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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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On fear: Schoenberg, Stravinsky and the Israeli music scene

The problem

One of the things that make me sad about the Israeli music scene (including musicologists, composers, performer and critics) is the problem of miscommunication and isolation. People are working alone and find it hard to make mutual projects and co-operations. I felt it strongly in the Music department in the Bar-Ilan University as well as in the Israeli Musicological Society. In both places one can find talents on different levels. Yet, the ability to create something together was usually sabotaged by fear.

In the Bar-Ilan Music department there was no conversation on how one should educate the students. This was left (presumably) to very few people. In any case no conclusions of such discussions were communicated to the teachers or students. In the Israeli Musicological society there was some discussion on how to promote Israeli musicology and music, yet this was usually sabotaged by few noise people, others who promised and did nothing and others who simply gave up. It seems that everyday troubles and the fear from one another paralyze any mutual action and cooperation.

 

Schoenberg and Stravinsky

I have no idea whether this is a problem which occurs only in Israel (I have little to compare with). History seems to indicate that one can find the problem also in other places and periods. The most famous and perhaps the saddest case is that of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Peter Yates wrote in a letter dated 17 May 1952: ‘Nowdays artists work in closed boxes… Our artistic life is typified by Stravinsky, who lived here more than fifteen years without ever meeting Schoenberg in public or private, but now attends performance of the old man’s work like a devotee.’ (Quoted in Dorothy Crawford, Evenings On and Off the Roof (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), p. 127). Only after Schoenberg died, Stravinsky allowed himself to be influence by Schoenberg’s music in a more open way than in the past. Now it is understandable that this happened. Schoenberg wrote a piece titled Three satires that was partly against Stravinsky. He also wrote and talked against him in various occasions. Also Stravinsky attacked Schoenberg. Yet could they not find a way to go beyond this nonsense and communicate with each other during those years that they were practically neighbors?

 

The future

In the age of Social web sites, it seems sad that one can connect with people on the other side of the world, yet find it hard to communicate with their neighbors. If there is any chance that Israeli classical music (including composition, musicology and performance) will become less provincial, than it will be by overcoming fear and mistrust, and by starting to work together.     

 

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