Query: Music and speech
David M. Wagner
daviwag at regent.edu
Mon Apr 23 09:48:32 PDT 2007
> In a lot of discussions, Schoenberg is prominently
> cited as "a great composer whose music is very hard to
> understand or appreciate." My guess is that that's what
> Kennedy had in mind. Even if you feel that way (but do
> listen to Transfigured Night, which is one of his more
> accessible pieces), it's still not clear how this even
> arguably distinguishes Schoenberg from other composers for
> free speech purposes.
I think what made Schoenberg a good exemplar for the Court's rhetorical
purpose was not only that he (may have) held radical views on hierarchy, nor
even that he did something radical in music (as he plainly did), but that he
was the FIRST to do it, and to theorize it. Between Beethoven and early
Schoenberg, European music had come a long way, but Schoenberg was the first
to toss out the key-signature system altogether.
Interestingly, Schoenberg's revolutionary system quickly attained a
stranglehold on young composers, enforced by critics who saw to it that
composers still attached to tunes and tonality were banished to Hollywood.
More recently, however, Schoenbergian atonalism is coming to be seen as
yesterday's news; "tonal" is no longer a term of abuse; and "Second Vienna
School" (referring to Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern) is no longer necessarily
a term of praise. The change seems to have stared in the '90s or late '80s.
Insert here any political parallels that may occur to you.
David M. Wagner
Regent University School of Law
Virginia Beach, VA
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