Monday, August 28, 2017

Composer Schoenberg makes cameo in #WomanInGold film

Schoenberg made a cameo in a previous post on Aaron Copland where he's mention in an Encylopedia Britannica article on 12-tone music (a topic I still don't really understand)

The new unifying principle in composition would then arise from the particular order given to a collection of the 12 tones, an order that would be different for each composition. The basic order for any one composition came to be known as its basic set, its 12-tone row, or its 12-tone series, all of which terms are synonymous. The basic set for Schoenberg’s Wind Quintet (1924) is E♭–G–A–B–C♯–C–B♭–D–E–F♯–A♭–F; for his String Quartet No. 4 (1936) it is D–C♯–A–B♭–F–E♭–E–C–A♭–G–F♯–B.
The basic set is not a theme, for it has no specific shape, rhythm, or loudness. It is a backbone, a musical idea that permeates the composition in which it is used. Because of the various principles of composing and manipulating the basic set recognized by Schoenberg and others, it is not often possible nor even desirable to hear the basic set when the composition is performed. This situation has led many people to attack Schoenberg’s method as unmusical and as mathematical madness. Such views seem unjustifiable, because, as Schoenberg pointed out, his method specifies only a tiny fraction of the total nature of a composition—certainly no more than composing with tonality specifies.

The composer Schoenberg, or at least his music, also made a cameo in the film "Woman in Gold" because his grandson, Randol, was a lawyer who defended a family friend who was trying to retrieve a Klimt painting stolen by the Nazis

Schoenberg: Juggling the sort of serious and funny because I can -- I can be serious but I can be very not serious. There's a scene where he goes and sees the performance of music by my grandfather.

[scene from film]

Ticket seller: YOu have the same name as the composer

Austrian journalist: What a coincidence  

Schoenberg: It was really impressive to me how he could convey the sort of sense of culture. I thought that was really neat, how he conveyed that. 

Ryan Reynolds: I was careful not to be doing an impression of Randy Schoenberg, but I really studied up on these three gigantic hurdles that he crossed in order to make this dream become a reality.  One was the local courts. The second was the [ US ] Supreme Court. The third was the arbitration hearing in Vienna [ Austria ]

Specifically, Schoenberg's  Verklarte Nacht, Op. 4 was played in the concert scene:

Randol Schoenberg linked to a different version of this piece on his youtube channel, as well as to a piece composed by converting the digits of into  π music posted by Carlos Manuel

There has been many attempts to make a conversion of the digits of Pi to musical notes, but I noticed that the methods used were pretty unrealistic. What they were doing was to convert the 10 digits of the decimal system in 10 notes, and then play them. Of course that doesn't make any sense because our musical notation has 12 notes! So I converted the digits of Pi to the duodecimal system (Base 12), and made a program to play it. Here are the results.

I found the Supreme Court case scene to be annoying because the screenplay writers put the silly words of silly RINO Justice Souter into the totally awesome Chief Justice Rehnquist:

Ryan as Schoenberg: We believe applying the FSIA is not impermissably retroactive

Rehnquist character being made to recite Souter's words: Why isn't it just as easy to say that it does act retroactively?

Schoenberg: There's of course the famous scene in the Supreme Court which he  [ Reynolds ] told me was one of his favorites to act and one of my favorites to talk about.  Uh, where I get to the Supreme Court, right? And it's this crazy situation where I'm, you know, trying to argue that my grandmother's friend can sue a foreign country in the United States to recover these paintings that had been stolen 70 years earlier. I mean, sort of a crazy situation   

Rehnquist reciting Souter's argument: Because the question is when should it exercise jurisdiction for a particular purpose?

Schoenberg: But I had prepared a lot for the Supreme Court and I had done practice session called moot courts where people professors and lawyers pretend to be the judges and they ask you questions because you don't give a speech at the Supreme Court, you get interrupted all the time.  So, I had answered hundreds of questions like this in practice and I thought I was ready, and I got up to speak and I said, "There are four grounds for affirming the Ninth Circuit. Ground one is - " And as soon as I finished the first sentence, I got interrupted by Justice Souter. And he started asking me this question, and it was a long, convoluted question, and I heard in my mind, da-da-dah, da-da-da-dah, da-da-da-dah, da-da-da-dah They were like Snooppy characters, like they hear the parents, right? Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah.

Reynolds as Schoenberg: I'm sorry. I'm not sure I understand the question

Rehnquist reciting Souter: I'm not sure I did either

[ People chuckle ]

Rehnquist as Souter: Does anyone? [ People laugh ]

Schoenberg: I  just didn't understand what he was talking about. And so, unfortunately, it's on tape.  You can listen to this online if you want.  And I say, "U, uh, I'm sorry, Your Honor, I didn't understand the question." And there are these gasps, you know, from the audience.  But all the other justices smiled as  if to say, "Oh, don't worry, he does that all the time.  We didn't understand it either." Right? And of course he rephrased it and I answered the question, and it was -- it turned out to be the best opening possible because it was an ice-breaker. Right? That sort of I fell
on the first jump, right? And they realized I wasn't going to B.S. I wasn't gonna make things up. I was just -- What was I ? A kid representing my grandmother's friend.

Reynolds as Schoenberg: We're very sensitive to the government's concerns, Mr. Chief Justice in the can of worms argument but each country is different and poses different conditions.  Unlike, say, Cuba in Austria's case there's a treaty.  So there's no dispute as to what type of law could apply.  We recommend opening the can  and extracting just the one little worm with a pair of tweezers     and then quickly closing it shut again

The people at Classic Arts Showcase, however, decided to pair Schoenberg's music, not with Klimt, but with a Richard Gerstl painting

music video

'Finale' from "Verklatrte Nacht"
Music by Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Painting by Richard Gerstl
Camerata Academica des Moxzarteums Salzburg
Sandor Vegh, conductor
"100 Masterpieces of Art in Music & Painting"
Capriccio - Delta Music

I'm not certain what I expected 12 tone music to sound like, something atonal and arrhythmic, perhaps akin to silverware being dropped on top of piano strings, but it sounds like normal classical music.

Aha, but, according to random youtube commeters, "Verklatrte Nacht" is early Schoenberg before he developed his 12 tone system.

"actually this piece was written before Schoenberg developed his 12-tone technique, do not expect his other, later pieces to be as..'accessible'"

And the painting illustrating this video of "Verklatrte Nacht"  is "Der rote Blick" (The Red Gaze) by Schoenberg himself

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