Arnold Schoenberg's Journey
by Allen Shawn
"An artistic impression is substantially the resultant of two components. One what the work of art gives the onlooker - the other, what he is capable of giving to the work of art." - Arnold Schoenberg
Rereading this book takes me back to the summer of 2007 when I first read it. As then I enjoyed every moment of its readable and even witty text. The author discusses Schoenberg's music and life together in a way that makes them both vivid and informative. He analyzes the music in detail, leaving the reader with an appreciation for the revolutionary impact of Schoenberg's passionate musical genius.
Along the way the cultural environment of the composer is explored and you learn about composers who influenced and helped Schoenberg. It was a revelation to this reader that Schoenberg was a painter as well. In this endeavor he benefited from his friendship with Gustav Klimt who also was interested in music. The book is organized into thirty essays in roughly chronological order. They cover major periods of development in the musical life of the composer, culminating with retrospective discussions of his impact on musical life and other composers. The discussion of Stravinsky was illuminating in its showing his development in comparison with Schoenberg. A bibliographic essay augments the value of this study for those who want to further explore Schoenberg's music and life.
With its focus on the listener's point of view it is one of the best books on music and artistic culture that I have encountered. The survey of both music composition and the life of musical genius is deep enough to inform without too much esoteric detail. I would recommend it to all who want to better understand both Schoenberg and the development of early twentieth century culture.