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The Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna decided to give Avior Byron the Avenir Foundation Research Grant for a one month research trip in Vienna in order to work on two books that he is writing.  
 

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Avior Byron

My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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How to choose a PhD, MA or DMA subject for a thesis

Finding a thesis subject

Choosing a subject for a PhD, MA, DMA or whatever thesis you are doing, can be a tricky issue. Many people start there research degree saying “I have no subject” or they speak about what they are doing in very general term. This is perhaps normal for most research students. Yet, it is expected that you will gradually find a focused and interesting subject for your research. Finding a research subject can be a painful process. If it is hard for you to explain to other (I have I mind people who know very little about music) what your research is about, then you are probably in the early stages of finding your subject. I remember that it was a very stressful period for me. I hope that some of the things that I will write here will help you make the process easier for yourself.

I remember that I spent a year of my life reading lots of articles and books trying to find my way in the world of writing about music. After a year my supervisor, Prof. John Rink, told me that it is about time that I find a real subject for my thesis. During that year I knew that I was interested in interpretation and performance studies. My thesis proposal during that year was about ‘music communication’ in very broad terms. I was fascinated about how musical communication happens between composers, performers and listeners. My supervisor felt that my proposal was too broad and he tried to encourage me to focus it. One of the things that I did during the first year was that I read books and then wrote a ‘reading report’ of a few pages which included a critical response to what I have read. This gave me some experience in writing and reacting to what I read.

A good thesis subject definition, like a good PhD proposal is essential for a successful dissertation. Yet a good research proposal depends on a good dissertation subject. It is worth while to spend much time on finding and developing you subject. In this post I will suggests some things that might help you arrive to a successful dissertation subject.

Explore what other people do

My supervisor is not the only one that gives his research students to read much literature during the early phase of research. Actually, it is a very common method of teaching in the USA (although I did my PhD in Royal Holloway, University of London). Apart of the experience it gives one with writing and criticizing, it is supposed to open the student to a vast number of authors, methods of doing research and styles of writing. It is good to see what people are interested in since it may give you ideas. It is good to keep a small diary where one keeps short notes about what one reads. Another way to get to know what people are doing is to attend conferences.

Be novel

Once you get to know what people write you may find ‘holes’ in their research. You may discover that they did not cover all aspect of a phenomenon or that there are other angels to treat an issue. I remember that in one of my ‘reading reports’ I wrote to my supervisor that it could be interesting to see how composers themselves perform their own music. I mentioned Schoenberg and Bartok. My supervisor said that indeed this could be an interesting path to take and that I should now explore what was written about Bartok, Schoenberg or any other composer that performed his or her music. The idea is to find a subject that nothing or very little was written about. Once you finish a PhD that is noval, this makes you an expert in your subject. 

Be in touch with your feelings

I told John that very little was written about both Bartok and Schoenberg. His reaction was that he feels that perhaps it would be wise to choose Schoenberg since he was a Jew and I am interested in Judaism. He said that although I will probably write now on performance, in could extend my research in the future so that it will relate to other issues such as religion.

Choose a subject that you love

Moreover, Schoenberg’s history is very much connected to the faith of Jewish people in Europe and USA, and this is connected to the history of my own family. The subject if European Jewish history was always something that fascinated me. Choosing a subject that you love is very important, since that are moments in your research which might be boring are hard. If you love your subject, it could compensate on this and help you finish you degree. Furthermore, you will probably invest more energy, emotion and time in something that you love.

Ask for advice from people that you appreciate

Another thing that might help you find a good subject is to ask Scholars about possibilities. You can ask you supervisor and other members of you department. You can also write to scholars in other places via emails. You will be surprised how people might help you. Yet, one should keep in mind that it is also good to struggle on your own. If you develop mechanisms to find things you are interested to write about, it will definitely help you in you future career as an author. It is interesting to examine the breath of writing or various authors. Some are focused. Others write about almost everything.

See how your supervisor feels about your subject

Once you have found one or more possibilities, show them to your supervisor and ask what he or she think. It is very important to choose a subject that your supervisor will agree to help you with. My supervisor told me that he does not like most of the music of Schoenberg. Yet he made it clear that what is important that I will like my subject, and that he will support whatever I choose. I am not sure that all supervisors are so generous. You have to be sure that your supervisor agrees that you will do research on your subject so that you can receive his or her support during the studying phase, when you defend your thesis and thereafter.

Keep developing and focusing your thesis as time passes

The normal thing that happens when you find a subject is that you need to focus it. When I new that I want to do research on Schoenberg and performance, I have to decide which recordings and pieces I will explore. I had some idea during my first PhD year, yet the PhD plan kept changing as time passed. Keep an open mind and take into consideration that things usually change once you advance in your research.

There are people who do reasearch of subject that they do not like. They were lucky to find something novel but unlucky that the subject was not close to their hearts. I strongly feel that a good subject must be novel, somthing that you love and something that your supervisor can support. Keep this in mind when you search for a thesis subject and you have more chances to turn into a good scholar.

Related posts

How to write a research proposal

6 tips for finding a good PhD supervisor

How to write a book review

How to give a successful conference paper

Bjork singing Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire

In the following site I found astonishing information about a performance of Björk singing Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire. http://lostsongs.bjorkish.net/pierrotlunaire/

Björk  said in an interview to the New Yorker on 23 August 2004: “It was an amazing experience for me,” she recalled. “The songs left so much to the imagination of the singer—you know, they were originally written for a cabaret singer or an untrained singer like me. Kent Nagano wanted to make a recording of it, but I really felt that I would be invading the territory of people who sing this for a lifetime.” As a person who wrote one or two things about Pierrot lunaire and especially about the performance of Sprechstimme I would like to suggest that it is a pity that she didn’t record the piece in a commercial recording. This would do good to Schoenberg to Pierrot and to her. I hope she will change her mind.

 

Did Schoenberg kill classical music? and the future of the web


In order to get attention on the web, all you need is a good title (like: did Schoenberg kill classical music?) and a funny video (notice the quazi British accent). Yet to gain serious and devoted subscribers one needs more than that: one needs interesting and stimulating content. I saw today the following very interesting video by Mike who gave presented in the library of congress a few months ago. The video is really very interesting. Yet it made me think about the issue of quality on the web. OK. So you are right, Mike, that Youtube has original content. However, is most of it really interesting? Is most of it really NEW?

One of the problems with the Web 2.0 is that lots of people are posting stuff that is not that interesting. And the biggest problem of Google, Digg, Stumbleupon and other social sites is how to bring the most relevant content to surfers. It seems to me that the web encourages people to post lots of data all the time (the more data you post, the more are the chances that people will find you). The web changes how we produce information.

It seems to me that in the future the best social sites will be able to track important information (to whom?) even if it is only a one page site with no sites linking to it and relevant only to a small community of people. This is a hard task.

There is something sad about how Google and other social sites (I see little difference between Google, Digg and Youtube in this respect) bring surfers to ones site. Why should the age of a site say something about its content? Are all the pages in a site important even if a site has many incoming links?

It seems to me that the future of search engines is creating focused specialization areas that are NOT totally automatic. In other words, there will be human interference in future algorithms.

The future musicologists (and other writers) will know how to keep a high level of writing, yet taking advantage of the technology of the internet. Writing in various tones of voice and various kinds of writings will be one of the solutions. 


The Schoenberg Archive in Vienna

There is something quite amazing about the Schoenberg archive in the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna. The people there are so helpful. They give you the impression that there sole aim is to provide you all the information that you are seeking for. This is not the case with most archives. Some archives want to preserve documents but do not really care whether or not you will find what you need there. A few archives are even hostile to researchers. The Schoenberg archive in Vienna is not only friendly, they go out of their way to provide you all that you need and even things that you never thought to ask for. Schoenberg’s children who moved the archive from USA to Vienna say in an interview that I conducted with them that they are happy from the move and how the whole project looks today.

One of the great things about the archive is the fact that one can find so much information on their website www.Schoenberg.at . You can find there letters, scans of original manuscripts and letters, concert programs, and much more valuable information. You can even hear a web radio and listen to historical recordings. If you ever go through Vienna make sure that you visit the archive where you can see Schoenberg’s working room, find a big library and usually also see a changing exhibition on Schoenberg. The Schoenberg Center also orginizes exihibitions around the world as well as educational programs for childrens. It grants scholarships for scholars and orginizes concerts (this is not supposed to be a comprehensive list of the ASC activities). In any case it is quite clear that this organization is well managed and probably also well funded. 

One of the reasons that I discovered new things in my PhD and my recent research on Schoenberg is due to the help I received and still receiving from the Schoenberg Center. If you are looking for a subject to research on, whether it is a PhD, MA or an article, you can be sure that if you do it on Schoenberg, you will have lots of resources in your disposal. There is still much material in the archive that was not explored. This gives a scholar a chance to discover new things and contribute. When people contact me concerning the articles that I published on the Schoenberg recordings that I discovered, I refer them to the archive in order to obtain copies of these recordings (I am thinking here about the test pressings of Schoenberg conducting Pierrot lunaire and the broadcast done with him conducting the same piece). I am looking forward to working with the archivists of the Schoenberg center now that I am working on my book for Oxford University Press.

 

A letter from Oxford University Press: Schoenberg’s Writings on Performance

I just received a letter from Oxford University Press that starts as following:

"I hope this message finds you well!  I’m delighted to report that I am now returning the fully countersigned contract for Schoenberg’s Writings on Aesthetics and Interpretation in Performance to you, and I am pleased to welcome you as an Oxford University Press author. Congratulations!"

This letter speaks me being the editor of the book Schoenberg’s Writings on Aesthetics and Interpretation in Performance, which is the fourth out of nine volumes called Schoenberg in Words: Teachings, Correspondence and other Writings (1890-1951), general editors: Severine Neff and Sabine Feisset, Oxford University Press.

The letter made me very happy and I am looking forward to continue working on this book. It will be the first time that all of Schoenberg’s writings on performance (articles, unpublished manuscripts, sketches, letters, etc.) will be published in one place. Some of the manuscripts were not published in the past. My job is to edit the translations and write a short forward to each of Schoenberg’s writings, giving them a context that will help the readers understand them better. I will also trace significant themes throughout Schoenberg’s life from Vienna to Weimar Berlin to Los Angeles. I assume that I was chosen edit this book since my PhD was on Schoenberg as performer. I have written elsewhere how doing a PhD in a good University is important for ones future publications and research.

At this stage I am looking for a good translator for this book and I am reading many of Schoenberg’s letters (he really wrote lots of them!). Together with the general editors of the nine volumes mentioned above, we decided that Joseph Auner’s book The Schoenberg Reader will serve as a model for my book.

The whole project is very exciting and hope to devote to much of my energy in the coming years.

Schoenberg just had a birthday

Schoenberg just had a birthday

When I visited London a few days ago, a musician that I respect recommended me to approach a publishing house and try to publish a book on Schoenberg, saying that his 60s anniversary to his death will be on 2011. However, birthdays are much more fun. Here is a video that I recommend to see. It has a wonderful 12-tone birthday tune for Schoenberg’s birthday.

Check out P0lyph0ny ’s youtube site which is about Gould and other interesting things.


Related Posts:

Email interview with Schoenberg’s Children

Conference paper: Schoenberg’s or Adorno’s Performance Aesthetics?

Schoenberg’s piano piece Op. 33a article and videos

Arnold Schoenberg as a painter

Arnold Schoenberg videos

How to become a freelance musicologist

Being a freelance musicologist: if Mozart did it - also we can!

I have discussed the problem of having a music or academic career. Since I made a decision of living in Israel, my academic opportunities have dramatically diminished. The situation where a country gradually kills its academic music life is true not only for Israel but also for other countries such as Germany. However, I have spent a large amount of my life experiencing and studying music and I do not intend to end my carrier at this point. In this post I will discuss how I plan to challenge my situation and embark, at least temporarily, on a freelance musicologist path.

I was lucky to do a PhD in Royal Holloway, University of London with John Rink. This university has lots of funding and I cannot imagine a better supervisor than John Rink. The result was many funded research trips to the Arnold Schoenberg Archive in Vienna. I conducted several trips to conferences. I spent lots of time in the British Library (and other smaller libraries such as the Senate House in London), which is the biggest library in Europe. The work with Rink was extensive and extremely helpful. Moreover, from the four years that I did my PhD, two if them were devoted completely to studying and in the rest I worked only part time. This, as well as hard work on my part, gave me the opportunity to write a piece of work that several parts of it were published in important music journals such as Music Theory Online. It is also the reason why I received a contract with Oxford University Press, to write a book on Schoenberg’s writings on performance.

My PhD work served as a spring board for future research. Apart of the book on Schoenberg’s performance writings, where I will serve as an editor, I plan to write another book on Schoenberg and performance, which will be based on my PhD and research that I did thereafter. I have written an article on Op. 33a and performance during a two months Postdoctoral research trip to Berlin. I just returned from Manchester where I gave a paper on Schoenberg’s and Adorno’s performance aesthetics. I will be an Edison fellow during August 2009 and I will stay in the British Library working on Pierrot Lunaire Op. 21 and performance. I have also conducted an interview with Schoenberg’s children that might enter (at least part of it) the book. All these events serve as deadlines for doing research while I actually work during 80% of my time in a family business as a general manager of a translation company and language school.

It is not easy to bounce between the two careers. Yet also music academics usually need to juggle between a teaching post and a research post. Only in France (as far as I know) there is separation between those who do research and those who do teaching. One needs much discipline, long term planning and faith in oneself.

Discipline

The natural this would be that the family business would gradually take over my time. However, this business is also a source of money that helps me embark on research trips and attend conferences (giving a successful conference paper is not a simple task). For example, in order to give a conference paper in Manchester I had to pay much money for traveling to London and for accommodation (the conference kindly paid for train traveling and waved to conference registration fee). I am glad that I could do this trip since it forced me to write something that will probably turn out to be another chapter in my book on Schoenberg and performance. I also attended the CHARM conference in Egham a few days before the conference in Manchester. The CHARM conference was about recordings and performance and was extremely interesting (it was also wonderful to return to my university after two years!). During my student life or during the period that I worked at the Bar-Ilan University in Israel, I could never afford to do such expensive trips on my expense.

In healthy music departments, such as Royal Holloway, if one does not publish, one finds him of herself without a job. Working as a freelance musicologist needs much discipline. One must make sure that there is funding as well as deadlines in order to keep on writing. One of the things that can help is long-term planning.  

Long term planning

Publishing a book is a big project. This is true especially if one has a double career. Although I am not 100% clear about the structure of my book, I do have at this point much material for this project. It is clear to me that my first priority should be to finish editing the book for Oxford University Press, and only then finish the second book on Schoenberg and performance. The point that I am trying to make is that such long term project are very helpful in keeping one going as a freelance musicologist.

Faith in oneself

I was luck to be raised in a family where I was always told that I was talented and received much encouragement in every path that I have chosen. Moreover, John Rink and other people in RHUL gave me similar support during and after my studies there. Without firm belief in my abilities and talent I would not be able to do this research. A freelance musicologist must have belief in the importance of what he of she have to say and write. It is perhaps good advice to stay close to people who believe in you and distance yourself from those who do not.

Plan you time carefully

One cannot do everything (at least not in a professional level). If you believe in your abilities as a musicologist and trust that what you have to say will be interesting and important to other people, invest your time in this. Do not let other things interfere in your work. This might sound strange from someone who has two careers. My solution is to have certain periods (weeks and sometimes months) where I do only musicological research. I can do this because I have a translation company of my own. Other creative solutions can be found.

Open a website and a blog

The internet is a great place to meet people. This is important for at least three reasons: (1) Publishing opportunities – meeting the right people and letting them know about your work can help your find publishing opportunities in the future. You may be approached to write a book (this is how I received my book contract from Oxford University Press), or a book chapter; (2) Receive feedback on your work – I developed my best ideas from interacting and receiving comments from people; (3) it is fun to meet interesting  people and see what they think about your work or blog post (feel free to comment in the form below).

A music website and a musicological blog help to foster an identity which is somewhat fragile outside the official academic context.

Find a community

Since I became a freelance musicologist I was interested to see whether it is at all possible and other people do it. I found that there are people who do it. The conductor and violinist Antony Beaumont does not live from doing musicology. Yet he writes great books on Zemlinsky, Busoni and letters by Mahler.  

Conclusion

Being a free lance musicologist is not simple (yet also academic life is not a bed of roses). If one has a good background, contacts, discipline, ability for long-term planning as well as faith in oneself, than it is indeed possible. Only time will tell whether I will be able to continue my plans in being a freelance musicologist.  My first goal is to finish the two aforementioned books of Schoenberg.

 

 

Email interview with Schoenberg’s Children

June – August 2008

Email interview with Schoenberg’s Children

By Avior Byron 

There are very few people living today who knew Arnold Schoenberg during his life. While doing my PhD I tried to contact Leonard Stein in order to interview him on how Schoenberg conducted his own music. Unfortunately, Stein died several days after I have sent him an email so the interview did not take place. I was lucky to Interview Dika Newlin here: Dika Newlin on Schoenberg conducting Pierrot lunaire.

Schoenberg was married twice. He married his second wife, Gertrud Bertha Kolisch, on 28 Aug 1924, in Mödling, Austria. Their three children: Nuria Dorothea, born 7 May 1932, Barcelona, Spain, age: 76; Ronald Rudolf, born 26 May 1937, Santa Monica, California, USA, age: 70; and Lawrence Adam, born 27 Jan 1941, Los Angeles, California, USA, age: 66, agreed to be interviewed. I assumed that their memories might be affected by the many years that passed and their experiences since their childhood. On 4 June 2008 I wrote an email to Nuria, Ronald and Lawrence, asking the following:

Would you agree to be interviewed via email about your father as you remember him and other issues (contemporary performance and promotion of his music, etc.)?

I thought it would be interesting if I could email the questions to all of you, but receive separate answers (that will not be coordinated).
At the end of the interview I will show you the results for confirmation.

The reactions to the email interview idea were positive. I grouped the questions by subject: childhood, On performance, Religion and customs, How you knew him as a father, Moving the Schoenberg Nachlass to Vienna, and Your mother and children. Not all of Schoenberg’s children answered all of the questions. One of the results of the fact that the interview was not coordinated is that some of the answers are very short, while others are very long. This was usually affected by how important and interesting the subject was for each person, but in some case probably also according to how much information each of them was willing to reveal.

Larry wrote the following disclaimer:

‘I must state that I was born in 1941 my father died in 1951.  Most of my recollections are from the ages of 4 through 10 when he was near the end of his life.  He was quite ill the last few years.  My age now is approximately the same as his age when I was born and my mother’s age when she died!

They must have done something right or the three of us would not be so completely involved in preserving his legacy.  We were fortunate not to be seduced by Hollywood’s glorification of immediate gratification.  We were not materialistic and we grew up considering morality and ethics as the most important characteristics to admire

My memories have been “infected” by photographs, stories by my older brother and sister and commentaries written by others.’

Here is the result of the interview (I divided the interview to five parts so that it will be easier to read in a web format):

Part I: Childhood

Part II: On performance

Part III: Religion and customs

Part IV: How you knew him as a father and Moving the Schoenberg Nachlass to Vienna

Part V: Your mother and children and Appendix 1: Larry’s list of works that ‘would not “frighten the audiences”’

Part V: Schoenberg’s Children on their mother and children

Part V: Schoenberg’s Children on their mother and children

Could you say something about how your mother supported you father’s music during his life and after he passed away?

Nuria: Mother was an exceptional woman and a great support to my father. She had a very active, positive character and believed in my father and in his music 100%. She did a thousand jobs for the family, housekeeping and nursing and gardening and chauffeuring and many other activities which she had never done in Europe and had a great sense of humour. After his death she took over all the business with publishers and managed to keep us from realizing how bad our financial situation actually was. She helped the scholars who wanted to transcribe and publish my father’s German texts. She founded Belmont Music Publishers with Larry.

Larry: She devoted herself to his life and to his works.  I know personally how, after he died, she initiated project after project to preserve his manuscripts, to secure performances for his works. These include her work with Leonard Stein preparing an inventory of the music and text manuscripts, then creating microfilms and microfiche facsimiles, with both Josef Rufer and Jan Maegaard identifying and creating microfilm or microfiche facsimiles producing catalogs of his vast legacy including all of the music and text manuscripts, the extensive library and other artifacts.  She tirelessly negotiated with publishers (Gauner) fighting for his rights.  She established what is now Belmont Music Publishers.  She was intimately involved with the word premieres of Moses and Aron and Die Jakobsleiter.  She helped establish the Schott Gesamtausgabe.

Are your children interested in their grandfather’s music?

Nuria: They are not musicians but they listen to and enjoy his music. I keep them informed about the activities of the ASC.

Larry: It is sad for me to acknowledge that none of my three children have shown any significant interest in their grandfather.  My oldest son, Arnie, teaches anthropology. He is very musical and has even written an extensive thesis on ‘Music and leadership among adolescents in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.’ Of course, I am very proud of my nephew, Randol, who has, in addition to his other skills, become a genuine Schoenberg authority and scholar.

         

Appendix 1: Larry’s list of works that ‘would not “frighten the audiences”’

Gurrelieder Fanfare – I better be careful with this work*

Notturno

Suite for String Orchestra

Monn Cello Concerto

Verklaerte Nacht

Pelleas

Op.8 Orchestral Songs

Op 10. for Orchestra

Brahms and Bach arrangements

Windband variations for Orchestra

 

Within the same constraints (supple and friendly) local choral society could include:

Friede auf Erden

Horses

German Folksongs

 

The Chamber groups could perform:

Ein Stelldichein

1897 Quartet

Cabaret Songs for Chamber Orchestra

Preston for String Quartet

Scherzo for String Quartet

Lied der Waldtaube (chamber)

Nachtwandler

The Ojai Music Festival near Los Angeles prides itself in programming “modern and contemporary” music.  Schoenberg is rarely on the schedule. Usually the program is devoted to a particular composer (this year it was Reich).  If I were in charge of programming a Schoenberg Festival I would arrange the following events:

 

Schoenberg for Children – Morning Concert:

            Ten Early Waltzes

            Arrangements: Funiculi, Weil I …, Staenchen

            Suite for Piano Op. 25

            Six Pieces for 2 pianos

            Iron Brigade (with animal sounds)

            Die Prinzessin - multi media presentation

 

Evening Concerts:

1. Pierrot Lunaire in English with projected text, preceded by a short discussion of the work.

Cabaret Songs for Ensemble

2. Ode to Napoleon with projected text, preceded by a short discussion of the work.

Serenade

3. Gurrelieder (for reduced ensembles)

Fanfare

Orchestral Interludes (Webern 2 piano 8 hands)

Songs (Berg reductions)

Lied der Waldtaube Chamber reduction

Finale (recorded version)

 

Afternoon Concerts:

1. Chamber Symphony Op. 9 for 2 pianos

2. Serenade

 

Films:

My War Years

My Evolution

Moses and Aron

 

Email interview with Schoenberg’s Children - introduction

Part I: Childhood

Part II: On performance

Part III: Religion and customs

Part IV: How you knew him as a father and Moving the Schoenberg Nachlass to Vienna

 

Part IV: Schoenberg’s Children on How you knew him as a father

Part IV: Schoenberg’s Children on How you knew him as a father

Did you view of your father change after reading his writings and hearing his music?

Nuria: I learned a great deal about him when I read all of his writings and his letters and those of his colleagues and friends while I was preparing the “Lebensgeschichte in Begegnungen”. But the respect and love for him only became greater with more knowledge.

Is there a side in your father that you knew as children and think that if other people knew it, it would change the way his music is being perceived?

Nuria: I believe that the multimedia exhibition Larry and I curated in the ‘90’s has made a change in the attitude of a lot of people who saw and heard it.  I am hoping the new one at the Schoenberg Center in Vienna will do the same. They both attempt to show Schoenberg in a many-faceted presentation: as a composer, a teacher, a writer and as a family man with a sense of humour.  Making people familiar with him as a person seems to make it easier to approach his music with an open mind.

Did your perspective of your father and his music change during the years?

Nuria: No

Larry: I have also learned much about him by reading what others who knew him have written.  I have been interested especially in the writings of those who studied with him or visited him here in Los Angeles. Recently I read an article in the American Organist in which the author described an afternoon at our Rockingham house.  It is interesting for me to see how those normal for me events at home are filtered through others.

I must comment on what I consider to be the many false characterizations of my father:

He was stern, autocratic, demanding.  

He composed mathematically using formulas.

He forced his students to compose as he did.

Moving the Schoenberg Nachlass to Vienna

I have heard a few Americans and Israelis who think that it was wrong to move the Nachlass to Vienna. They mention various reasons: Vienna treated Schoenberg badly; it should have stayed in America or should have moved to Israel; the move to Vienna supports a certain perspective of Schoenberg, etc. What is you opinion on this? Looking back at the move from California to Vienna, was it a good one?

Nuria: It was very fortunate for us that we could move the Nachlass to Vienna where it is appreciated so much more and is accessible to so many more people. In Los Angeles the Institute did a very good job of conserving the materials, but there was less and less interest in the study of the sources and ultimately almost no public activities. When the University requested that we should remove the Nachlass from the Arnold Schoenberg Institute and we made it known that it was available to be moved elsewhere, there was practically no reaction in Los Angeles in favor of keeping this Archive in California. My brothers will be more specific on this subject, I am sure.

When people say we should not have returned it to Vienna, I always answer: Schoenberg belongs in Vienna (because of the musical tradition of this city) and it is the Nazis that should not have been in Vienna. We have been treated extremely well by the authorities and by the large numbers of people who frequent the Center.

Larry: The history of the disposition of the legacy goes back to the 1950’s when my father was approached by the Library of Congress.  He did decide to give his entire correspondence to the Library.  I was involved with my mother in selecting, packing and shipping the items that were sent their each year.  After my mother died we decided to transfer all of the remaining correspondence to the Library.  While my mother was still alive there were some very serious attempts by various institutions to acquire the full legacy – the City of Darmstadt, the Academy in Berlin, Robert Owen Lehman (who intended to locate the materials in Lincoln Center) and the University of California in Los Angeles.  When my mother died in 1967 we then became entrusted to secure the future location for the legacy.  The University of Michigan proved to be the most serious among the many Universities who desired to house the collection.  We had established a very good relationship with the representatives from the Music Department and had already signed a provisional agreement when a consortium of “local” universities requested that they give us a few months to see if they could develop an alternative that would allow for us to keep the materials in Los Angeles.  The history of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute at the University of Southern California is well documented. 

In 1995, after being formally evicted from the University, we once again had the opportunity to find a new home. Among the serious possibilities were the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Los Angeles, the Peter Treistman Fine Arts Center for New Media at the University of Arizona, The Library of Congress (Music Division) in Washington, D.C., The Stanford University Libraries, Harvard University, the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Pepperdine University in Malibu as well as the University of Rochester/Eastman School of Music.  None of these proved satisfactory in meeting our goals.

We were fortunate to have four excellent choices from among which to select the new home: a consortium made up of the Juilliard School of Music, Lincoln Center and the New York Public Library; The Hague; The Academy of Arts in Berlin and the City of Vienna.

We eliminated the consortium and concentrated on the other three.  Each of us had our favorite always for different reasons:  Ronny – The Hague, Nuria – Berlin and I — Vienna.  We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each location for months.  We traveled together to each possible site and compared and contrasted the tree superb options.  In the end we decided upon Vienna.  We felt then and feel even more so now that it was the RIGHT choice.   

The internet site – the ability for students and scholars to easily access the materials including facsimiles, transcriptions and translations of the correspondence and writings,   the educational projects, the preservation of the materials, the China Project, the safe storage of the paintings and drawings, the Avenir scholarships, the cooperation with the Gesamtausgabe, the conferences, symposia and master classes, the new Multi-Media exhibition, the special exhibitions, the new recording projects, the superb facility for scholars and students, the international activities, the guaranteed funding, the excellent staff, the re-furbishing of the Schoenberg House in Moedling and the establishment of a museum there, the Journals, the Newsletters, the YouTube videos, the Jukebox, the active and enthusiastic Board and Beirat ….   Am I satisfied?  YES!

Vienna treated Schoenberg badly, Berlin treated Schoenberg badly, Los Angeles treated Schoenberg badly. 

The University was throwing us out.  There was no clamor in Los Angeles to stop that.  The New York Times wrote very negative things about the family indicating that we were too restrictive and infringed on academic freedom!  No University in the United States presented us a serious offer.  The Library of Congress Music Division was in disarray.  The Getty Center was not interested.  The consortium in New York was disorganized.  Stanford University, Pepperdine University, Arizona State all were either not serious or did not offer anything comparable to what we were offered in The Hague, Vienna or Berlin.  Correspondence from Israel only came well after we had already made our preliminary decision and was very vague.  I, for selfish reasons, wanted the Institute to remain in the States – hopefully in California.

I feel very fortunate that the Center is established in Vienna and I especially look forward to the upcoming exchanges with China.

Ronald: The best answer to those that criticize our move to Vienna is to ask the Complainer, “Where else.” We realized that we had only one opportunity to choose a place, that if we now for any reason failed or if our choice failed, it would be almost impossible to later find more than a repository.  After USC made clear that it did not want the Archives there any longer, or at least that it would not accept any restrictions on what they could or couldn’t do with the Archives or the Archival Building, there was only one semi-serious offer from the United States which came too late with too little.  That “offer” came at a time when we could not afford to keep the three main contenders waiting any longer while we looked into the new prospect. Moreover, it came from one very energetic and influential person. So we had to consider, what if that one person is no longer interested or around. Finally, it was clearly inferior to our three main offers: Vienna, The Hague and Berlin.  Although for sentimental reasons, we favored the United States, what interest we found there amounted to mainly storing the materials and one rather ambitious computerized archival program with little music qualifications. This was probably largely because of the misinformation and bad publicity that USC was spreading about us to further their lawsuit. There was no offer from Israel. As for Germany, the objections to that country would be largely the same as to Austria. The Academy of Art had a very good proposal, placing the Archives on one floor of a new Academy Building. However, plans for that building were not yet funded, were projected far in the future and Berlin was undergoing serious financial problems.  Accepting Berlin’s generous offer meant depositing the Materials there and then having to hope that funding plans succeeded. Furthermore, as a part of the Academy’s rather rigid Archival System, we felt that there would be considerably less chance of our achieving the open access and modern computer techniques that we have been able to put into use in Vienna. The Hague proposed a very attractive plan which we came much closer to accepting than anyone realized. It came from a love of Schoenberg and his music not stemmed from any nationalistic connections.  The choice of Vienna was finally because it was the best offer from the best location where there was the best chance of success.  We did not overlook Austria’s (and Germany’s) past. And we do not pretend that Anti-Semitism is completely dead there. However, one cannot exclude a country forever. We consider the Center as a part of Austria’s coming to terms with its past. In supporting the Center, Austria has answered the question: Who belongs in Austria, Hitler’s Nazis or the Jews.  From our bad experience at USC, we found it easy to be distrustful of the Austrian’s promises.  But Austria has more than lived up to its contractual obligations with respect to the Center. It has proudly encouraged, embraced and funded the Center as its own jewel. Anyone who sees, either in person or on the internet, the many varied Center projects, must acknowledge  the correctness of our choice.    

Continue to read the interview here:

Part V: Your mother and children and Appendix 1: Larry’s list of works that ‘would not “frighten the audiences”’

Email interview with Schoenberg’s Children - introduction

Part I: Childhood

Part II: On performance

Part III: Religion and customs

Copyright Avior Byron 2022 .