Contemporary Art Music Within The Music World

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Imagine incessant unmelodious screaming, which is accompanied by an tiny orchestra that seems to be playing out of tune. The sounds emitted by the performers, are, in a word, hideous. One cannot possibly stand five whole minutes of hearing a half-screaming banshee belch out what seems to be random notes. This cacophony is exactly what most of the audience at Schoenberg 's Pierrot lunaire heard. Random, nonsensical clamor. In fact, the clamor is what most audiences heard at any number of performances of Schoenberg 's work. Although Pierrot lunaire, along with many other works of Schoenberg, are excellent examples of contemporary art music within the music world, the audience thought differently, meeting the music with outcry and laughter. Audiences did not care for the violent and dissonant tones that emitted from Schoenberg’s bizarre music, especially those found in Pierrot lunaire. Firstly, the sprechstimme throughout the piece, in which the singer uses a speech melody by using the written rhythm for a spoken tone, was disliked. The sprechstimme created an uncomfortable and unfamiliar setting for the audience, who were unfamiliar with the profound concept of spoken song. Also, Pierrot lunaire is an atonal piece, which is a defining characteristic of contemporary art-music. In atonal pieces, there is hardly an organization of pitches, nor is there a center key. The lack of a tonal center upset many of the audience members, who found the “random” notes resembling music of a madman. Since atonality deals with the physics of sound, one must listen to the musical piece with utmost accuracy. Milton Babbitt, author of Who Cares If You Listen, mentions that atonal pieces requires more effort on the audience’s behalf. When looking at th... ... middle of paper ... ... He did not wish to expose himself to such scenes of public dissatisfaction, such as those that took place during the earlier premieres of his music. Schoenberg’s colleagues had to find convincing means of persuasion to even allow his works to be performed! The utter horror that unfolded during the performances of Schoenberg 's music is enough to make any contemporary art-music composer distressed, let alone the original composer himself. Even if the musical works themselves were genius, the common audience did not find them to be genius in the slightest. The atonality, complexity, and expressionism present throughout Schoenberg 's pieces translated into an insane racket inside the average listener’s minds, thus creating a negative response, which affected not only the concert in which the music was performed, but Schoenberg’s overall pride as an art-music composer.

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