Event Title

Judaism Despite Modernity: Schoenberg and the German Tradition

Presenter Information

Maurice Cohn, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 335

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-28-2017 1:30 PM

End Date

4-28-2017 2:50 PM

Abstract

The relationship between Jews and European classical music has always been particularly complex. Jews have been both foundational and forbidden from the European canon, their artistic importance dictated by the politics of culture and turns of history. However, the way we think about Jews and “Jewish music” often obscures ideological questions in favor of the purely sonic experience of the contemporary listener. This problem becomes especially acute in the case of Arnold Schoenberg. Born in Vienna in 1874, Schoenberg eventually left for Berlin in the 1920s and, with the rise of Nazism, Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s. It is of course impossible to understand Schoenberg, considered the inventor of musical modernism, without discussing his Jewishness. However, the way we understand the relationship between Schoenberg and Judaism matters. He was not simply inserting “Jewish melodies” into a German musical framework, as is sometimes said of composers such as Felix Mendelssohn. On the contrary, Schoenberg was deeply engaged with the competing intellectual currents of his time. This presentation looks at Schoenberg’s intellectual community, specifically his connections to the Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig, the modernist Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the architect and aesthetic theorist Adolf Loos. Understanding the questions that concerned Schoenberg—about politics, culture, history, and art—gives a more robust account of the relationship between Schoenberg’s Judaism and his music.

Keywords:

Judaism, music, modernism

Notes

Session I, Panel 5 - German | Aesthetics
Moderator: Steven Huff, Professor of German

Link to full text thesis at OhioLINK ETD Center:
http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=oberlin1521740116488967

Major

History; Cello Performance

Award

Artz Honors Research Grant; Jerome Davis Research Award

Advisor(s)

Annemarie Sammartino, History
Darrett Adkins, Cello
Gwen Krosnick, Cello

Project Mentor(s)

Annemarie Sammartino, History

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Apr 28th, 1:30 PM Apr 28th, 2:50 PM

Judaism Despite Modernity: Schoenberg and the German Tradition

King Building 335

The relationship between Jews and European classical music has always been particularly complex. Jews have been both foundational and forbidden from the European canon, their artistic importance dictated by the politics of culture and turns of history. However, the way we think about Jews and “Jewish music” often obscures ideological questions in favor of the purely sonic experience of the contemporary listener. This problem becomes especially acute in the case of Arnold Schoenberg. Born in Vienna in 1874, Schoenberg eventually left for Berlin in the 1920s and, with the rise of Nazism, Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s. It is of course impossible to understand Schoenberg, considered the inventor of musical modernism, without discussing his Jewishness. However, the way we understand the relationship between Schoenberg and Judaism matters. He was not simply inserting “Jewish melodies” into a German musical framework, as is sometimes said of composers such as Felix Mendelssohn. On the contrary, Schoenberg was deeply engaged with the competing intellectual currents of his time. This presentation looks at Schoenberg’s intellectual community, specifically his connections to the Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig, the modernist Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the architect and aesthetic theorist Adolf Loos. Understanding the questions that concerned Schoenberg—about politics, culture, history, and art—gives a more robust account of the relationship between Schoenberg’s Judaism and his music.