Arnold Schönberg (September 13, 1874 – July 13, 1951) was and still is a controversial figure in classical music today. He broke away from the traditional approach of writing music that had been developed over several hundred years prior. He wrote some really unsettling music by developing techniques that have since surfaced in horror films.
Dude kind of looks like a slimmer Alfred Hitchcock to me...
Arnold Schönberg was born in 1874. He was an Austrian Jew, not a good combo in later years but lets not get ahead of ourselves. While his mother was a piano teacher, Arnold was largely self taught. He did take some lessons from his brother in law. Schönberg was intersted early on in breaking away from traditional harmony and tonality. The twentieth century was a difficult and interesting time in classical music. Post-Beethoven many composers felt that everything that was possible to do within the confines of western classical music, had already been done. In a sense it was true. Naturally composers began to ask "where do we go from here". Schönberg began to break some of the established rules of composition. He would later be referrd to as the "Emancicpator of Dissonance".
In the early 1900's Schönberg was teaching music, painting, and living a fairly domestic lifestyle. He was married, with children. During this time he met and befriended painter, Richard Gertsi. Gertsi and Schönberg grew close. Gertsi, in fact, became close with the entire Schönberg family. Especially Arnold's wife, Mathilde. In 1908 she left Arnold for the younger painter. The affair lasted several months. Eventually Mathilde decided to return to her family and left Gertsi. The painter was so destraut that he decided to burn all of his paintings and just about everything else flamable in his studio. To add to the dramatic display he then hung himself in front of a mirror and stabbed himself on top of it.
Schönberg's music went through a noticable change after this episode. He composed, Du lehnest Wider eine Silberweide (You Lean Against a Silver-Willow) during the time his wife was gone. This is his first piece that doesn't reference a specific key. The music is unsettling and uncomfortable to most people. There is no resolve. Schönberg would continue to explore this approach until the end of his life.
This exploration led to the development of the twelve-tone technique which wikipedia defines as "...a means of ensuring that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another in a piece of music while preventing the emphasis of any through the use of tone rows, an ordering of the 12 pitches. All 12 notes are thus given more or less equal importance, and the music avoids being in a key." This technique is what Schönberg is best known for today.
In 1933 Arnold was forced to leave home because of the growing anti-semitic sentiment of the nazi party. After a short stay in Paris, Schönberg relocated to America where he changed the spelling of his name to Schoenberg. He lived in Boston briefly then moved to Los Angeles where he would remain until his death.
Schoenberg experienced triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13) throughout his life. He took his phobia very seriously. He actually changed the named of his opera, Moses und Aaron, to Moses und Aron after realizing the title had thirteen letters. Apparently there was some validity to his fear. On July 13, 1951 (a Friday) Schoenberg spent the whole day in bed, unwilling to leave. I should point out that he was 76 years old. 7+6=13. Woah, man. He was aware of this, of course, which led to his stay in bed. According to the story Schoenberg died that night at 11:45pm.
Arnold left a major impact on contemporary music. He raised many questions and caused just as many conflicts among music nerds world wide. Whats really important is that his music, at least in my opinion, is awesome. I particularly enjoy his string quartets which I'm including below.