Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra – a Hectic Musical Embodiment of the early 20th Century

Schoenberg’s Five Pieces is a unique work that appears very busy, particularly in the first movement. Like many canvas art pieces in the 20 years prior to its creation, the Five Pieces for Orchestra is packed with so many incidental parts that even after several playthroughs it is hard to distinguish every one. The first movement starts out soft, but after less than a minute horns playing flat notes create a sense of alarm, soon to be joined by blaring clarinets and flutes. For a brief moment it seems reminiscent of a John Williams score from actions sequences we would see in films like Indiana Jones, including the plucking of strings and high woodwind notes which stand out in some of the incidental parts of his film scores. However, where Williams’ scores reflect action sequences, tension, dread and excitement, this score is slightly more vague. It moves so quickly to the next style and incidental part that it is hard to distinguish any pattern to the piece, which I believe is intentional.

Music tends to reflect the periods events, and at this time (1909), much was occurring in the world. Just 6 years prior the first powered aircraft flew for the first time, and the continuation of the industrial revolution created the opportunity for many more technological innovations. In transportation, larger railroad locomotives and ocean liners (Construction had already begun on the RMS Olympic, the Titanic’s predecessor, and it would be completed just two years after this piece was written), the mass production of automobiles had recently begun, and the world as a whole was becoming more connected as roads, the oceans, and skies became more packed with the newest innovations. It is this hectic new world that is conveyed through the first movement of this piece. Perhaps Schoenberg’s brief introduction with a soft tone is a way of romanticizing a world before the most recent, noisy, modern advances. Its influence can be seen in The Planets by Gustav Holst, who composed a movement meant to reflect war in Mars. With countries beginning to gear up for war in the form of various arms races across Europe, it could also be argued that both this bombastic section of Schoenberg’s piece and Holst’s work is a commentary on the more hostile world that has resulted from rapid technological advancement. The conclusion of low notes by woodwinds after the loud, brass-heavy portion still conveys this ominous tone but in a more veiled fashion, which is thought provoking and leads one to ask the following questions:

What could this more quiet section represent or convey in the context of the era?

To what extent can this piece, particularly its beginning, be traced to events of the period?

While symbolic, music, can also be directly influenced by current events of the time, so what specific events in Europe might have contributed to this piece’s fashion?

Freud on Dreams Discussion Questions

Freud is known as being a very authoritative figure in his field. His approaches to certain subjects and situations are often grounded in perceived certainty or near-certainty. Taking this into consideration, it is amazing that he is able to recall so many aspect of his dream, and not only the details of the dream itself, but to connect it with the context of what was going on in his life with amazing accuracy. He approaches his dream with a sort of Sherlock Holmesian attention to detail and meaning. This is notable because while he has already gathered much information from this dream, he leaves the author with his opinion that he could gather even more from it upon greater reflection and analysis. Specifically, he states:

“I will not pretend that I have completely uncovered the meaning of this dream where that its interpretation is without a gap. I could spend much more time over it, derive further information from it and discuss fresh problems raised by it. I myself know the points from which further trains of thought could be followed. But considerations which arise in the case of every dream of my own restrain me from pursuing my interpretive work.” (1st part of pg. 10 in the pdf document)

This could mean virtually anything. He is seeking to back up his assertions with the notion that he could gather more if wished, explaining details and events with great precision. But he then backtracks and says that it is not entirely accurate and without error, but at the same time despite those errors he knows where further analysis could be made. Then he ends with saying that “considerations” restrain him from pursing it further. What are these considerations, and in pointing them out is he defensively covering for potential flaws in his own hypothesis? He continues by stating,

“If anyone should feel tempted to express a hasty condemnation of my reticence, I would advise him to make the experiment of being franker than I am for the moment I am satisfied with the achievements of this one piece of fresh knowledge.” (found directly below the first quote)

What does that mean? Is it the equivalent of him swearing that he is truthful while challenging the reader to interpret dreams with more accuracy or meaning than he himself is/was capable? We see where he is going through this piece, but this final paragraph raises the questions as to the extent of his honesty and accuracy, all while minimizing any flaws he might have potentially made in his logical leaps.

With the above questions and quotes in mind, consider the following questions for response and discussion:

– How accurate is Freud as a narrator?
– Do you believe his analysis? If so, why and what was his most compelling case?
– Does Freud exhibit confirmation bias in this piece? Do you think he was already certain of the importance of dreams before his analysis?
– Is/was Freud looking for discussion as to his idea(s), as he challenges, or is/was he set in his way of thinking?
– What parts of his analysis do you believe and which elements (if any) are his bolder (and harder to believe) assertions?

Giuseppe Mazzini and a Utopian, United Italy

In Duties to Country, Giuseppe Mazzini speaks in support of a utopian Italy that upholds liberty and freedoms in all regards, including systematically, where in his view other European nations fail to live up to their teachings. He states:

“There are countries in Europe where Liberty is sacred within, but is systematically violated without; peoples who say, Truth is one thing, utility another: theory is one thing, practice another. Those countries will have inevitably to expiate their guilt in long isolation, oppression, and anarchy. But you know the mission of our country, and will pursue another path.” (pg. 5 in the .pdf doc, bottom of 286 to the top of 287 in the document itself)

He continues by saying how Italy will lead the way on the international stage and be looked up to as a shining example of a truly free nation. This exposes a judgmental view of other nations, something along the lines of saying that “they just aren’t doing it right, but we’re better, so we can succeed where they failed.” He associates Italy doing well with humanity doing well as a whole, which says a lot to his sense of national/nationalistic pride and perception of Italy’s role in the world. His definition of a nation, the idea of a “concord of labour towards a single end,” clarifies that the freedom and liberty he so enthusiastically emphasizes, or perhaps the union with that as the goal, is the ultimate objective. His constant usage of fraternal terms like “brothers” and “fathers” lends a sort of propaganda aspect to his piece, much like we later see with Germany and Russia. This is further corroborated by the usage of phrases like “Your duties to your country,” which convey a sense of inherent loyalty.

Two questions that arise in view of these factors are:

What do his nationalist views have in common with others of the period, and later, which sought to unify their nations or work towards that goal?

The fact that he puts his hypothetical Italian state on a pedestal, predicting they it will be greater and more powerful than the Catholic Church under the Pope or the Roman Empire under Caesar, shows a great confidence in this movement. Is it simply talk or language to rally more supporters to his cause?

Nationalism through Empowerment – The Hungarian Parliament’s address and The National Song of Hungary

In Hungary, a strong sense of patriotism and national pride fuels the urge of the public, and the Hungarian Parliament, for reform. In the Hungarian Parliament’s address, no less than a threat is made against the ruling monarch of the nation, pleading for reform, for,

“Your Majesty has not followed a constitutional direction, and consequently has been at variance with the independent character of our government. This alone has hitherto prevented the development of the constitutional system in Hungary; and it is clear that unless the direction can be changed, and Your Majesty’s government is made to harmonize with constitutional principles, the throne of Your Majesty, no less than the monarchy itself, endeared to us by the virtue of Pragmatic Sanction, will be placed in a state of perplexity and danger, the end of which we cannot foresee, and must entail unspeakable misery upon our country.”

It is hard not to see this as anything else but a veiled threat to the future of the monarchy if no action is taken to reform and appease the people of the nation. The fact that the document continues with advocating great measures of reform within the government gives the sense that the people were very much on board with what the parliament was pushing for, that being the expansion of political rights to the people.  Needless to say, any time the energy of the masses are swept up or channeled into a political movement, a great surge of patriotism results, sometimes expanding into nationalism.  Language in Alexander Petofi’s National Song of Hungary such as “freedom’s soil” and lines like “A miserable wretch is he, Who fears to die, my land, for thee!,” brings the idea of a nation advocating freedom and land that stands for such as being worthy of dying for.  An interesting parallel is the song “Battle Cry of Freedom” by Georgie Frederick Root, which is very similar with the lyrics, “Oh we’ll rally round the flag, boys, we’ll rally once again, Shouting the battle cry of freedom,” and “Oh we’re springing to the call for three hundred thousand more, Shouting the battle cry of freedom! And we’ll fill the vacant ranks with a million freemen more,” the only real difference in tone and language being that in the National Song of Hungary, the writer of the lyrics considers himself a slave to the monarchy with how the people at that time lacked a voice in government to better society and bring the lower class out of poverty. Where Root’s song uses both the flag and the term land as a way to symbolize the US, Petofi’s song uses solely the term land. Crucially is the use of the term “Magyar” in Petofi’s work, an ethnic and national group referring to the people of Hungary who had migrated there from the Ural Mountains in Russia.  Therefore, we see that while other songs of the period have a patriotic base with touches of nationalism, many with more nationalistic bases tend to incorporate terms which put an ethnic group at the center of the work.

John Stuart Mill: Liberty of Thought Discussion Questions

In chapter 2 of Mill’s work, he emphasizes the importance of having a difference of opinion within society (particularly government, media, and other forums) so as to provide a diverse pool of ideas, solutions, and thoughts for the advancement of mankind, making the case for healthy discussion. Specifically, he states,

“…it is owing to a quality of the human mind, the source of everything respectable in man either as an intellectual or as a moral being, namely, that his (man’s) errors are corrigible. He is capable of rectifying his mistakes by discussion and experience. Not by experience alone. There must be discussion to show how experience is to be interpreted.” (pages 26-27)

Please answer or ponder the following questions for class discussion on Thursday, Sept. 24th.

1 ) Mill is very cautious of his words. Towards the beginning of this chapter he states that it is not just if all mankind silenced a single person with a contradictory view, however, he also states on page 25 that “An objection which applies to all conduct, can be no valid objection to any conduct in particular.” What is the importance of this distinction? Would he hold the view that silencing those with different opinions is different than ignoring or disregarding a person who disagrees with the concept of constructive discussion? What are some issues with the practicality of his opinions/ideas?

2 ) On page 29, Mill states,

“It is also often argued, and still oftener thought, that none but bad men would desire to weaken these salutary beliefs; and there can be nothing wrong, it is thought, in restraining bad men, and prohibiting what only such men would wish to practise. This mode of thinking makes the justification of restraints on discussion not a question of the truth of doctrines, but of their usefulness; and flatters itself by that means to escape the responsibility of claiming to be an infallible judge of opinions. But those who thus satisfy themselves, do not perceive that the assumption of infallibility is merely shifted from one point to another. The usefulness of an opinion is itself matter of opinion: as disputable, as open to discussion, and requiring discussion as much, as the opinion itself. There is the same need of an infallible judge of opinions to decide an opinion to be noxious, as to decide it to be false, unless the opinion condemned has full opportunity of defending itself.”

Given this statement, where do you think Mill would have stood on free speech with regard to hate speech and symbolism? Where would it fall under his view of speech? Should such symbols and ideals be protected as a right, or deserving of being cast aside as unworthy of consideration for progress? Focus on Mill’s own opinion as you answer.

3 ) On page 61 Mill states,

“But the principal offences of the kind are such as it is mostly impossible, unless by accidental self-betrayal, to bring home to conviction. The gravest of them is, to argue sophistically, to suppress facts or arguments, to misstate the elements of the case, or misrepresent the opposite opinion. But all this, even to the most aggravated degree, is so continually done in perfect good faith, by persons who are not considered, and in many other respects may not deserve to be considered, ignorant or incompetent, that it is rarely possible on adequate grounds conscientiously to stamp the misrepresentation as morally culpable…”

However, he consistently makes the case that it is wrong to condemn those of a different opinion as immoral. Where does this leave those who intentionally mislead others by misrepresenting facts in an argument? Is it wrong to condemn such actions as immoral? How can meaningful discourse about changing society for the better occur if there is a basic disagreement on how such discussions should be had, or even who should be allowed to partake in such debate?

4 ) How did you interpret this piece? Is Mill right or not? What are some issues with his ideas on discourse (do you think there are any)?

“The Workers’ Union” – A Plea for Coordination and Leadership

In Flora Tristan’s “The Workers’ Union,” an appeal to emotion is made to frustrate the workers in recalling how little progress has been made in the quarter of a century prior to the publication of this work in taking care of the European, in particular the French, working class. As we’ve discussed in class, one of the most major issues with these types of writing, like Engels’ call for action for example, is that they seem to believe that the working class can both afford the time to improve their livelihood and have the education needed to understand how they can bring about meaningful change/reform. Tristan’s call differs in this regard because she acknowledges that just the publication of her work will not be enough. Specifically, she states on page 192 that,

“I understand that, my book published, I have another work to accomplish, which is to go myself, proposal for union in hand, from city to city, from one end of France to another, to speak to the workers who do not know how to read and to those who haven’t the time to read. I tell myself that the moment has come to act. And for those who really love the workers, who want to devote themselves, body and soul, to their cause, a wonderful mission there is to fulfil.”

We can see through this quote that her piece is intended just as much for those urging reform as the working class itself, saying that just lecturing from a distance is not enough. There needs to be a sense of responsibility, of teaching, to spread beneficial ideals that will make society a better place. If people are unwilling to do this, it isn’t doing that much to improve conditions as her critique of the last two decades shows.

This compounds upon her earlier request for coordination. She advocates for a sort of union organization with dues to be paid so that money can be used to bring about change by applying pressure to the government and if necessary help look after individuals who are older, injured, or at some sort of risk due to their economic predicament which the then-current system facilitated. She compares such a system to the the Hotel des Invalides, a sort of government-run care facility for retired French servicemen, and puts forward an idea of paying into retirement care down the road in a way that sounds very familiar to the concept of U.S. Social Security. In this way she not only says that the working class needs more direct coordination from leaders who champion reform, but the movement itself needs to get behind a concerted effort to solve problems on its own if nobody else is willing to step up to the plate.

In a way, Tristan is taking a more hands-on approach. There are many parallels to various progressive movements in American and European history, but if I had to make one, it would be that if Engels is to working class reform what Harriet Beecher-Stowe was to American abolitionism, then Flora Tristan would be the movement’s equivalent to someone along the lines of a John Brown.

Tristan died only about a year after she published this book, our reading states, and was in poor health for much of that time. So the saddest part of this movement to me is how we never got to see exactly what effect her tour and travels would have had in bringing about change. What would this have looked like? Would sweeping reform had come sooner if she had lived? What leaders might have answered her call? Would she have gotten more radical over time? Would women have gotten more political power and leverage sooner than what was the case as we know it? It is certainly intriguing to think of the possibilities. Personally, I read her piece and I see a leader who has mapped out exactly what she wants to push for and thinks she knows exactly how she wants to make it happen.

Romanticism – Fantasy meets Reality

From the examples we have been provided, we see different genres of art, both in literature and painting. The constant is how each in a sense relates to life. As Victoria stated in her post, there is an appeal to bringing a more realistic element to fantastical tales, even if they are quite dark and frightening in the case of E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Sandman.” Hoffman states on page 185 that:

After this I formed in my own mind a horrible picture of the cruel
Sand-man.

Just like Nathanael’s mind influenced his idea and portrayal of who the Sand-man was without him even seeing him (up to that point), these artists were influenced by their surroundings into writing what they wrote or painting what they painted. These spins on reality don’t stop with merely a tale of a monster, but continue in making reality seem more majestic than in cases it truly is. We know that 19th century England was definitely not the most beautiful place in history, at least the way it was in the cities and how it is most portrayed and remembered through the lenses of writers like Charles Dickens. However, one would never gather this from Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. The painting portrays a more elegant end to a historic vessel that took part in one of the most famous naval battles in history, the Battle of Trafalgar. A simple photograph would have likely portrayed the ship as derelict, as the ship was relegated to other tasks quite unfitting for a ship of its era and stature before being towed away for scrap as progress made it obsolete (by a steamship, in a sense representing the modern era). Therefore, a question arises. What is Romanticism’s relationship with the nostalgia of artists from the 19th century? Turner was towards the end of his life when he painted the HMS Temeraire. He lived almost through the end of the Age of Sail, and while progress was being ushered in, it should be not lost on us that a good number of these artists might have been recalling their youth and a fondness for elegance which the modern world had seemingly brought to an end.

Citations:

Hoffman, E.T.A., The Best Tales of Hoffman. New York: Dover Publications. 1967, 185.

Turner, J.M.W. “The Fighting Temeraire.” This is the last journey of the Fighting Temeraire, a celebrated gunship which had fought valiantly in Lord Nelson’s fleet at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Thirty three years later, decaying and no longer in use, she was towed up the Thames to be broken up in a Rotherhithe shipyard., 1838. The National Gallery. London.