maximum number of instru
ticipate in the maximum number of voices, ideally in al
The typical instrument plays solo for just one half-no
plays another half-note in another voice, and so on, al
posed as to produce a new instrument combination on ev
In general, since each note in every voice of the five-
played by only one instrument at a time, only five inst
any one time. Later I will discuss these combinations an
serial ordering.

voice 3 voice 1
not~voice voic 3 n
voice 5 used voice 2
voice 4

Fig. I


The primary pitch referent of Farben is the first chord

Fig. 2, which gives every pitch (exclusive of octave doubli
five-voice stream. Not only is this chord regained at m. 30
end, but other transpositions of it occur in identical spaci
course of the composition. Throughout this analysis the te
"chord") will be used (as in Fig. 2) to designate both th
primary reference and any transposition of it. Arabic numb
ing the term C locate the particular transposition in terms o
ber of semitones above the primary referent, which is designat

described in Josef Rufer, The Works of Arnold Schoenberg, Dika Ne

Free Press of Glencoe, 1962, p. 33.


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Fig. 2
Every pitch of the organism (except octave doublings) is given in this figure. A note once wri
continues to be sounded until a new note appears in the respective voice. "Chord change
where one or more voices change pitch, thus producing a new chord. "Instrument change" ref
is replaced by another, or a group of instruments is replaced by another group. (The relation of
is discussed under COLOR.)

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Chd i J J J J %JJ0
chs.I -II J;J ALa
o ecI e

il"41tI - f- d a jr ^ d ddtl ddr d ,.

c^ei rrr r r f r rprtffr , -. %

(X.0 Li

Fig. 2 (con

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The linear as well as vertical aspect of the mate

Fig. 2. An astonishing polyphonic event is the way
scale downward move is gradually made from the o
tion of C to the next (mm. 3-9). Each of the voices s
"motive" (hereafter M) consisting of a rise of one s
by a fall of two. These statements form a strict canon i
2-1-4-3-5: when voice 2 moves down a whole ste
taneously moves up a half step, and so on, until each
a point a half step lower than the one from which
sulting simultaneity at m. 9 is C-11. Of course, this
ceived vertically as well as linearly: from one transpo
next the canon produces exactly seven different simu
as strict as the pitch relationships here is the rate at
sive changes of pitch take place: from m. 4, where t
through m. 8, each simultaneity takes exactly one m
C-1 1, like C-0 in mm. 1-3, is held for several measur
ment of the canon is set off by absence or motion at

Other instances of the canon on M, identical with

relationship but stated at other pitch levels and in sh
note values, occur at mm. 20-23 (in the upper four v
the changes occur every half measure, and at the cli
mm. 26 (4th beat) to 29-where four quite rapid run
canon bring about the large-scale move from C-4 ba
29, one run-through of the canon, which originally
measures, is compressed into just seven 16th notes, w
fore, expressible as just three adjacent 16th notes. Con
successive 16th-note value contains a different verti
A different polyphonic process, this one non-canon
to effect an upward move. The first is from C-11 u
13-15. Here the bass voice begins by simply moving f
which voices 1 and 2 move down to gbl-dbl, and
into voices 2 and 3 of the gradually forming C-2. At
g moves up to bb, which as a member of C-11 was v
becomes voice 4. The goal of this process, C-2, is fina
its top tone, bl, simply enters out of nowhere-from a
of view. But this b1 is a crucial background note in t

5 In the run-through from C-1 to C-O within m. 29, voices

their statement of M by one 16th note, thereby causing eight ra
seven simultaneities.

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from the opening al to the c#2 in m. 24, and its high status is signalled
by its syncopated entrance (in Oboe 1) and its slight crescendo. The
second upward move-from C-1 to C-4-occurs at mm. 23-24, where
the entire process just described, slightly modified and rhythmically
compressed, is repeated. (An exception here, however, is the bass,
which, since it did not state M in m. 23, now is a retained d rather
than a c#. Not only is this ellipse part of the general acceleration, but
a bass c# here would be temporally very close to the climactic c#2 that
will arrive in m. 24-again syncopated [see solo viola]-and might
produce an unwanted octave relationship.) The essence of these moves,
lying in the manipulation of the perfect fourths in the upper voices, is
summarized in Fig. 3.

mm. 1 13 15 23 24

Fig. 3

In the final section of the piece, mm. 32-44, the three-note motive
(M) again appears in strict canon, but now inverted. The inversion
produces a large upward move from C-0 to C-1 in mm. 32-38. Since
the original order of the canonic voices, if applied here, would produce
some infelicitous octaves and awkward counterpoint, it is replaced by
an order which yields better results: 2-4-1-3-5. From m. 39 on, parallel
motion in all voices brings the counterpoint to a halt, while a retro-
grade of M restores C-0 for the last time.
The pitches of the five voices, though passed from instrument to in-
strument, are all present at every instant. Thus the piece does turn out
to be, in a sense, one "changing chord"-one great five-strand organism
that ever so slightly crawls, snake-like, through all 44 measures. From
the broadest viewpoint, the pitch patterns in this organism divide
Farben horizontally into four large parts, indicated by brackets in Fig.
2. The first, mm. 1-15, consists successively of the opening three com-
pletely static measures, the canon on M (C-0 to C-11), and the up-
ward move from C-11 to C-2. Here the end of this part elides with
the beginning of the second, mm. 15-24, which is a modified and,
from m. 20, speeded-up sequence of the first. I read mm. 15-19 as one
almost-static chord comparable to the opening, but embellished by a
neighbor-tone in each of the upper two voices. Similarly, three neigh-
bor-tones embellish the beginning of the climactic third part, which

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elides with the end of the second in m. 24. But this

like the previous two: breaking off the sequence, it
four statements of the canon to end with the held C-0 in mm. 30-31.
Part 4, m. 32 to the end, with its canon on inverted M, is a prolonga-
tion of the primary referent. While these four large patterns are un-
deniably formed by the pitches, they are not the equivalent of the form
of the work, but only one aspect of it, as will be later shown.
Throughout the organism, octave doublings of a part are rare. At
mm. 30 and 41, doublings of the bass contribute to the articulation of
formal units, and at mm. 16-17 a doubling of the top voice is the
piccolo's single contribution to the organism.6 The doublings of all the
parts in mm. 10 and 12 are the result of a change of register at the
fermata (m. 11). Not once throughout the entire organism do two con-
secutive different pitches in a single voice receive octave doubling.
In another class are the octaves within the essential voice-leading:
the C's in m. 7 and Bb's in m. 36. Both of these result from the strict
canon and are made acceptable by the simultaneous occurrence of a
major seventh or minor ninth. One or both of these latter intervals is
present in every simultaneity of the organism-that is, at every instant.

In his footnote in the score of Farben Schoenberg states

ductor shall not attempt to bring any motives to the f
"watch that every instrumentalist plays accurately the
namic, according to the nature of his instrument" (En
1949 version). Thus it is with surprise that we notice c
the score marked with the sign H (Hauptstimme). App
events are not to be "brought out," but will simply stand o
of themselves if played with "the prescribed dynamic."
response to these signs on the part of the interpreter, t
is significant that they are never placed over comp
changing-chord organism, but over what may be ca
chordal elements. These sporadic interjections are struct
nate to the organism, but dramatically they contribut
composition. Without them, the changing chord, fasc
in both instrumentation and pitch, would be too much
The piece would become a tour de force.

6 Peter Fortig, in an analysis of Farben in Melos (May 1969

connection between the rhythm of the piccolo part in m. 16 and
low C$'s in m. 41.


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Two motive-complexes may be distinguished. The first is forme

tirely of the falling whole step in the rhythm ti (hereafter: "tw
note motive"). This motive occurs twelve times, in various trans
tions, and, with one exception, in low registers. All appearances b
first (m. 7) are stated in superposed perfect fifths, which relate it (qu
explicitly, as will be seen) to the superposed perfect fourths of
After only three statements it drops out at m. 11, not to reappear
mm. 27-29, where, in a falling series of six statements, it intensifies
simultaneous descent of the organism from C-4 to C-0, and attain
the end of its descent, a goal which duplicates three of the pitch c
of C-0, namely, A, E, and B. These relationships, among others,
pictured in Fig. 4, which also shows the significance of the single
statement in m. 31. This statement (flutes, clarinet) consists of
very next pitch classes in the whole-tone descent that paused just
measure earlier and two octaves lower (double basses); furthe
pitch classes are identical with those of the statement in m. 9, wh
the actual beginning of the descent continued in mm. 27-29.
reading [Fig. 4] seems corroborated by the short score, which h
the two-note motives in question disposed on the same staff.)
mm. 1 7 9 27 28 29 30 31 32

Organism r rt

see m. 31

rn "i " 2~~~ -&2~~ - d -i - - - see m. 9

Two-note r r a [


in th
same measures.

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The second, and more varied, complex of motives i

Motives w, x, and y all occur both in mm. 20-21
motive z, the most vivid short event in the piece, ap
m. 31, simultaneously with x and the two-note mot
42 are two final statements of motive w alone.7 Unlike the two-note
motive, the ones in Fig. 5 are, significantly, always stated on the same
pitch classes, and, except for motive w, in the same register. Their pitch
classes of highest priority are F and G, neither of which are members
of C-0. More strikingly, w and y always occur with one of the trans-
positions of C-each time a different transposition, and never the
0-transposition; they seem calculated to avoid as much as possible the
pitch classes of C with which they occur.


(plus 8va) - - I..... -

1X ' -3I

Fig. 5

If it is too much to find the tiny motives w, y, and z interrelated (as

in Fig. 5b) by their use of pitches that reduce to a rising whole step-
which in turn is related to the falling whole step of the two-note motive
-and to find x and z related to C-0 by joint use in m. 31 of pitch
classes E, B, and G#, there can be no question that the clusters of mo-
tives at mm. 20-21 and 24-25 dramatically participate in the climax
by occurring immediately before points where a notable quickening in
the tempo of chord- or instrument-change begins. But the most im-
portant meaning of the motives in Fig. 5 will not be found in their
correspondences with the organism, but in their opposition to it. They
constitute a separate layer-superimposed on the main body of the
composition in the manner of a collage-not only by virtue of their de-

7 According to Richard Hoffmann, Schoenberg spoke of w as the "leaping trout"

motive. (See the article by Doflein cited in note 2 above.)

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sign and orchestration (they are confined to a small group of instru-

ments), but by their stasis, which acts as a foil to the constantly shifting
web of sound that is the changing chord.8


The changing-chord organism, then, reveals a very tight

pitch construction, but one that is so simple and devoid of pi
lishment that, by itself, it could not sustain interest. The di
the work that holds us from moment to moment is, of cours
traditional orchestral music, instrument changes are gener
slower than changes of pitch: a group of pitches-a phrase,
chords-will be assigned just one instrument or group of inst
In Farben we have the reverse: the changes of instrument
of color) are generally faster than the changes of pitch. The
relation in Farben of these two dimensions, pitch change a
ment change, is shown on two parallel lines near the bottom
The differently colored chords will be seen to occur on every
throughout most of the piece, whereas the rate of pitch cha
more, but is generally slower. The two move at the same p
short spots, mm. 21-23 and 28-29, but never does the pace
change exceed that of color change.
The basic idea of the instrumentation of the organism is n
change on every half-note to a different quintet, but, also, n
peat a particular instrument combination in either original or
form. Actually, during the first half of the piece, the half-note
occur only in the upper four voices (hereafter "quartet"), w
bass voice, which receives special treatment throughout, an
horizontal aspect will receive separate consideration, chang
ment on every quarter note. For the first ten measures, only
tets, alternating back and forth, are used; but from mm. 13
(that is, hitherto unused) quartet appears at every point of i
change. From m. 32 on, the instrument changes may be viewed
of quintets, since the bass now ceases to be rhythmically differe
the upper four parts. While I will sometimes speak of the qu
separate entity, this is not to neglect the participation of the ba

8 After writing this I came across the informative article of Josef R

einmal Sch6nbergs Opus 16" (Melos, September 1969, p. 366). He m
observation that the two-note motive is related to the last two notes of
this relationship is confirmed by the concurrence in mm. 28-29 of th
motive with M in 16th notes.

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vertical sonorities during the opening 24 measures.

end, even during the passages with quarter-note bas
ment of five instruments repeats even for the dur
Throughout the work, in order to subtly effect the change from one
group of instruments to the next, each group overlaps slightly with its
follower, as shown in Fig. 6 below.
I have noted that each instrumental part consists mostly of just single
notes followed by rests. However, due to this half- plus eighth-note pat-
tern, a single instrument must play two consecutive different pitches at
those points where a pitch change occurs in a voice, viz., the English
horn's e2-f2 from mm. 4-5. But no instrument (one player) ever plays
two different half-note pitches in succession. This process of instrument
change grows more complex in mm. 26-29, the climax of the work,
where both instrument and chord changes greatly quicken, but here, as
before, new instrument combinations still attack on every different
chord, and the overlapping is maintained.
A glance at m. 29, the single most complex measure, will reveal
many occurrences of the motive M-now expressed in 16th notes, as
well as numerous unison doublings between two or more instruments.
While this measure of the organism is the only one in which three or
more consecutive pitches of a voice are played by one instrument, and
the only one in which unison doublings among primary participants in
the organism occur, the principle of color-change is not abandoned, as
might be supposed at first. Not only are the unison doublings arranged
so that no two instruments have the same point of attack or of release,
as illustrated in Fig. 7, but a new quartet attacks on fourteen of the
sixteen 16th notes of the bar, while on the remaining two 16ths, re-
leases produce a color-change!
m. 29 (actual pitches)

Fl. I ;
Vn. I

_ J etc.
r -; t|etc-
Cl. I H.
E. H. I2 7 VFf

Fig. 6 Fig. 7

9 On Fig. 9, compare
mm. 1-10, of course) to r
or permuted form. Even
same because of the horn
second half of ().


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An outstanding detail of the instrumentation that vividly contr

to the articulation of large-scale events in the overall structur
"string punctuations" noted in Fig. 2. Involving a group of strin
ing a single chord en bloc, they interrupt the normal flow of inst
change at mm. 11, 25a, 28 (last 16th note), and 30-31. Besides
four, a fifth one doubles the chord in m. 40a. The unique instr
tion is what makes these points decidedly separable as a grou
though 1) they are part of the total changing-chord organism
are not equal in length, and 3) they are not all of equal rank
pitch structure.
As described so far, the instrumentation of the changing-chord
ism may be very generally summarized as in Fig. 8, which as
represents the unbroken five-voice stream from beginning to
clusive of doublings. I will be referring to its three divisions, A
C, in the ensuing discussion. A is of primary concern because o
ternal homogeneity, and because it is, quantitatively, most of t
B is horizontally distinct from A in the rhythm of its instrumen
(I will distinguish between A alone and A-B together.) C is m
separate from A-B instrumentally and, in part, rhythmically.

The Instruments

The score of Farben names 18 varieties of instrument, many of

which (in the 1922 version) appear in fours or form groups of four
with close relatives.10 My chief concern is with those instruments that

mm. 12 10 13 29 32 44
v--vlc i - - - - - - -

2- I
(repetitions I
ofm. 1) I
Ae 3-

4--- I------

v. 5

B Fvoice 5
mm. 11 25a 28 30-31 40a

C {string punctuations

Fig. 8

10 From here on, the tern "instrument" will mean "type of ins


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participate in the organism. This eliminates the pi

mostly in the extra-chordal motives. It eliminates, a
celesta, because they never participate directly in
changing process of A by carrying a voice by them
double, here and there, instruments that are doing
these doublings take the form of entire chords at f
spots, viz., m. 30, the use of these instruments, noneth
structural in Farben, but only for emphasis-that is
traditional sense.

Only 15 instruments, then, participate in the organism. But it is quite

wrong to assume only 15 colors. Leaving aside color differences among
various registers of a single instrument, a great variety of additional
timbres are produced by the use of muting in the upper three brasses
and in all strings, as well as by other special effects in the strings-har-
monics (both muted and not), pizzicati, high positions on low strings-
and by playing solo, divisi, and tutti. (The winds always play solo on
a given voice.) In attempting to discover the rationale behind Schoen-
berg's instrument combinations and their horizontal ordering (assum-
ing it is discoverable), should one take all these effects into account-
especially the differences between open and muted brass that are so
clearly separated in the layout of the 1949 revision? Shall each of these
different effects be considered a separate and equal "instrument," or,
better, color component? I think not, because I distinguish more than
one criterion for color choice in Farben and find that these are not all
on the same level. In this analysis, therefore, I give highest status to the
instrument qua instrument, and consider muting and all other effects
secondary.l1 I am emboldened to do so for three reasons-first, because
in the serially instrumented passage described below some recurrences
of a given instrument are identical with their occurrence in the first
"prime" series, whereas others are not. For example, "open horn" in
one run-through of a series may be "muted horn" in another. Since the
serial ordering, which is so extensive that it must be the primary choice-
determining factor at this point, is manifested only in the instrument-
types, they must be the color components of highest status.12 But a sec-

flute, oboe, etc. References to, say, "oboe" pertain to the sum of the three oboes'
parts, not to one or the other oboe separately.
11 I do not intend, of course, to denigrate the manifold finesses achieved by the
use of special effects.
12 Since the serial passage treats in like manner the Bb and D clarinets, I do not
distinguish between them.


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ond, and perhaps more convincing, reason emerges from the general
stipulation that no instrument be used twice in immediate succession in
the same voice. If, then, open horn and muted horn were of equal rank, it
is highly probable that there would be a fair number of occurrences of
the horn playing open and muted contiguously. But the fact is that it
almost never does'3-a strong suggestion that instrument-types form
the primary class of color components. Finally, if open horn and muted
horn were equal, one might expect to find in the work instances of two
(or more) vertical combinations identical in instrument-type but dif-
ferent in their use of mutes-a practice consonant with the principle
that all timbre-combinations be different. It seems significant that this
happens only once-and just for a quarter note-as observed above.
However, this one case shows Schoenberg using muting as a secondary
color-class. Lacking his primary criterion, he achieves a difference in
timbre by resorting to the second: in the earlier of the two combina-
tions (m. 14, third quarter), only one horn is muted, but in the other
(m. 44, first quarter), both are.
The color components of highest status, then, are the 15 varieties of
instrument used in the organism (A-B-C of Fig. 8). The total number
of attacked notes in the organism (excluding the repetitions of mm.
2-10) are distributed by instrument-family among the 7 woodwinds,
4 brasses, and 4 strings at a ratio very close to 7:4:4. How gratifying
it would be to the seeker of a rationale if each individual instrument as
well (or each player's part) received the same, or even almost the same,
number of notes! While this is not exactly the case, it is true that a gen-
eral principle within A is to distribute each instrument's notes so that
they touch as many of the pitches within the gamut B-d2 as possible,
and repeat no pitch a conspicuously large number of times. I assert this
as an ideal in spite of several obvious (some inevitable) failures to ful-
fill it. Contrabassoon, tuba, and (except for two single notes) double
bass play only in voice 5. All remaining instruments play in at least
three of the voices, but the flute and oboe do not play below middle C.
The bass clarinet is confined almost exclusively to voices 4 and 5
(would it be too loud in its high register?); the trombone is asked to
play only one note in voice 1, and the viola figures most prominently
in voices 1 and 5. Otherwise the ideal is realized to a surprising degree,

1.; But there are just two places in Farben where it does in fact happen. Also, a
very few instances of two consecutive notes by one instrument can be found. These
arise from exigencies of the moment; the minute percentage of the whole that they
represent does not invalidate the general principle.


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considering that another limitation on it is the number

of each pitch in the work. For example, the climactic d2
only three times, can appear in only three instruments.
On Fig. 914 I have laid out all the attacked notes of t
(A-B-C of Fig. 8) and have indicated the instrument t
note. (See pp. 157ff.) Since the rest of the analysis will r
to this figure, a few remarks about it are necessary:

1) Measure numbers are given at the top and are not

2) The encircled numbers from ( to @ denote
combinations. The following are not numbered:
a) The repetitions of () and ( in mm. 2-10.
b) The string punctuations. (Each one is encl
dotted line.)
(All encircled numbers in the analysis refer to Fig
3) The numbers () through ) refer primarily to
that is, voices 1-4 only.
4) Since only attacks are shown, the overlapping of e
tion with its follower is not accounted for.
5) Abbreviations:
FL flute TB trombone
OB oboe TU tuba
EH English horn VN violin
CL clarinet VA viola
BC bass clarinet VC violoncello
BN bassoon DB double bass
CN contrabassoon m muted
HN horn h harmonics
TP trumpet p pizzicato
Abbreviations always indicate "open" (un
unless followed by a lower case m. Examp
HN open horn
HNm muted horn
VCh cello playing harmonics
14 I am very grateful to my departmental colleague at Queens College, Professor
Raymond Erickson, who most generously assisted me in a computer analysis of the
instrument combinations of Farben. The analysis was executed at the IBM Systems
Research Institute, Edwin S. Copley, Director, New York, where Professor Erickson
was a research fellow. Figure 9, in slightly modified form, was the subject of various
computer searches that led to the discovery of the serially ordered quartets and fur-
nished statistics on which some of the following statements are based.


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oasurt I t 4

Jtntnt Co6bin ,nO @

M .

/ I
I d1 7 - - --- r--J - -J
FL EN t *


V VAn *AFrI t --/-

p." "">

"-/ ,I

Fig. 9

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)2 Il iil to 1, 20

)A ?? ?? @) ? ( o i ( o io *


J ,. b J - '-J] 7


>-mf --f -fr jf - je ' f b f

?9 <LLU rrrr f F F r
^^ IC
o: 8N
t CN
4Ci9I) 'c2 - ',. C

Fig. 9 (c

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A ,5 i 2,7 Zs
I , I : rS 7 , q t II 1 0 I r 4 S 3 tI
I- Prime Ssris - - - - -- -*-- Retrograde- - - - - -

) A ? I????@ I I ,
I-: > Ia-t r t to *- - b.4 iad in 6 Ah z f
Qy I : ! f ' ' I t . l , 1 t 1-
'- I

!:~YJi J I 'J I; O^ - 'r*jr= u !g i_m


l?tf!r r r Ur rrr r
<I4 ": t Tn t
-:z:c-4) c-4j2 c

Fig. 9

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30 II 31. 33 34 35 34 37 It

I \
?@ @? @? @@ 8 ( * 9 (i)

fe" .. .I J_
t*1h I VN Hlm FL CL TPmOi 81I EH Ob TP Htm \m FL VA CL KtN EH
1 1 _ ,___- 1z,,

J . j j ,

,VVC3 CL VCn tA *B bv Hlim VA TB 1N VIb TPm FL YC |I|. L r CL

^ . ~LIzA J I Lil4 4 =4 ~~4-*IJ4J

( DBh i VA TBm BN BC EH DB HN CL V T8m CL VN tPm DB en T8

qs\b .^ J Jl ^i . - J jf ?J
s8h ,/- UHN BC TBmVAm DB CN VC TU BN TBm BC Hftm V

(l- ")1 c;u C-iC

Fig. 9 (con

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General Conditions Governing the Quartets/Quintets

Because of their unique characteristics detailed elsewhere, the follow-

ing are excluded from the statements below unless there is a specific
note to the contrary: 1) the bass in mm. 1-29, 2) all of mm. 2-12,
3) the string punctuations, and, of course, 4) the extra-chordal elements.
This removal leaves a large homogeneous body of quartets/quintets
(hereafter "verticalities"). In other words, it leaves A (minus mm.
2-10) of Fig. 8.
Considered individually as unordered instrument-sets, the vertical-
ities adhere by and large to the following general conditions:

1) The ideal is a mixture of all three families in which woodwinds

predominate. The most frequent quartet is 2 woodwinds, 1 brass,
1 string; the most frequent quintet is, respectively, 2-2-1. (This
slighting of the strings is balanced by the string punctuations.)
Sometimes 3 woodwinds occur, seldom 4. Rare are verticalities
using 3 brasses or 3 strings; none uses 4 of either family. (In
mm. 9-10 the contrabassoon's quarter notes produce a group of
5 woodwinds.)

2) In a given verticality, one, but no more than one, instrument

may be used twice. The most general practice is that all five in-
struments are different, but (T), with its 2 flutes, sets a precedent
for repeating one instrument. Altogether eight different instru-
ments are so repeated. The two like instruments may or may not
lie in adjacent voices. Verticalities with twice-occurring instru-
ments are equal in status with the others, and by themselves form
no pattern or subgroup within the composition. (Discounting
mm. 2-10, there are fourteen instances in A of such twofold use;
a few more of only quarter-note duration occur within A plus

15 A computation of the total of vertical unordered combinations of instruments

that Schoenberg could have used simply as the number of sets of 5 within 15 results
in a number that is not particularly relevant to Farben. A more meaningful number
will emerge if the reckoning is in terms of the relation of the instruments' ranges to
the ranges of the five voices, and in terms of further compositional limitations im-
posed by Schoenberg. Also, such a number is best calculated in terms of A plus B
only (Fig. 8), since the string punctuations (C) are incomparable in quantity and
function. To anyone desiring to obtain the total in these terms I offer the following:

1) Only nine instruments can play in all five voices of Farben. Three others (FL,
OB, and VN) can play in four voices. Of the remaining three, CN and TU

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Repetitions of instruments between two or more

generally controlled as follows:

1)Within a single voice a given instrument almo

from one verticality to the next.

2) Adjacent verticalities may have two, one, or no

common, provided a common instrument does n
foregoing condition. About half of them share on
good quarter share two, and a little less than
none. I discern no patterning in the distribution

3) Within A plus B, the larger the subset of instruments with

verticality of five, the less likely it is to be repeated.

4) Repeated subsets (except in the serially ordered passage) fav

permuted over original vertical ordering.

These last two statements require amplification: After m. 13, in A

B (that is, including voice 5), there are no repeated verticalities of
voices in their original vertical order, and the one repetition in
muted order has already been mentioned. There are, however, sub
of four instruments (4-groups) repeated in the original voices, th
with the same instruments in the same voices, but most of the
within the serial passage-treated separately below-where repetit
is, of course, a sine qua non. Besides these, only one 4-group is rep
in its original ordering (see the pair @ and 6), and four o
4-groups repeat in permuted form, that is, as in the outer sectio
Fig. 10. Repeated subsets of three instruments abound in permu
form, but there are only nine 3-groups that repeat in original vo
suggesting that Schoenberg may have preferred to avoid even them

play only in one voice, the bass. Since the DB has only two notes outside v
5, I propose that it, too, be counted as a bass-only instrument.
2) A given verticality may contain no more than one twice-occurring instrum
(This is certainly the general practice in spite of No. 44 .) Since ther
is only one each of EH, BC, CN, and TU, and since we are confining.D
the bass, only 10 of the 15 instruments can so occur twice.
3) Verticalities may contain as many as 5 woodwinds, but no more than 3 b
and no more than 3 strings.

When the total has been reached, it should be compared in size with 114, the
ber of five-voice combinations in A plus B-that is, the 87 encircled in Fig. 9
the additional 28 caused by bass quarter notes, minus the 1 that Schoenberg him


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The Serially Ordered Passage

Given the general condition that instrument combinations in the
organism shall not repeat, it comes as a surprise to discover that eleven
quartets in A not only repeat in their original form over an area cover-
ing 35 successive quartets, but that the total group of 35 is serially
ordered. (I repeat that "quartets" refers to the upper four voices only.)
In Fig. 9, the area in question reaches from ( through () . The
eleven quartets, ( through ) , may be called the "prime" series.
@ is now the first in a retrograde statement of the prime, but ,
which is simply an intensification of @), does not figure directly in it.
Rather, ( is sustained until (, which corresponds to ; @
corresponds to ( , etc. The retrograde falls one short of the length
of the prime because it lacks the correspondent of ) , the sixth (mid-
dle) member of the series. Also, some changes are made here and there
in individual instruments, but the basic aspect-retrograde-is clear.
This statement ends with @. ) through ) constitute a second
run-through of the prime: @ ) , @ - @), etc., and (9
through ) are the first three members of a third, uncompleted,
prime. As in the retrograde statement, there are a few changes in the
second prime. I suspect Schoenberg took literal restatements as his
starting point, then made alterations as exigencies of the moment de-
manded. Some of these can be deduced. For example, at ) , voice 4,
the trombone is substituted for the cello because at this point all cellos
are occupied with materials outside A that did not occur at @.
Notice that the cello is reinstated at ) .
Readers comparing m. 29 of Fig. 9 with that of the score may won-
der by what criteria I eliminated so many details. Such readers are
urged to recall that Fig. 9 shows attacked notes only and that continua-
tions within a single voice are omitted. Thus, in Clarinet III ("Cl.
picc." in the 1949 version), only the first of the opening three notes is
given in Fig. 9. This is consistent with my practice throughout the rest
of the figure of omitting "overlaps," even when a new pitch is produced
by the process of overlapping, viz., in m. 4 of the score, the trumpet's
first (written) G~. But when a single instrumental part leaps without
resting to another voice of the organism, I have counted the note leapt
to as an attack and have entered it in Fig. 9, viz., in m. 29, both of the
English horn's (written) F 's. As mentioned earlier, the twelfth and
sixteenth 16th notes of m. 29 are points where no attacks occur, but in
which voices already attacked are being sustained. Of course, the actual

* 163 ?

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sonority on each 16th note is greater than that of th

some instruments are always sustaining. In this resp
from the rest of the piece, wherein an instrument n
one note, then rests.16
While the serial instrumentation of ) thro
pendent of pitch on the "foreground" level (the tw
statements, for example, do not at all correspond in
rhythm), it is roughly correlated with the large pi
follows: the first prime begins just after climactic C
lasts through a prolongation of C-4. The retrograde
large pitch-motion changes direction and starts bac
lasts through two of the four statements of the canon o
prime starts precisely on C-2-an event heralded by
significant string punctuation-and lasts almost all t
the two remaining statements of the canon. It takes
plete, prime to reach the complete C-O and rhythmically
the measure.

I had discovered the serial organization of instruments in this pas-

sage before I had the opportunity to see Jan Maegaard's recent three-
volume work, Studien zur Entwicklung des dodekaphonen Satzes bei
Arnold Sch6nberg (Wilhelm Hansen, Copenhagen, 1972), in which
Farben, among many other works, is analyzed. I am indebted to
Maegaard for the idea that the color series can be viewed as consisting
of twelve rather than eleven units by counting the string punctuation
that starts m. 25 as Number 1. Thus the string punctuation on the last
16th note of m. 28 is both the end of the retrograde and the beginning
of the following prime. This is certainly a viable way of looking at the
passage. I chose to omit the string chords because of the special use of
the strings throughout the composition. Also, it seemed to me persua-
sive that Number 1 of the second prime, that is, ( , should fall on
the beginning of a measure (m. 29) and exactly on C-2. However,
whether the series be viewed as twelve or as eleven, the difference is not
very significant.
Apropos of the enticing number twelve, the casual reader should be
warned at this point not to seek a relation between the twelve-unit in-
strument series and the twelve pitches of the chromatic scale! There is

16 I would like to add that I arrived at Fig. 9, including its reading of m. 29,
long before I had any inkling of the serial ordering of mm. 25-29. A few other as-
pects of this extremely complex measure are discussed below.


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no twelve-tone pitch organization here, only twelve co

colors are not correlated with either the twelve pitch c
twelve particular simultaneities on a one-to-one bas
Schoenberg used twelve (or eleven plus one) units in his
stems from the seven simultaneities in a single statemen
on M. The seventh simultaneity, since it is a transposit
also be the first simultaneity in a subsequent statement.
six colors will be needed to cover the canon up to but n
the next transposition of C, and twelve will similarly c
tiguous statements. How is this possibility realized in th
Figure 9 shows that the first appearance of the color s
touches the canon, being mostly devoted to the "neighb
longation of C-4. The canon from C-4 begins preci
since ? is the penultimate rather than the ultimate
prime series, the retrograde cannot begin until ( . Th
series" (the canon on M) may be said to be proceedin
ahead of the color series from ? . In the twelve simultaneities from
( down to and including C-2, Schoenberg could have used a per-
fect retrograde of his color series. This would have brought the string
punctuation on the first 16th note of m. 29. Instead, he omitted, as we
have noted, the correspondent of ? . We now note that in a perfect
retrograde this correspondent would have occurred at @ , the exact
point where C-3 falls. The occurrence here of C-3 is probably the
"reason" for a second slight departure at this oint from a perfect retro-
grade: the EH-VN of voice 1 at @ - @ is a brief reversion to
prime order (compare ( - 3 )-a reversion repeated in voice 2
and to some extent in voices 3 and 4. From the arrival of C-2 at the
start of m. 29, color series and pitch series are, in my view, exactly in
phase, that is, starting together. This color series runs from ( to
@ , that is, for eleven units. True, there is now a simultaneity (third
beat, fourth 16th note) not covered by my view of the color series.
Since there are no attacks at all here in the upper four voices, this point
could be construed as constituting an omitted twelfth unit-that is, an-
other string punctuation. Such a color would be undesirable here in
view of the imminent, very significant, string punctuation in mm.

As earlier noted, the pitches at ( are an "extra" simultaneity

(that is, not present in the original form of the canon) that causes C-0
to arrive one 16th note later than it normally would. I find no explana-
tion for this.

* 165 ?

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To judge from the short score, the idea of serially ins

passage occurred early to Schoenberg, for that one
which indicates relatively few instruments, shows in
tions sketched in for voice 1 from the beginning o
through the retrograde. The exact extent of these i
tions seems to support Maegaard's reading of a twel
they begin and end with the term Flag. (Flageolett
string punctuations occurring just before ( and
one must take care not to read into this fascinating
significance either for Farben or for Schoenberg's l
can one imagine it coming from any but the mind
the twelve-tone method?
The recurrence of completely identical quartets d
violations of the principle that every instrument co
different, because the instrumentation of the bass
pendent of the quartets' serial ordering. Only once
instrument in the bass (trombone) produce a comb
all five voices with an earlier combination-see ()
is avoided by the change in voice 4 from English ho
to mention the trombone's muting. Plus c'est la m

The Bass and its Serial Aspects

In two respects the bass voice of the organism is not only set apart,
but given a somewhat "traditional" character. Its distance from voice 4
is greater than that between any other adjacent voices, and it is twice
doubled in lower octaves. Its assignment to a group of instruments,
some of which play entirely or most notably in the bass, also recalls
tradition and would even be expected if this were not an apparent con-
tradiction of one of the basic ideas of Farben. But Schoenberg makes a
triumph of the necessity that the lowest instruments of each family
simply cannot play effectively, if at all, in the upper part of the gamut
B-d2 by devising a bass line that has a color scheme of its own and that
uses some quite untraditional "bass" instruments, e.g., solo viola, in the
Throughout the first 24 measures, the instrument-changes in the bass
occur in quarter notes when the quartets are changing in halves, thus
creating rhythms-groups of 2 quarters in mm. 1-10, 3 quarters in
mm. 13-24-that counterpoint the slower color changes in the upper
voices. When these counter-rhythms cease, the bass maintains its inde-

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pendence in mm. 25b-28 by not participating in the serial scheme of

the quartets and, in m. 29, by means-again traditional-of sounding
through without interruption in one of its instruments. I refer to the
contrabassoon, which, in m. 29 has a line of six (with pickup) con-
secutive pitches-a record for the organism-that undergirds the many
fragments in the other parts. (Meanwhile other bass instruments color
this line in the manner shown in Fig. 7.) From m. 32 to the end, the
bass is in half notes like the upper voices. Quarter-note groups return in
mm. 41 and 43-44, but chiefly as unison doublings.
The duple and triple bass patterns are pictured in Fig. 9. At m. 9,
since the viola does not have B in its range, the contrabassoon takes
over-hence the first set of three: VA-DB-CN, a set confirmed by its
return in mm. 15-19. Measure 9 also establishes the subset CN-DB
that keeps appearing until m. 28. Viewed in isolation the changes from
one set of three to another yield no significant pattern; their meaning
lies in their contribution to large compositional events with which they
are synchronized:

Measure 13: The quartets resume.

15: The complete C-2 begins. (In the overall design
this point is comparable to the opening-hence the
return to the viola and the set VA-CN-DB).
19b: First appearance of extra-chordal elements w, x,
and y in m. 20. (Also, viola is now being saved for
another special task in m. 24-the off-beat c$2.
21: The first move (voice 2's f#'-g1) in the second
canon on M. (BC replaces HN, which hereafter
becomes a more frequent participant in the quar-
24: Arrival at complete C-4. (DB drops out to en-
hance effectiveness of string punctuation in m. 25;
is is restored late in m. 26.)
44b: DB-VAm is retrograde of opening VA-DB.
Particularly noteworthy is the brief resumption in mm. 27-28 of the
triple patterning-especially so because the four run-throughs of CN-
DB-TB are exactly concurrent with the retrograde series in the upper

What about the remaining verticalities in A-quartets ( through

) and quintets () through @ ? Is there a systematic determinant

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of their make-up? That there are exactly 26 differen

both sides of the serially ordered passage is powerful
no less so is the picture that emerges when one locates a
pairs in voices 1-4 of A that lie outside the serial pas
different instruments in common: four such pairs s
sage in the manner shown in the outside sections of

- (26) (27) - (62) - (87)

(serial section)
a e e b
b f f c
c g g d
d h h a

_ /


87 v
are g


the i
the t

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voice described above. A notable example from voice 1 is show

11. In addition to the repeated and retrograde sets here and th
rence of CL-TP-OB in )-(6), one also notices the presence
() of FL-VN-CL the first three instruments of the prim
serial passage (see - (2) ). And does not the use of the flut
lish a color connection between climactic (2 and O? Anot
ample is suggested by the short score, which, besides showing
instrumentation mentioned earlier, has, suggestively, one othe
ment indication for voice 1, namely, the abbreviations "Fag.
at (, (, and ) respectively, and then a surprising "Fag
Hn." at (, (), and ) .Perhaps it is not reading too muc
this to notice that in both these spots and at () the oboe is as
a rise in the line, and that the bassoon seems to occupy, like the f
special place in the top line. At 0 the bassoon is first when th
of changing chords starts moving again; then, not reappearing
top until the closing section, it ends the work. And note in mm
the BN-VN - VN-BN separated by a final flute.17

Verticalities( ( () () () ( @ () ) ) (
(Fig. 9)

see retrograde


retro. (e (6 (@
~~~\ ,~j/ \ ,

Fig. 11

One more large-scale color relationship grows out of m. 29. Though

every instrumental part here is marked ppp, the overall effect of < >
is achieved purely by adding, then subtracting, parts. The number of
parts playing on each 16th note is shown in Fig. 12, which also shows
a general correlation to the prime series.

17 Three other occurrences of successive BN-HN-OB or its retrograde appear at

other points in inner voices, but they may well be fortuitous. (There are, after all, a
large number of these three instruments to give parts to.) In a search for all re-
peating sets of any three or more instruments in all voices I uncovered several other
sets, but the total find was not nearly large enough to suggest any overall pattern.


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Measure 29
Prime series- - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 1 2 3

J JJit J J J J J

Quanityof - 10 14 19 13 17 19 24 21 26 27 27 15 16 14 16 8
instrumental parts

Fig. 12

(This figure does not account for the extra-chordal cello descent nor
for the two-rote motives, but these do not significantly alter the overall
picture.) The contrabasses' second two-note motive is then sustained
into and contributes strikingly to the next measure, 30, where staggered
releases finally leave C-0 sounding alone on just five string harmonics.
The resulting diminishing blocks of sound provide yet one more way
whereby m. 30 relates to the other chief dividing point in the work,
m. 11, for the identical effect is used there.18


In the earlier discussion of the four large pitch patterns (see

I noted that these patterns do not alone determine the form of
Rather, the form is the interaction among 1) the four large pi
terns, 2) three large sections demarcated chiefly by pause
rhythm of color change (these are shown in Fig. 2 as "Section
3) the occurrences of C-0. Section I (mm. 1-11) consists of th
ment of the canon on M and the resulting large move down a
step. Its end is signalled by the replacement of the two altern
quartets with the first of the string punctuations (m. 10), whic
its new color, the drop of an octave, and, especially, the hold
stopping of all motion by the held string chord is the prime c
the first section qua section. After a one-measure "transition"
Section II begins in m. 13 with the resumption of the quartets c
in a half-note rhythm. A general sense of growth is imparted by t
panding palette of colors, while the shape is made explicit

18 Schoenberg was not the first to use this effect in the romantic orc
Wagner uses it several times in Siegfried's Funeral March.

* 170

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gradual rise to C-4, the rapid fall therefrom, and by th

in both instrument and pitch change. The second strin
(m. 25) sets off the moment of highest pitch, the thi
16th note) bisects the descent at C-2, and the fourt
the most significant one in the work, ends the section.
color change by means of the string harmonics held throug
is comparable to that which ended Section I, but an eq
divider here is the regained primary chord, that is, C-0 (no
the piccolos' motive z). Measure 31, in particular, is a f
the work toward which the many disparate elements, b
non-chordal, converge.
Sections II and III elide at mm. 30-31. Since Section III coincides
entirely with the fourth pitch pattern, there is no distinction betwee
them. I hear mm. 32-39 as an 8-measure phrase whose end is created
by the return to C-0. This makes the final, 5-measure, phrase, whose
beginning at m. 40 is articulated by the last string punctuation, a retro-
grade of upright M. I read a symmetry here not only between the fir
M and the last, but (on a lower level) between the first and last strin
punctuations in that both of them, though quite different in color, a
on C-11.

This interpretation of Section III as two phrases of 8 + 5 is made

possible, of course, only by downgrading certain motivic and rhythmic
elements that conflict with it-most notably the inversion of M in mm.
39-42. Should not a large downbeat be read in m. 39 comparable to
the one caused in m. 32 by the resumption of the half-note color
changes? Perhaps in the last analysis neither of these interpretations
outweighs the other. It may be closer to the structure and spirit of the
work to find Section III-indeed, the entire piece-ambiguous in its
large-scale rhythms. On many levels the frequent elision of adjacent
parts contributes powerfully to such ambiguity. I have noted that each
of the large pitch patterns elides with the next. Even in larger dimen-
sions of the piece similar processes take place. Sections I and II (mm.
1-30) are joined by the mostly sequential pitch patterns that not only
arch over the break at m. 1, but form one long motion out of the pri-
mary chord and back again. Meanwhile, Sections II and III (m. 13 to
the end) are made one and set off from Section I by their use of con-
stantly varied, rather than repeating, color. Thus, the unit created by
the pitch organization of I-II overlaps with the unit created by the
color organization of II-III, producing an "elision" on the largest level.

* 171 '

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Clear-cut divisions, then, are indeed foreign to thi

in its pitch and its large-scale rhythms it is as inert
possible, as though it aspires not to move at all. In
myth ultimately contained a kernel of truth. The b
is, indeed, its Farben.

* 172

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