Arnold Shoenberg Modernism Analysis

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Arnold Schoenberg was born in 1874 and died in 1951, an important period in literature, music and painting as it is when modernism started. The Jewish composer, painter and music theorist was autodidact and studied Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms and Wagner – who are polar opposites by most contemporary listeners. Modernism, in literature, is characterized by a self-conscious break with traditional ways of writing, express the new sensibilities of one’s time. The two authors we will focus on are both foremost and prominent modernists: Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) who wrote The Voyage Out in 1915, and Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923), author of The Singing Lesson (1920). One of Schoenberg’s first compositions, Verklärt Nacht (1899), a string…show more content…
Chamber Symphony No.1, Op. 9 (1906) presented this innovation « with its thematic use of superimposed fourths and whole-tone scales that worked vertically (harmonically) as well as horizontally (melodically) ». Though it was not his first explicitly atonal composition, it was the chamber music that set him as an expressionist composer ; as he embraced ways of developing motifs (successions of notes that have some special importance in or are characteristics of a composition) without resorting to the dominance of a centralized melodic idea. Expressionism is modernist movement in both poetry and painting, and presents the world from a subjective perspective and distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Atonality is something that would suit the second main female character of The Voyage Out, Helen Ambrose. Indeed, this woman embodies liberalism in this novel, she explains sex as well as childbirth to Rachel « until I explained it, did not know how children were born » (p.104). Helen seems very open and encourages Rachel to talk more and have relationships with men, she encourages her to read and be creative – just as she is. She is the prime source of guidance for the main character, which makes her a key figure, with her wisdom and intelligence. She talks about sex with Rachel, mocks her reaction to her first kiss, and takes it upon herself to teach her about life. She is also free in her marriage as she does not mind leaving her husband home, and talking with younger men at parties. Nevertheless, she still shows signs of being enclosed in the patriarchal society’s expectations – just like atonality keeps a “tonal center”. Indeed, while she guides Rachel and encourages her to educate herself, she shares those expectations that she should not have her own views, or that
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