Techniques | The Second Viennese School | Turn of the Century | Opera
Spearheaded by Arnold Schoenberg, the Second Viennese School included composers such as Alban Berg and Anton Webern (1883–1945) and formulated a new approach to music and composition that proved at once radically innovative and deeply controversial.
Schoenberg considered the work of composers such as Wagner and Mahler to have become over-complicated and harmonically cluttered, and felt that a new system of musical composition was needed in order to restore the clarity of expression evident in the works of the Classical-era composers. The new musical language – known as the twelve-tone technique – that Schoenberg developed as a solution to these issues was described by the composer as a ‘method of composing with 12 notes which are related only to one another’. In this system the 12 notes of the chromatic scale are treated with equal importance, with no particular notes having the emphasis enforced upon them by classical harmonic conventions. Schoenberg’s departure from tonal music was intended to create a more simple and unified means of musical expression, but in reality the mostly atonal compositions that resulted from using the twelve-tone technique were not always well received. Early performances of twelve-tone works by Schoenberg, Berg and Webern reputedly ended in verbal abuse and fighting, and critical opinion remains divided to this day.
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