• Schoenberg, Unfolding, and ‘Composing With Twelve Tones’: A Case Study (Op. 25/I)

    John Brackett (see profile)
    Music and Sound
    Musicology, History, Musical analysis, Music theory
    Item Type:
    12-tone, Arnold Schoenberg, Piano Suite, Twelve-tone composition, Historical musicology, Music analysis
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    For Arnold Schoenberg, presentation (Darstellung) is an act of conscien- tious composition by which the formal/functional properties of motives and Gestalten, along with any possible development or variation, are real- ized in the creation of a coherent musical artwork. Presentation, then, is the manner by which a musical idea (Gedanke) is made comprehensible. Like the “musical idea,” the concept of presentation assumes a variety of forms and functions in Schoenberg’s theories. In its most general sense, presentation describes abstract musico-compositional practices deduced from a wide range of composers and works from a variety of musical styles and historical periods. Schoenberg distinguishes three forms of presenta- tion in his theoretical writings: “stringing-together” or “juxtaposition” in popular musical forms, developing variation in homophonic music gen- erally associated with the “Viennese Classicist” period, and “unfolding” or “envelopment” (Abwicklung), a form used to describe the polyphon- ic/contrapuntal practices of the Baroque as exemplified by the music of J.S. Bach. In the present essay, I will focus on unfolding by examining this particular method of presentation within the context of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone compositional practices using the Prelude from the Suite for Piano, Op. 25 as a case study. As I hope to show, principles associated with unfolding can, with some slight modifications, serve as a viable method of presenting musical ideas in a twelve-tone context.
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    6 years ago
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