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Arnold Schoenberg

Austrian composer and painter
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 Franz Walter Schoenberg [originally Schönberg] (13 September 187413 July 1951) was an Austrian and later American composer. Many of Schoenberg's works are associated with the expressionist movements in early 20th-century German poetry and art, and he was among the first composers to embrace atonal motivic development.

Schoenberg in the Austrian Army, 1914.


  • My work should be judged as it enters the ears and heads of listeners, not as it is described to the eyes of readers.
    • As quoted in an interview with José Rodriguez (c. 1936) in Schoenberg‎ (1971) by Merle Armitage, p. 143
  • I see the work as a whole first. Then I compose the details. In working out, I always lose something. This cannot be avoided. There is always some loss when we materialize. But there is compensating gain in vitality.
    • As quoted in an interview with José Rodriguez (c. 1936) in Schoenberg‎ (1971) by Merle Armitage, p. 149
  • I am delighted to add another unplayable work to the repertoire.
  • There is a great Man living in this country — a composer. He has solved the problem how to preserve one's self and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.
  • 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.
    • "An Artistic Impression" (1909) n Style and Idea (1985), p. 189
  • Market value is irrelevant to intrinsic value. … Unqualified judgment can at most claim to decide the market-value — a value that can be in inverse proportion to the intrinsic value.
    • "An Artistic Impression" (1909) n Style and Idea (1985), p. 190
  • Although our "gentle air" cannot improve the way hate and envy look, it does seem not to encourage firmness and decision. All is compromise; caution and refinement are everywhere. Everything has to "make a good impression" — whether or not it is any good: the impression is the main thing.
    • "About Music Criticism" (1909), in Style and Idea (1985), p. 196
  • There are no more geniuses, only critics.
    • "Those Who Complain about the Decline" (1923), in Style and Idea (1985), p. 203
  • Hauer looks for laws. Good. But he looks for them where he will not find them.
    • "Hauer's Theories" (Notes of 9 May 1923) Style and Idea (1985), p. 209
  • I find above all that the expression, "atonal music," is most unfortunate — it is on a par with calling flying "the art of not falling," or swimming "the art of not drowning."
    • "Hauer's Theories" (Notes of November 1923) Style and Idea (1985), p. 210
  • If music is frozen architecture, then the potpourri is frozen coffee-table gossip... Potpourri is the art of adding apples to pears…
    • "Glosses on the Theories of Others" (1929), also in "Style and Idea" (1985), p. 313-314
  • I have never seen faces, but because I have looked people in the eye, only their gazes.
    • As quoted in "The Red Gaze"' in Expressionism (2004) by Norbert Wolf, p. 92
  • ...if it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art.
    • "New Music, Outmoded Music, Style and Idea" (1946), in Style and Idea (1985), p. 124.
  • My music is not lovely
    • Quoted by Theodor Adorno in his essay "Art and the Arts", 1966, reproduced in Clausen 2008, 387).
  • My music is not modern, it is merely badly played
    • Genette, Gérard. 1997. Immanence and Transcendence, translated by G. M. Goshgarian. p. 102.
  • "My works are 12-tone compositions, not 12-tone compositions
    • Stuckenschmidt, Hans Heinz. 1977. Schoenberg: His Life, World and Work. Translated from the German by Humphrey Searle. p. 349.
  • I was never revolutionary. The only revolutionary in our time was Strauss!"
    • Schoenberg, Arnold. 1975. Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg. Edited by Leonard Stein, with translations by Leo Black. p. 137
  • I believe that he (Strauss) will remain one of the characteristic and outstanding figures in musical history. Works like Salome, Elektra and Intermezzo, and others will not perish.
    • Arnold Schoenberg (1946) in A Scheonberg reader - Documents of a life, edited by Joseph Auner, Yale University Press 2003, page 316-17.
  • Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God.
    • Arnold Schoenberg, regarding "the bourgeois tendencies of musical reactionaries such as Stravinsky and Ravel", in a letter to Alma Mahler, 1914 after the outbreak of war. Quoted in "Impressions of War" by Philip Clark, The Gramaphone, 4 August 2014.

About SchoenbergEdit

  • Richard Strauss on Schoenberg, written by Schoenberg himself: "Dear Sir, I regret that I am unable to accept your invitation to write something for Richard Strauss's fiftieth birthday. In a letter to Frau Mahler (in connection with Mahler Memorial Fund) Herr Strauss wrote about me as follows: "The only person who can help poor Schoenberg now is a psychiatrist ...". "I think he'd do better to shovel snow instead of scribbling on music-paper..."
    • Schoenberg, letter to an unknown correspondent, Berlin, 22 April 1914.
  • "In fact, the influence of Schoenberg may be overwhelming on his followers, but the significance of his art is to be identified with influences of a more subtle kind—not the system, but the aesthetic, of his art. I am quite conscious of the fact that my Chansons madécasses are in no way Schoenbergian, but I do not know whether I ever should have been able to write them had Schoenberg never written.
    • Maurice Ravel (Orenstein, Arbie. 1975. Ravel: Man and Musician. p. 126).
  • A regular Friday audience, 90 percent feminine and 100 percent well-bred, sat stoically yesterday through thirty minutes of the most cacophonous world premiere ever heard here - the first performance anywhere of a new Violin Concerto by Arnold Schoenberg. Yesterday's piece combines the best sound effects of a hen yard at feeding time, a brisk morning in Chinatown and practice hour at a busy music conservatory. The effect on the vast majority of hearers is that of a lecture on the fourth dimension delivered in Chinese.
    • Anonymous reviewer, Philadelphia Record (1940), as quoted in Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time (1965) by Nicolas Slonimsky, p. 163

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