THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 19 composer Heinrich Jalowetz, student of Arnold Schoenberg


Fully Awake – PREVIEW


My first post in this series was on the composer John Cage and my second post was on Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg who were good friend of CageThe third post in this series was on Jorge Fick. Earlier we noted that  Fick was a student at Black Mountain College and an artist that lived in New York and he lent a suit to the famous poet Dylan Thomas and Thomas died in that suit.

The fourth post in this series is on the artist  Xanti Schawinsky and he had a great influence on John Cage who  later taught at Black Mountain College. Schawinsky taught at Black Mountain College from 1936-1938 and Cage right after World War II. In the fifth post I discuss David Weinrib and his wife Karen Karnes who were good friends with John Cage and they all lived in the same community. In the 6th post I focus on Vera B. William and she attended Black Mountain College where she met her first husband Paul and they later  co-founded the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Vera served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. John Cage and several others from Black Mountain College also lived in the Community with them during the 1950’s. In the 7th post I look at the life and work of M.C.Richards who also was part of the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Black Mountain College.

In the 8th post I look at book the life of   Anni Albers who is  perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century and at Paul Klee who was one  of her teachers at Bauhaus. In the 9th post the experience of Bill Treichler in the years of 1947-1949  is examined at Black Mountain College. In 1988, Martha and Bill started The Crooked Lake Review, a local history journal and Bill passed away in 2008 at age 84.

In the 10th post I look at the art of Irwin Kremen who studied at Black Mountain College in 1946-47 and there Kremen spent his time focused on writing and the literature classes given by the poet M. C. Richards. In the 11th post I discuss the fact that Josef Albers led the procession of dozens of Bauhaus faculty and students to Black Mountain.

In the 12th post I feature Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) who was featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE and the film showed Kandinsky teaching at BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE which was not true according to my research. Evidently he was invited but he had to decline because of his busy schedule but many of his associates at BRAUHAUS did teach there. In the 13th post I look at the writings of the communist Charles Perrow. 

Willem de Kooning was such a major figure in the art world and because of that I have dedicated the 14th15th and 16th posts in this series on him. Paul McCartney got interested in art through his friendship with Willem because Linda’s father had him as a client. Willem was a  part of New York School of Abstract expressionism or Action painting, others included Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Anne Ryan, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, Clyfford Still, and Richard Pousette-Dart.

In the 17th post I look at the founder Ted Dreier and his strength as a fundraiser that make the dream of Black Mountain College possible. In the 18th post I look at the life of the famous San Francisco poet Robert Duncan who was both a student at Black Mountain College in 1933 and a professor in 1956. In the 19th post I look at the composer Heinrich Jalowetz who starting teaching at Black Mountain College in 1938 and he was one of  Arnold Schoenberg‘s seven ‘Dead Friends’ (the others being Berg, Webern, Alexander Zemlinsky, Franz Schreker, Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos).

Scott Eastwood Interview – The Longest Ride

In the article ‘The Longest Ride,’ A Love Story About Luke, A Champion Bull Rider, And Sophia, A Young College Girl, Is Based On The Bestselling Nicholas Sparks Novel, Hits Theaters April 10, 2015, I read:

From the art of bull riding to the art of…art, Nicholas Sparks’ research took him to unexpected places. “One of the story’s principal locales ended up being one of the greatest moments of kismet in my entire career,” he continues. “I remember sitting at the desk thinking, how on earth is this couple [young Ira and Ruth] from North Carolina going to become big art collectors?

“My research led me to Black Mountain College, which was the center of the modern art movement in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.”

Black Mountain College was founded in the 1930s as an experimental college. It came to define the modern art movement. “Everyone from de Kooning to Rauschenberg was there,” says Sparks. “Robert De Niro’s father, another noted artist, attended Black Mountain College. There were very famous artists there and if you look at the American modern art movement in the 1940s and 1950s, there were important intersections there with the great works of this century.”

Group Portrait, Blue Ridge Campus, Black Mountain College. Photograph of Charles Lindsley (?), John Evarts, Robert Wunsch, Erwin Straus, Heinrich Jalowetz.


Heinrich Jalowetz (Black Mountain College music instructor, 1939-1946) with students

Faculty meeting at Black Mountain College, Blue Ridge campus. Left to right: Robert Wunsch, Josef Albers, Heinrich Jalowetz, Theodore Dreier, Erwin Straus,…

Faculty meeting; Left to right: Robert Wunsch, Josef Albers, Heinrich Jalowetz, Theodore Dreier, Erwin Straus, unknown, Lawrence Kocher.




Josef Albers critiquing student work. Left to right: Frances Kuntz,
Hope Stephens (Foote), Lisa Jalowetz (Aronson), Bela Martin, Elizabeth Brett (Hamlin).



Jalowetz, Heinrich. At BMC 1939-46. Taught Music. Had been conductor in Europe, including Prague and Cologne, member of Schoenberg’s inner circle. Forced out by Nazis. Died 1946.

Heinrich Jalowetz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heinrich Jalowetz (December 3, 1882,[1] Brno – February 2, 1946,[2] Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA) was an Austrian musicologist and conductor who settled in the USA. He was one of the core members of what became known as the Second Viennese Schoolin the orbit of Arnold Schoenberg.

A musicology pupil of Guido Adler,[3] Jalowetz was among Schoenberg’s first students in Vienna, 1904-1908. From 1909 to 1933 he worked as a conductor in Regensburg, Danzig, Stettin, Prague, Vienna and Cologne (as successor to Otto Klemperer). After emigrating to the USA in 1938 he taught at Black Mountain College, North Carolina. Though his name is less widely known than that of many of Schoenberg’s more famous students, Schoenberg regarded Jalowetz very highly indeed. He is one of the seven ‘Dead Friends’ (the others being Berg, Webern, Alexander Zemlinsky, Franz Schreker, Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos) to whom he once envisaged dedicating his book Style and Idea, with the comment that those men ‘belong to those with whom principles of music, art, artistic morality and civic morality need not be discussed. There was a silent and sound mutual understanding on all these matters’.

Stravinsky on art and limits vs. Schaeffer on 20th-century music


I’m in the country this summer, reading, resting, and working on curriculum projects. One of these projects is sets of Composer Study lessons. The best part, so far, has been reading some great books about music and the appreciation of music, including Igor Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons.

Here are a few gems:

“The old original sin was chiefly a sin of knowledge; the new original sin, if I may speak in these terms, is first and for most a sin of non-acknowledgement — a refusal to acknowledge the truth and the laws that proceed therefrom, laws that we have called fundamental.”

“For imagination is not only the mother of caprice but the servant and handmaiden of the creative will as well. The creator’s function is to sift the elements he receives from her, for human activity must impose limits on itself. The more art is controlled, limited, worked over, the more it is free.”

“I have no use for theoretical freedom.”

I find these fascinating because they contradict a simplistic understanding of the “modern” period in art and cultural history as one of license and fragmentation, in which art governed by chance and lacking in limits was elevated above the art of order and natural law that supposedly existed before (in the Golden Age of Bach and Rembrandt who Believed in God).

In trying to remember where I got that simplistic understanding in the first place, I realized it probably originated from Francis Schaeffer and a system of teaching about art and culture that was born out of his book How Shall We Then Live?, published in 1976. I looked it up today, my country retreat handily having a copy. He doesn’t have much to say about Stravinsky (and no wonder, I suppose, because Stravinsky, though hugely influential in 20th-century music, does not strengthen his case), but he does have this to say about Schoenberg:

“Then came Schoenberg (1874-1951), and with him we are into the music which was a vehicle for modern thought. Schoenberg totally rejected the past tradition in music and invented the ’12-tone row.’ This was ‘modern’ in that there was perpetual variation with no resolution. This stands in sharp contrast to Bach who, on his biblical base, had much diversity but always resolution. Bach’s music had resolution because as a Christian he believed that there will be resolution both for each individual life and for history. As the music which came out of the biblical teaching of the Reformation was shaped by that world view, so the world view of modern man shapes modern music.”

Here, in contrast, is what Stravinsky has to say about Schoenberg’s music inPoetics of Music:

“Cacophony means bad sound, contraband merchandise, uncoordinated music that will not stand up under serious criticism. Whatever opinion one may hold about the music of Arnold Schoenberg (to take as an example a composer evolving along lines essentially different from mine, both aesthetically and technically), whose works have frequently given rise to violent reactions or ironic smiles — it is impossible for a self-respecting mind equipped with genuine musical culture not to feel that the composer of Pierrot Lunaire is fully aware of what he is doing and that he is not trying to deceive anyone. He adopted the musical system suited to his needs and, within that system, he is perfectly consistent with himself, perfectly coherent. One cannot dismiss music that he dislikes by labeling it cacophony.”

Schaeffer argues that Schoenberg turns his back on resolution, but Stravinsky argues that, within the perfectly rational system he uses, Schoenberg is coherent. What is resolution in music but meeting the expectations of a certain system of tonality? “Will they be met? Will they be met? Yes, here it is.” That’s what’s happening in our brains when we listen. A friend of mine who studied music composition once told me that, with training, the ear hears 12-tone music with the same dialogue of expectation and fulfillment that we naturally bring to our more common system of major/minor tonality.

It isn’t that 12-tone music is a system of constant variation but no resolution. It’s that resolution occurs under different circumstances within the 12-tone system. The tonality of Bach happens to be better-known and easier for us to hear, but Schoenberg’s system is no less ordered. It doesn’t deny an ordered universe.

Back to those interesting Stravinsky quotes at the beginning of the post, you would think that the “revolutionary” whose Rite of Spring caused an actual riot upon first hearing would support Schaeffer’s claims about fragmentation in 20th century music, but in Poetics of Music he sounds as orderly and unified as Schaeffer could wish. “Art is by essence constructive,” Stravinsky says, and “art is the contrary of chaos. It never gives itself up to chaos without immediately finding its living works, its very existence, threatened.”

I find Stravinsky’s words encouraging as I go about the large task of trying to help students hear order in music, to listen, within any given musical framework, for tension and release, for narrative, for drama, for idea, for dialogue. It is no less difficult with Mozart, which students can hear simply as “nice” or “boring,” than it is for Schoenberg and Stravinsky, which they might perceive as “ugly,” but it is a worthwhile endeavor for both.

Schoenberg: Variations for Orchestra Op 31 (1934) – Pierre Boulez and the CSO (Part 1)

Arnold Schoenberg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Arnold Schoenberg, Los Angeles, 1948

Arnold Schoenberg or Schönberg (German: [ˈaːʁnɔlt ˈʃøːnbɛʁk]; 13 September 1874 – 13 July 1951) was an Austrian composer and painter, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School. With the rise of the Nazi Party, by 1938 Schoenberg’s works were labelled as degenerate music because he was Jewish (Anon. 1997–2013); he moved to the United States in 1934.

Schoenberg’s approach, both in terms of harmony and development, has been one of the most influential of 20th-century musical thought. Many European and American composers from at least three generations have consciously extended his thinking, whereas others have passionately reacted against it.

Schoenberg was known early in his career for simultaneously extending the traditionally opposed German Romantic styles of Brahms and Wagner. Later, his name would come to personify innovations in atonality (although Schoenberg himself detested that term) that would become the most polemical feature of 20th-century art music. In the 1920s, Schoenberg developed the twelve-tone technique, an influential compositional method of manipulating an ordered series of all twelve notes in the chromatic scale. He also coined the term developing variation and was the first modern composer to embrace ways of developing motifs without resorting to the dominance of a centralized melodic idea.

Schoenberg was also a painter, an important music theorist, and an influential teacher of composition; his students included Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Hanns Eisler, Egon Wellesz, and later John Cage, Lou Harrison, Earl Kim,Leon Kirchner, and other prominent musicians. Many of Schoenberg’s practices, including the formalization of compositional method and his habit of openly inviting audiences to think analytically, are echoed in avant-gardemusical thought throughout the 20th century. His often polemical views of music history and aesthetics were crucial to many significant 20th-century musicologists and critics, including Theodor W. Adorno, Charles Rosen andCarl Dahlhaus, as well as the pianists Artur Schnabel, Rudolf Serkin, Eduard Steuermann and Glenn Gould.

Schoenberg’s archival legacy is collected at the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna.

Bogeyman — Prophet — Guardian (Schoenberg documentary): Episode 1: Part 1


Early life[edit]

Arnold Schönberg in Payerbach, 1903

Arnold Schoenberg was born into a lower middle-class Jewish family in the Leopoldstadt district (in earlier times a Jewish ghetto) of Vienna, at “Obere Donaustraße 5”. His father Samuel, a native of Bratislava, was ashopkeeper, and his mother Pauline was native of Prague. Arnold was largely self-taught. He took only counterpoint lessons with the composer Alexander von Zemlinsky, who was to become his first brother-in-law (Beaumont 2000, 87).

In his twenties, Schoenberg earned a living by orchestrating operettas, while composing his own works, such as the string sextet Verklärte Nacht (“Transfigured Night”) (1899). He later made an orchestral version of this, which became one of his most popular pieces. Both Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler recognized Schoenberg’s significance as a composer; Strauss when he encountered Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder, and Mahler after hearing several of Schoenberg’s early works.

Strauss turned to a more conservative idiom in his own work after 1909, and at that point dismissed Schoenberg. Mahler adopted him as a protégé and continued to support him, even after Schoenberg’s style reached a point Mahler could no longer understand. Mahler worried about who would look after him after his death. Schoenberg, who had initially despised and mocked Mahler’s music, was converted by the “thunderbolt” of Mahler’s Third Symphony, which he considered a work of genius. Afterward he “spoke of Mahler as a saint” (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 103; Schoenberg 1975, 136).

In 1898 Schoenberg converted to Christianity in the Lutheran church. According to MacDonald (2008, 93) this was partly to strengthen his attachment to Western European cultural traditions, and partly as a means of self-defence “in a time of resurgent anti-Semitism”. In 1933, after long meditation, he returned to Judaism, because he realised that “his racial and religious heritage was inescapable”, and to take up an unmistakable position on the side opposing Nazism. He would self-identify as a member of the Jewish religion later in life (Marquis Who’s Who n.d.).

In October 1901, he married Mathilde Zemlinsky, the sister of the conductor and composer Alexander von Zemlinsky, with whom Schoenberg had been studying since about 1894. Mathilde bore him two children, Gertrud (1902–1947) and Georg (1906–1974). Gertrud would marry Schoenberg’s pupil Felix Greissle in 1921 (Neighbour 2001). During the summer of 1908, his wife Mathilde left him for several months for a young Austrian painter,Richard Gerstl. This period marked a distinct change in Schoenberg’s work. It was during the absence of his wife that he composed “You lean against a silver-willow” (German: Du lehnest wider eine Silberweide), the thirteenth song in the cycle Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten, Op. 15, based on the collection of the same name by the German mystical poet Stefan George. This was the first composition without any reference at all to a key (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 96). Also in this year, he completed one of his most revolutionary compositions, the String Quartet No. 2, whose first two movements, though chromatic in color, use traditional key signatures, yet whose final two movements, also settings of George, daringly weaken the links with traditional tonality. Both movements end on tonic chords, and the work is not fully non-tonal. Breaking with previous string-quartet practice, it incorporates a soprano vocal line.

Schoenberg’s Der Rote Blick (Red Gaze), 1910

Bogeyman — Prophet — Guardian (Schoenberg documentary): Episode 1: Part 2

Bogeyman — Prophet — Guardian (Schoenberg documentary): Episode 1: Part 3

Bogeyman — Prophet — Guardian (Schoenberg documentary): Episode 2: Part 1

Bogeyman — Prophet — Guardian (Schoenberg documentary): Episode 2: Part 2

Bogeyman — Prophet — Guardian (Schoenberg documentary): Episode 2: Part 3

Published on Jun 26, 2013

Final part of the second episode in a two-part series on composer Arnold Schoenberg. Directed by the inimitable Barrie Gavin, 1974.


During the summer of 1910, Schoenberg wrote his Harmonielehre (Theory of Harmony, Schoenberg 1922), which remains one of the most influential music-theory books. From about 1911, Schoenberg belonged to a circle of artists and intellectuals who included Lene Schneider-Kainer, Franz Werfel, Herwarth Walden and the latter’s wife, Else Lasker-Schüler.

In 1910 he met Edward Clark, an English music journalist then working in Germany. Clark became his sole English student, and in his later capacity as a producer for the BBC he was responsible for introducing many of Schoenberg’s works, and Schoenberg himself, to Britain (as well as Webern, Berg and others).

Another of his most important works from this atonal or pantonal period is the highly influential Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21, of 1912, a novel cycle of expressionist songs set to a German translation of poems by the Belgian-French poetAlbert Giraud. Utilizing the technique of Sprechstimme, or melodramatically spoken recitation, the work pairs a female vocalist with a small ensemble of five musicians. The ensemble, which is now commonly referred to as the Pierrot ensemble, consists of flute (doubling on piccolo), clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet), violin (doubling on viola), violoncello, speaker, and piano.

Wilhelm Bopp, director of the Vienna Conservatory from 1907, wanted a break from the stale environment personified for him by Robert Fuchs and Hermann Graedener. Having considered many candidates, he offered teaching positions to Schoenberg and Franz Schreker in 1912. At the time Schoenberg lived in Berlin. He was not completely cut off from the Vienna Conservatory, having taught a private theory course a year earlier. He seriously considered the offer, but he declined. Writing afterward to Alban Berg, he cited his “aversion to Vienna” as the main reason for his decision, while contemplating that it might have been the wrong one financially, but having made it he felt content. A couple of months later he wrote to Schreker suggesting that it might have been a bad idea for him as well to accept the teaching position (Hailey 1993, 55–57).

World War I[edit]

Arnold Schoenberg, byEgon Schiele 1917

World War I brought a crisis in his development. Military service disrupted his life when at the age of 42 he was in the army. He was never able to work uninterrupted or over a period of time, and as a result he left many unfinished works and undeveloped “beginnings”. On one occasion, a superior officer demanded to know if he was “this notorious Schoenberg, then”; Schoenberg replied: “Beg to report, sir, yes. Nobody wanted to be, someone had to be, so I let it be me” (Schoenberg 1975, 104) (according to Norman Lebrecht (2001), this is a reference to Schoenberg’s apparent “destiny” as the “Emancipator of Dissonance”).

In what Ross calls an “act of war psychosis,” Schoenberg drew comparisons between Germany’s assault on France and his assault on decadent bourgeois artistic values. In August 1914, while denouncing the music of Bizet,Stravinsky and Ravel, he wrote: “Now comes the reckoning! Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God” (Ross 2007, 60).

The deteriorating relation between contemporary composers and the public led him to found the Society for Private Musical Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen in German) in Vienna in 1918. He sought to provide a forum in which modern musical compositions could be carefully prepared and rehearsed, and properly performed under conditions protected from the dictates of fashion and pressures of commerce. From its inception through 1921, when it ended because of economic reasons, the Society presented 353 performances to paid members, sometimes at the rate of one per week. During the first year and a half, Schoenberg did not let any of his own works be performed (Rosen 1975, 65). Instead, audiences at the Society’s concerts heard difficult contemporary compositions by Scriabin, Debussy, Mahler, Webern, Berg, Reger, and other leading figures of early 20th-century music (Rosen 1996, 66).

Development of the twelve-tone method[edit]

Arnold Schoenberg, 1927, by Man Ray

Later, Schoenberg was to develop the most influential version of the dodecaphonic (also known as twelve-tone) method of composition, which in French and English was given the alternative name serialism by René Leibowitz andHumphrey Searle in 1947. This technique was taken up by many of his students, who constituted the so-called Second Viennese School. They included Anton Webern, Alban Berg and Hanns Eisler, all of whom were profoundly influenced by Schoenberg. He published a number of books, ranging from his famous Harmonielehre (Theory of Harmony) to Fundamentals of Musical Composition (Schoenberg 1967), many of which are still in print and used by musicians and developing composers.

Schoenberg viewed his development as a natural progression, and he did not deprecate his earlier works when he ventured into serialism. In 1923 he wrote to the Swiss philanthropist Werner Reinhart:

“For the present, it matters more to me if people understand my older works … They are the natural forerunners of my later works, and only those who understand and comprehend these will be able to gain an understanding of the later works that goes beyond a fashionable bare minimum. I do not attach so much importance to being a musical bogey-man as to being a natural continuer of properly-understood good old tradition!” (Stein 1987, 100; quoted in Strimple 2005, 22)

His first wife died in October 1923, and in August of the next year Schoenberg married Gertrud Kolisch (1898–1967), sister of his pupil, the violinist Rudolf Kolisch (Neighbour 2001; Silverman 2010, 223). She wrote the libretto for Schoenberg’s one-act opera Von heute auf morgen under the pseudonym Max Blonda. At her request Schoenberg’s (ultimately unfinished) piece, Die Jakobsleiter was prepared for performance by Schoenberg’s studentWinfried Zillig. After her husband’s death in 1951 she founded Belmont Music Publishers devoted to the publication of his works (Shoaf 1992, 64). Arnold used the notes G and E (German: Es, i.e., “S”) for “Gertrud Schoenberg”, in the Suite, for septet, Op. 29 (1925) (MacDonald 2008, 216) (see musical cryptogram).

Following the 1924 death of composer Ferruccio Busoni, who had served as Director of a Master Class in Composition at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin, Schoenberg was appointed to this post the next year, but because of health problems was unable to take up his post until 1926. Among his notable students during this period were the composers Roberto Gerhard, Nikos Skalkottas, and Josef Rufer.

Along with his twelve-tone works, 1930 marks Schoenberg’s return to tonality, with numbers 4 and 6 of the Six Pieces for Male Chorus Op.35, the other pieces being dodecaphonic (Auner 1999, 85).

Third Reich and move to America[edit]

Schoenberg continued in his post until the Nazis came to power under Adolf Hitler in 1933. While vacationing in France, he was warned that returning to Germany would be dangerous. Schoenberg formally reclaimed membership in the Jewish religion at a Paris synagogue, then traveled with his family to the United States (Friedrich 1986, 31). However, this happened only after his attempts to move to Britain came to nothing. He enlisted the aid of his former student and great champion Edward Clark, now a senior producer with the BBC, in helping him gain a British teaching post or even a British publisher, but to no avail.

His first teaching position in the United States was at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston. He moved to Los Angeles, where he taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, both of which later named a music building on their respective campuses Schoenberg Hall (UCLA Department of Music [2008]; University of Southern California Thornton School of Music [2008]). He was appointed visiting professor at UCLA in 1935 on the recommendation of Otto Klemperer, music director and conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra[citation needed]; and the next year was promoted to professor at a salary of $5,100 per year, which enabled him in either May 1936 or 1937 to buy a Spanish Revival house at 116 North Rockingham in Brentwood Park, near the UCLA campus, for $18,000. This address was directly across the street from Shirley Temple‘s house, and there he befriended fellow composer (and tennis partner) George Gershwin. The Schoenbergs were able to employ domestic help and began holding Sunday afternoon gatherings that were known for excellent coffee and Viennese pastries. Frequent guests included Otto Klemperer (who studied composition privately with Schoenberg beginning in April 1936), Edgard Varèse, Joseph Achron, Louis Gruenberg, Ernst Toch, and, on occasion, well-known actors such as Harpo Marx and Peter Lorre (Crawford 2009, 116; Feisst 2011, 6; Laskin 2008; MacDonald 2008, 79; Schoenberg 1975, 514; Starr 1997, 383; Watkins 2010, 114). Composers Leonard Rosenman and George Tremblay studied with Schoenberg at this time.

After his move to the United States in 1934 (Steinberg 1995, 463), the composer used the alternative spelling of his surname Schoenberg, rather than Schönberg, in what he called “deference to American practice” (Foss 1951, 401), though according to one writer he first made the change a year earlier (Ross 2007, 45).

He lived there the rest of his life, but at first he was not settled. In around 1934, he applied for a position of teacher of harmony and theory at the New South Wales State Conservatorium in Sydney. The Director, Edgar Bainton, rejected him for being Jewish and for having “modernist ideas and dangerous tendencies”. Schoenberg also at one time explored the idea of emigrating to New Zealand. His secretary and student (and nephew of Schoenberg’s mother-in-law Henriette Kolisch), was Richard (Dick) Hoffmann Jr, Viennese-born but who lived in New Zealand 1935–47, and Schoenberg had since childhood been fascinated with islands, and with New Zealand in particular, possibly because of the beauty of the postage stamps issued by that country (Plush 1996).

Stroop Report original caption: “Smoking out the Jews and bandits.” –Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

During this final period, he composed several notable works, including the difficult Violin Concerto, Op. 36 (1934/36), the Kol Nidre, Op. 39, for chorus and orchestra (1938), the Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, Op. 41 (1942), the haunting Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942), and his memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46 (1947). He was unable to complete his opera Moses und Aron (1932/33), which was one of the first works of its genre written completely using dodecaphonic composition. Along with twelve-tone music, Schoenberg also returned to tonality with works during his last period, like the Suite for Strings in G major (1935), theChamber Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 38 (begun in 1906, completed in 1939), the Variations on a Recitative in D minor, Op. 40 (1941). During this period his notable students included John Cage and Lou Harrison.

In 1941 he became a citizen of the United States.

Later years and death[edit]

Schoenberg’s grave in theZentralfriedhof, Vienna

Schoenberg’s superstitious nature may have triggered his death. The composer had triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13), and according to friend Katia Mann, he feared he would die during a year that was a multiple of 13 (quoted in Lebrecht 1985, 294). He dreaded his sixty-fifth birthday in 1939 so much that a friend asked the composer and astrologer Dane Rudhyar to prepare Schoenberg’s horoscope. Rudhyar did this and told Schoenberg that the year was dangerous, but not fatal.

But in 1950, on his seventy-sixth birthday, an astrologer wrote Schoenberg a note warning him that the year was a critical one: 7 + 6 = 13 (Nuria Schoenberg-Nono, quoted in Lebrecht 1985, 295). This stunned and depressed the composer, for up to that point he had only been wary of multiples of 13 and never considered adding the digits of his age. He died on Friday, 13 July 1951, shortly before midnight. Schoenberg had stayed in bed all day, sick, anxious and depressed. His wife Gertrud reported in a telegram to her sister-in-law Ottilie the next day that Arnold died at 11:45 pm, 15 minutes before midnight (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 520). In a letter to Ottilie dated 4 August 1951, Gertrud explained, “About a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over. Then the doctor called me. Arnold’s throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end” (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 521).

Schoenberg’s ashes were later interred at the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna on 6 June 1974 (McCoy 1999, 15).


Played by the Carmel Quartet with soprano Rona Israel-Kolatt, in 2007

Problems playing this file? See media help.

In Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31tone row form P1’s second half has the same notes, in a different order, as the first half of I10: “Thus it is possible to employ P1 and I10 simultaneously and in parallel motion without causing note doubling” (Leeuw 2005, 154–55). About this sound Play 

Featuring hexachordal combinatoriality between its primary forms, P1 and I6, Schoenberg’s Piano Piece, Op. 33a tone row About this sound Play  contains threeperfect fifths, which is the relation between P1 and I6, and a source of contrast between, “accumulations of 5ths”, and, “generally more complex simultaneity” (Leeuw 2005, 155–57). For example group A consists of B-F-C-B while the, “more blended”, group B consists of A-F-C-D

Schoenberg’s significant compositions in the repertory of modern art music extend over a period of more than 50 years. Traditionally they are divided into three periods though this division is arguably arbitrary as the music in each of these periods is considerably varied. The idea that his twelve-tone period “represents a stylistically unified body of works is simply not supported by the musical evidence” (Haimo 1990, 4), and important musical characteristics—especially those related to motivic development—transcend these boundaries completely. The first of these periods, 1894–1907, is identified in the legacy of the high-Romantic composers of the late nineteenth century, as well as with “expressionist” movements in poetry and art. The second, 1908–1922, is typified by the abandonment of key centers, a move often described (though not by Schoenberg) as “free atonality”. The third, from 1923 onward, commences with Schoenberg’s invention of dodecaphonic, or “twelve-tone” compositional method. Schoenberg’s best-known students, Hanns Eisler,Alban Berg, and Anton Webern, followed Schoenberg faithfully through each of these intellectual and aesthetic transitions, though not without considerable experimentation and variety of approach.

First period: Late Romanticism[edit]

Beginning with songs and string quartets written around the turn of the century, Schoenberg’s concerns as a composer positioned him uniquely among his peers, in that his procedures exhibited characteristics of both Brahms and Wagner, who for most contemporary listeners, were considered polar opposites, representing mutually exclusive directions in the legacy of German music. Schoenberg’s Six Songs, Op. 3 (1899–1903), for example, exhibit a conservative clarity of tonal organization typical of Brahms and Mahler, reflecting an interest in balanced phrases and an undisturbed hierarchy of key relationships. However, the songs also explore unusually bold incidental chromaticism, and seem to aspire to a Wagnerian “representational” approach to motivic identity. The synthesis of these approaches reaches an apex in his Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (1899), a programmatic work for string sextet that develops several distinctive “leitmotif“-like themes, each one eclipsing and subordinating the last. The only motivic elements that persist throughout the work are those that are perpetually dissolved, varied, and re-combined, in a technique, identified primarily in Brahms’s music, that Schoenberg called “developing variation”. Schoenberg’s procedures in the work are organized in two ways simultaneously; at once suggesting a Wagnerian narrative of motivic ideas, as well as a Brahmsian approach to motivic development and tonal cohesion.

Second period: Free atonality[edit]

Schoenberg’s music from 1908 onward experiments in a variety of ways with the absence of traditional keys or tonal centers. His first explicitly atonal piece was the second string quartet, Op. 10, with soprano. The last movement of this piece has no key signature, marking Schoenberg’s formal divorce from diatonic harmonies. Other important works of the era include his song cycle Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten, Op. 15 (1908–1909), his Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16 (1909), the influential Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912), as well as his dramatic Erwartung, Op. 17 (1909). The urgency of musical constructions lacking in tonal centers, or traditional dissonance-consonance relationships, however, can be traced as far back as his Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 (1906), a work remarkable for its tonal development of whole-tone andquartal harmony, and its initiation of dynamic and unusual ensemble relationships, involving dramatic interruption and unpredictable instrumental allegiances; many of these features would typify the timbre-oriented chamber music aesthetic of the coming century.

Third period: Twelve-tone and tonal works[edit]

In the early 1920s, he worked at evolving a means of order that would make his musical texture simpler and clearer. This resulted in the “method of composing with twelve tones which are related only with one another” (Schoenberg 1984, 218), in which the twelve pitches of the octave (unrealized compositionally) are regarded as equal, and no one note or tonality is given the emphasis it occupied in classical harmony. He regarded it as the equivalent in music of Albert Einstein‘s discoveries in physics. Schoenberg announced it characteristically, during a walk with his friend Josef Rufer, when he said, “I have made a discovery which will ensure the supremacy of German music for the next hundred years” (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 277). This period included the Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31 (1928); Piano Pieces, Opp. 33a & b (1931), and the Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942). Contrary to his reputation for strictness, Schoenberg’s use of the technique varied widely according to the demands of each individual composition. Thus the structure of his unfinished opera Moses und Aron is unlike that of his Fantasy for Violin and Piano, Op. 47 (1949).

Ten features of Schoenberg’s mature twelve-tone practice are characteristic, interdependent, and interactive (Haimo 1990, 41):

  1. Hexachordal inversional combinatoriality
  2. Aggregates
  3. Linear set presentation
  4. Partitioning
  5. Isomorphic partitioning
  6. Invariants
  7. Hexachordal levels
  8. Harmony, “consistent with and derived from the properties of the referential set”
  9. Metre, established through “pitch-relational characteristics”
  10. Multidimensional set presentations

Reception and legacy[edit]

First works[edit]

After some early difficulties, Schoenberg began to win public acceptance with works such as the tone poem Pelleas und Melisande at a Berlin performance in 1907. At the Vienna première of the Gurre-Lieder in 1913, he received an ovation that lasted a quarter of an hour and culminated with Schoenberg’s being presented with a laurel crown (Rosen 1996, 4; Stuckenschmidt 1977, 184).

Nonetheless, much of his work was not well received. His Chamber Symphony No. 1 premièred unremarkably in 1907. However, when it was played again in the Skandalkonzert on 31 March 1913, (which also included works by Berg, Webern and Zemlinsky), “one could hear the shrill sound of door keys among the violent clapping, and in the second gallery the first fight of the evening began.” Later in the concert, during a performance of the Altenberg Lieder by Berg, fighting broke out after Schoenberg interrupted the performance to threaten removal by the police of any troublemakers (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 185).

Twelve-tone period[edit]

According to Ethan Haimo, understanding of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone work has been difficult to achieve owing in part to the “truly revolutionary nature” of his new system, misinformation disseminated by some early writers about the system’s “rules” and “exceptions” that bear “little relation to the most significant features of Schoenberg’s music”, the composer’s secretiveness, and the widespread unavailability of his sketches and manuscripts until the late 1970s. During his life, he was “subjected to a range of criticism and abuse that is shocking even in hindsight” (Haimo 1990, 2–3).

Watschenkonzert, caricature in Die Zeit from 6 April 1913

Schoenberg criticized Igor Stravinsky‘s new neoclassical trend in the poem “Der neue Klassizismus” (in which he derogates Neoclassicism, and obliquely refers to Stravinsky as “Der kleine Modernsky”), which he used as text for the third of his Drei Satiren, Op. 28 (Schonberg 1970, 503).

Schoenberg’s serial technique of composition with twelve notes became one of the most central and polemical issues among American and European musicians during the mid- to late-twentieth century. Beginning in the 1940s and continuing to the present day, composers such as Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono and Milton Babbitt have extended Schoenberg’s legacy in increasingly radical directions. The major cities of the United States (e.g., Los Angeles, New York, and Boston) have had historically significant performances of Schoenberg’s music, with advocates such as Babbitt in New York and the Franco-American conductor-pianist Jacques-Louis Monod. Schoenberg’s students have been influential teachers at major American universities: Leonard Stein at USC, UCLA and CalArts; Richard Hoffmann at Oberlin; Patricia Carpenter at Columbia; and Leon Kirchner and Earl Kim at Harvard. Musicians associated with Schoenberg have had a profound influence upon contemporary music performance practice in the USA (e.g., Louis Krasner, Eugene Lehner and Rudolf Kolisch at the New England Conservatory of Music; Eduard Steuermann and Felix Galimir at the Juilliard School). In Europe, the work of Hans Keller, Luigi Rognoni, and René Leibowitz has had a measurable influence in spreading Schoenberg’s musical legacy outside of Germany and Austria.


In the 1920s, Ernst Krenek criticized a certain unnamed brand of contemporary music (presumably Schoenberg and his disciples) as “the self-gratification of an individual who sits in his studio and invents rules according to which he then writes down his notes.” Schoenberg took offense at this masturbatory metaphor and answered that Krenek “wishes for only whores as listeners” (Ross 2007, 156).

Allen Shawn has noted that, given Schoenberg’s living circumstances, his work is usually defended rather than listened to, and that it is difficult to experience it apart from the ideology that surrounds it (Taruskin 2004, 7). Richard Taruskin asserts that Schoenberg committed what he terms a “poietic fallacy”, the conviction that what matters most (or all that matters) in a work of art is the making of it, the maker’s input, and that the listener’s pleasure must not be the composer’s primary objective (Taruskin 2004, 10). Taruskin also criticizes the ideas of measuring Schoenberg’s value as a composer in terms of his influence on other artists, the overrating of technical innovation, and the restriction of criticism to matters of structure and craft while derogating other approaches as vulgarian (Taruskin 2004, 12).[clarification needed]

Personality and extramusical interests[edit]

Arnold Schoenberg, self-portrait, 1910

Schoenberg was a painter of considerable ability, whose pictures were considered good enough to exhibit alongside those of Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 142) as fellow members of the expressionist Blue Rider group.

He was interested in Hopalong Cassidy films, which Paul Buhle and David Wagner (2002, v–vii) attribute to the films’ left-wing screenwriters—a rather odd claim in light of Schoenberg’s statement that he was a “bourgeois” turnedmonarchist (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 551–52).

Schoenberg experienced triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13), which possibly began in 1908 with the composition of the thirteenth song of the song cycle Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten Op. 15 (Stuckenschmidt 1977, 96).Moses und Aron was originally spelled Moses und Aaron, but when he realised this contained 13 letters, he changed it[citation needed]. His superstitious nature may have triggered his death. According to friend Katia Mann, he feared he would die during a year that was a multiple of 13 (quoted in Lebrecht 1985, 294).

Francis Schaeffer in his book HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE? noted on pages 200-203:

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) is perhaps the clearest example in the United States of painting deliberately in order to make the statements that all is chance. He placed canvases horizontally on the floor and dripped paint on them from suspended cans swinging over them. Thus, his paintings were a product of chance. But wait a minute! Is there not an order in the lines of paint on his canvases? Yes, because it was not really chance shaping his canvases! The universe is not a random universe; it has order. Therefore, as the dripping paint from the swinging cans moved over the canvases, the lines of paint were following the order of the universe itself. The universe is not what these painters said it is.

The third way the idea spread was through music. This came about first in classical music, though later many of the same elements came into popular music, such as rock. In classical music two streams are involved: the German and the French.

The first shift in German music came with the last Quartets of Beethoven, composed in 1825 and 1826. These certainly were not what we would call “modern,” but they were a shift from the music prior to them. Leonard Bernstein (1918-) speaks of Beethoven as the “new artist–the artist as priest and prophet.” Joseph Machlis (1906-) says in INTRODUCTION TO COMTEMPORARY MUSIC (1961), “Schoenberg took his point of departure from the final Quartets of Beethoven.” And Stravinsky said, “These Quartets are my highest articles of musical belief (which is a longer word for love, whatever else), as indispensable to the ways and meaning of art, as a musician of my era thinks of art and has to learn it, as temperature is to life.”

Beethoven was followed by Wagner (1813-1883); then came Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). Leonard Bernstein in the NORTON LECTURES at Harvard University in 1973 says of Mahler and especially Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, “Ours is the century of death and Mahler is its musical prophet…If Mahler knew this (personal death, death of tonality, and the death of culture as it had been) and his message is so clear, how do we knowing it too, manage to survive? Why are we still here, struggling to go on? We are now face to face with the truly ultimate ambiguity of all…We learn to accept our mortality; yet we persist in our search for immortality…All this ultimate ambiguity is to be heard in the finale of Mahler’s Ninth.” Notice how closely this parallels Nietzsche’s poem on page 193. (Oh Man! Take heed, of what the dark midnight says: I slept, I slept–from deep dreams I awoke: The world is deep–and more profound than day would have thought. Profound in her pain–Pleasure–more profound than pain of heart, Woe speaks; pass on. But all pleasure seeks eternity–a deep and profound eternity.) This is modern man’s position. He has come to a position of the death of man in his own mind, but he cannot live with it, for it does not describe what he is.

Then came Schoenberg (1874-1951), and with him we are into the music which was a vehicle for modern thought. Schoenberg totally rejected the past tradition in music and invented the “12 tone row.” This was “modern” in that there was perpetual variation with NO RESOLUTION. This stands in sharp contrast to Bach who, on his biblical base, had much diversity but always resolution. Bach’s music had resolution because as a Christian he believed that there will be resolution both for eah individual life and for history. As the music which came out of the biblical teaching of the Reformation was shaped by that world-view, so the world-view of modern man shapes modern music.

Among Schoenberg’s pupils were Allen Berg (1885-1935), Anton Webern (1883-1945), and John Cage (1912-). Each of these carried on this line of nonresolution in his own way. Donald Jay Grout (1902-) in A HISTORY OF WESTERN MUSIC speaks of Schoenberg’s and Berg’s subject matter in the modern world: “…isolated, helpless in the grip of forces he does not understand, prey to inner conflict, tension, anxiety and fear.” One can understand that a music of nonresolution is a fitting expression of the place to which modern man has come.

In INTRODUCTION TO CONTEMPORARY MUSIC Joseph Machlis says of Webern that his way of placing the weightier sounds on the offbeat and perpetually varying the rhythmic phrase imparts to his music its indefinable quality of “hovering suspension.” Machlis adds that Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-), and the German Cologne school in general, take up from Webern with the formation of electronic  music which “generates, transforms and manipulates sounds electronically.” Stockhausen produced the first published score of electronic music in his ELECTRONIC STUDIES. A part of his concern was with the element of chance in composition. As we shall see, this ties into the work of John Cage, whom we will study in more detail below. But first let us look at the French stream.

The French shift began with Claude Debussy (1862-1918). His direction was not so much that of nonresolution but of FRAGMENTATION. Many of us enjoy and admire much of Debussy’s music, but he opened the door to FRAGMENTATION in music and has influenced most of the composers since, not only in classical music but in popular music and rock as well. Even the music which is one of the glories of America–black jazz and black spirituals–was gradually infiltrated.

It is worth reemphasizing that this FRAGMENTATION in music is parallel to the FRAGMENTATION which occurred in painting. An again let us say that these were not just changes of technique; they expressed a world-view and became a vehicle for carrying that world-view to masses of people which the bare philosophic writings never would have touched.

John Cage provides perhaps the clearest example of what is involved in the shift of music. Cage believed the universe is a universe of chance. He tried carrying this out with great consistency. For example, at times he flipped coins to decide what the music should be. At other times he erected a machine that led an orchestra by chance motions so that the orchestra would not know what was coming next. Thus there was no order. Or again, he placed two conductors leading the same orchestra, separated from each other by a partition, so that what resulted was utter confusion. There is a close tie-in again to painting; in 1947 Cage made a composition he called MUSIC FOR MARCEL DUCHAMP. But the sound produced by his music was composed only of silence (interrupted only by random environmental sounds), but as soon as he used his chance methods sheer noise was the outcome.

But Cage also showed that one cannot live on such a base, that the chance concept of the universe does not fit the universe as it is. Cage is an expert in mycology, the science of mushrooms. And he himself said, “I became aware that if I approached mushrooms in the spirit of my chance operation, I would die shortly.” Mushroom picking must be carefully discriminative. His theory of the universe does not fit the universe that exists.

All of this music by chance, which results in noise, makes a strange contrast to the airplanes sitting in our airports or slicing through our skies. An airplane is carefully formed; it is orderly (and many would also think it beautiful). This is in sharp contrast to the intellectualized art which states that the universe is chance. Why is the airplane carefully formed and orderly, and what Cage produced utter noise? Simply because an airplane must fit the orderly flow lines of the universe if it is to fly!

Sir Archibald Russel (1905-) was the British designer for the Concorde airliner. In a NEWSWEEK: European Edition interview (February 16, 1976) he was asked : “Many people find that the Concorde is a work of art in its design. Did you consider its aesthetic appearance when you were designing it?” His answer was, “When one designs an airplane, he must stay as close as possible to the laws of nature. You are really playing with the laws of nature and trying not to offend them. It so happens that our ideas of beauty are those of nature. That’s why I doubt that the Russian supersonic airplane is a crib of ours. The Russians have the same basic phenomena imposed on them by nature as we do.”

Cage’s music and the world-view for which it is the vehicle do not fit the universe that is. Someone might here bring in Einstein, Werner Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty and quantum, but we have considered them on page 162, and so will not repeat the discussion here. The universe is not what Cage in his music and Pollock in his painting say it is. And we must add that Cage’s music does not fit what people are, either. It has had to become increasingly spectacular to keep interest; for example, a nude cellist has played Cage’s music under water.

A further question is: Is this art really art? Is it not rather a bare philosophic, intellectual statement, separated from the fullness of who people are and the fullness of what the universe is? The more it tends to be only an intellectual statement, rather than a work of art, the more it becomes anti-art

Q&A with Vincent Katz about Black Mountain College

Happy Wednesday! Here’s our Q&A with Vincent Katz, editor of  Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art. Unavailable for several years, this generously illustrated book documents the most successful experiment in the history of American arts education. Vincent Katz is a poet, translator, and curator based in New York City.


What inspired you to edit a book about Black Mountain College?

I was asked by Juan Manuel Bonet, the Director of the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, if I would be interested in curating an exhibition on Black Mountainfor the museum. I had curated the first museum retrospective of Rudy Burckhardt’s work for the Institute of Modern Art in Valencia, when Bonet had been the Director there. I said yes to the Black Mountain idea instantly, though I must admit that my knowledge of the school then was much less than it has become. With Bonet’s support, we put on an exhibition of more than 300 objects, including paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, artist’s books, manuscripts, films, and audio. MIT published the English version of the catalogue, and it is on a scale commensurate with the exhibition, including four essays by specialists and over 500 illustrations, many in color.


Has your perception of Black Mountain College’s influence changed in the years since the first edition of this book came out in 2003?

I have found that Black Mountain infiltrates itself into almost any discussion of modern and contemporary art, from the early history of the Bauhaus to the work of contemporary artists today. I have noticed many people referring to Black Mountain in recent years. This is especially true in the poetry world, where the influence of poets such as Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, and others continues to be central to the most innovative practices in poetry. In the world of visual arts, the wide range of artists who taught and studied at Black Mountain—from Josef and Anni Albers to Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Susan Weil, Dorothea Rockburne, and a multitude of others—is such that one constantly finds references to people who either studied with these artists, knew them, or were influenced by their work.


Josef Albers, Buckminster Fuller, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly, among several others, were all connected to Black Mountain College. How did such a small school (fewer than 1,200 students in 23 years) attract such a high caliber of artistic talent?

The school had a unique approach to education, and the arts program was central from the beginning. There was no governing board, so the teachers, with input from the students, had entire decision-making powers. Students would create their own curricula, based on the availability of teachers in their chosen areas. There were ample opportunities for collaborative work and cross-fertilization. Dorothea Rockburne went to study art but found some of her most fruitful studies at Black Mountain in mathematics. Sculptors studied poetry, poets were involved in dance and pottery. The printing press played a central role, with teachers like M.C. Richards and Charles Olson encouraging students to take the reins and publish their own work. Jonathan Williams, who came to study with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, ended up being, in addition to an excellent portrait photographer, one of the most important poetry publishers of his time. Word somehow got out, and the most adventurous students were attracted to the place.


Why was this school so successful and, alternatively, unsuccessful?

The success of the school was based on its freedom from conventional supervision—artists had a significant say in how the curriculum was designed and implemented. This was true from the school’s very first years, when Josef Albers was instrumental in establishing its pedagogical basis, and it was true in the school’s final years, when Charles Olson took the lead in offering as challenging a curriculum as he could devise. The perils were financial and organizational. Without a governing board, the school was always strapped for cash and often did not know if it could continue. Teachers often worked for room and board, an indication of their willingness to sacrifice for the educational ideals the school embodied.  Finally, the organizational challenges become too great, as the numbers of students dwindled. The school started selling off pieces of the farm that had always given it part of its identity, and ultimately it had to close.


Do you think this level of experimental art still happens today?

I believe that the same level of experimental art does happen today, though it is rare. Rarer still is an educational institution that will sacrifice everything for its ideals, thus bringing students into the creative nexus of experimentation and collaboration.



ART DOCUMENTATION • Volume 22, Number 2 • 2003

Alternative Education


Edited by Vincent Katz.–Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press,

March 2003.–329 p.” ill.–ISBN 0-262-11-279-5

(cl., alk. paper):  $75.00

Seventy years after its formation, the educational experiment embodied in Black Mountain College still holds fascination for those seeking to discern the wellsprings of American art, music, and literature in the twentieth century.  This generously endowed book accompanied the exhibition Black Mountain College: Una Aventura Americana, curated by Vincent Katz, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid from October 28, 2002 to January 13, 2003.  Katz, a poet and critic, also contributed the book’s longest and most substantive essay, profiling sixty-five renowned painters, sculptors, photographers, and fiber artists who passed through Black Mountain College as faculty or students.  Drawing on recent interviews as well as documentary sources, Katz characterizes the College’s impact on each artist’s development.  he also discusses the innovative artistic interactions during the late 1940s that were generated by the presence of Buckminster Fuller and John Cage on campus.  Although Katz describes the educational and cultural forces that led to the school’s founding in North Carolina in 1933, he neither provides a comprehensive history of the college nor does he explore the college’s demise in 1956.  For this, researchers need to turn to the definitive monograph The Arts at Black Mountain College by Mary Emma Harris (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987) that has recently been reprinted.  Harris provides the historical and scholarly framework that is lacking in Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art; she includes a roster of faculty and students, a comprehensive bibliography, and scores of documentary photographs.  However, Harris’s book reproduces only a handful of art works in color, whereas half of the 470 illustrations in the new book are in color.  Katz has made a concerted effort to include several examples of each artist’s work, often selecting unfamiliar pieces that were created during the artist’s tenure at Black Mountain, many of which are still in the artist’s possession.  Unfortunately, none of the illustrations are referred to in the text.

The book’s second essay is by Martin Brody, a composer and music professor at Wellesley College.  Brody takes one event, Black Mountain’s 1944 Summer Music Institute celebrating Arnold Schoenberg’s eightieth birthday, and traces its impact on the musical and cultural landscape of the United States.

Kevin Power, chair of American Literature at the Universidad de Allocate, contributes the book’s third essay, an impressionistic accounting of the short-lived literary journal Black Mountain Review (1953-57).  Under the editorship of poet Robert Creeley, the Black Mountain Review gained a reputation as an experimental forum where the poetics of American experience and language were explored.

The final essay is Robert Creeley’s eloquent reminiscence of Charles Olson, the expansive poet who served as Black Mountain’s Rector during the College’s final years.  Creeley describes Olson’s impact on the College and perceptively characterizes his mentor’s energy, focus, and intensity.

Three previously unpublished poems by Olson, Creeley and John Wieners complete the book by conveying a bit of the spirit and vitality that characterized Black Mountain.  Regrettably, the poems are not indexed or referenced by name in the Table of Contents.

The book’s scholarly apparatus leaves much to be desired.  The two-page bibliography cites only major publications on the College and books by and about the most well known faculty members.  This index, limited to personal names, is similarly inadequate.  Scholars will continue to rely on the extensive bibliographies in Harris’s The Arts at Black Mountain College, as well as historian Martin Duberman’s Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community (New York, NY: Dutton, 1972).

This book is a welcome complement to the available literature on Black Mountain College because it focuses on the creative output of specific influential artists and includes abundant visual documentation.  It is most appropriate for the scholar or graduate student who already has some familiarity with Black Mountain College and with the cultural milieu of the United States in the mid-twentieth century.

Janis Ekdahl

New York, NY



Related posts:

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 55 THE BEATLES (Part G, The Beatles and Rebellion) (Feature on artist Wallace Berman )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 54 THE BEATLES (Part F, Sgt Pepper’s & Eastern Religion) (Feature on artist Richard Lindner )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 53 THE BEATLES (Part E, Stg. Pepper’s and John Lennon’s search in 1967 for truth was through drugs, money, laughter, etc & similar to King Solomon’s, LOTS OF PICTURES OF JOHN AND CYNTHIA) (Feature on artist Yoko Ono)



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