The rhythm and the masses of sound have never been so torn apart elsewhere as in the thoroughly measured way in which one dissects an animal. There always remained a spine of regular intervals, the mnemonic bridging the abyss of the pitches for the faint of heart…Despite alleged liberties, the harmony did quite well, and even during the wildest outbursts the flowerpot was always given one good shake so that the petals would shower down in an even more directly exciting manner. All in all, decorum was preserved – despite occasional vehemence. And when the games and the flowery scents became tiring, nothing was more pleasant than to conjure up that grand discipline, the strict muse of the mathematical divinities, beautiful and still as pictures in their simple, angular showcases.
However, not much thought – or daring – had been given to driving that logic to its awful conclusion, to its frenetic limits, where that benevolent divinity stood, stripped of its final veil, abruptly revealed in its terrible, dazzling form, evincing that it is far more capable of provoking horror than desperate desire. Arnold Schönberg is the one who did not shy away from fulfilling the sacrilege – and how right it was that he was rewarded by all the braying foolishness…
Every type of description intends to discern something human in its subject, to trace it all back to our human scale, everything that is boundless – because it is divorced from us…
We must at last become accustomed to the fact that we cannot seek only the agreeable aspect in everything. Music’s purpose is just as unsuitable for enrapturing the ear – even in an obdurate, unadorned way – as painting is inapt for beguiling the eye. Music is forced to address the hearing, as painting attracts the eye – and there is precious little more to say about that. Here, too, it could be a question of appealing to the ear in a purely imaginary way (as if music were more to read than to hear. But today, in 1966, Schönberg’s music seems to me to be the most direct of all – so great is the effect of habituation and changing taste).
Let us leave this once and for all . . .before all the gentle blather about Beauty and Ugliness, “consonance” and “dissonance; not a single superfluous word more about what is considered classical or romantic, old or modern, retrogressive or avant-garde. . .
It is a matter of the battle against the outer world, the one we have been forced to wage since time immemorial – to demolish its subterfuge with even rougher, wilder ruses. Behind the apparent variety of the processes which one of these ruses aims at the world (it wasn’t too long ago that this ruse was called les beaux arts), there is actually only one process under negotiation today – that of reality. Music and painting attain the ultimate justification for their existence in their attack on time and space (which are the blueprint of reality itself).
Ranging far beyond the solutions suggested by his contemporaries (beguiled as they were by reason, humor or brutality), Schönberg’s role in this part is ingenious; in his utter surrender to the “inner compulsion” (to which he himself says he was a slave), he did not shy away from taking music to a point which – craggier and more dangerous than any other – is the knife-edge of frenzied rapture itself, spiked with sharp spears.

Die Lust am Zusehen. Frankfurt 1981


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