Abstract and Keywords
Often seen as the summation of Schenker's work but in fact an extreme development of its tendencies towards abstraction, Free Composition (1935) can be understood as a form of “inner emigration”, a withdrawal from an increasingly tolerable sociopolitical situation; this is illustrated by a comparison between Free Composition and Adalbert Stifter's novel, The Indian Summer. It is this tendency towards abstraction, as well as the emigration during the 1930s of many of Schenker's (predominantly Jewish) pupils to North America, that enabled Schenker's theory to take root in the positivist atmosphere of post-war American academia. In its Americanized form, Schenkerian theory lost contact with the social and arguably even the musical values that had originally informed it. The purpose of this book is to recapture these dimensions of Schenker's thought and so argue for more broadly conceived Schenkerian practice.
According to William Johnston (1972: 131), ‘Aestheticism healed what politics abraded, uniting Jew and gentile, cabby and lord, beggar and emperor in common veneration for the arts’. He is talking about the open‐air festivals that took place at the Prater (a legacy from the days of Beethoven that went on almost up to the 1914–18 war). ‘Those who wonder why Vienna did not explode under racial and bureaucratic tension’, he adds, ‘should ponder this spectacle of all classes joining to celebrate ties that bound them’. Such festivals were then the outdoor version of those more intimate enactments of Gemeinschaft that I described in chapter 3 as taking place in the nostalgic space of the Bösendorfer‐Saal, where—to repeat Leon Botstein's words—‘player and listener alike‐… could become autonomous individuals, free from the limitations of birth and wealth’; the same might be said of such contemporary Viennese concert associations as the Wiener Konzertverein and the Vereinigung Schaffender Tonkünstkler.1 And among the barriers of birth which music could help to bridge was, of course, race. In fact the vision of chamber music as a social practice through which racial markedness (p.247) could be bracketed, if only for a little while, was replicated throughout Germany, to the extent that—as Philip Bohlman puts it (1991: 259)—‘the history of chamber music in some German cities transpired largely within the Jewish community from the mid–nineteenth century until the 1930s’. Bohlman links this not only to the social dimension of chamber music as the symbolic and actual interaction of autonomous individuals but also to the aesthetics of absolute music: ‘the absence of specific meaning within the text allowed meaning to accrue only upon performance’, he says, ‘thus empowering any group—for example, an ethnic community—to shape what it will from absolute music’.
In saying this, Bohlman is thinking along the same lines as the contemporary Viennese critic David Josef Bach, according to whom absolute music—unlike programme music—can speak to all classes because of its ‘soulful’ rather than ‘intellectual’ nature (Berkley 1988: 50), and this is a perhaps underemphasised aspect of the absolute versus programme music debate. But what Bohlman is describing (and goes on to relate to the role of chamber music in present‐day Israel) is an example of a more general and widely recognised phenomenon. Steven Beller writes that ‘if the Jew was still to cast off his Jewishness in an antisemitic social environment the assimilation would now have to take place on ground that was socially, nationally and ethnically neutral’, with art and natural science being the prime examples (1989: 212, 214); he continues, ‘when Karl Kraus sought a sanctuary from racial prejudice, it was to the world of Geist that he turned. In attempting to escape the problem of being Jewish, Jewish individuals retreated into the same world as their ancestors had inhabited, that of the intellect’. Just as Schenker's father had done in Galicia, so Schenker did this in Vienna, and in the last decade of his life it is tempting to suggest of him, as Peter Gay (1978: 33) does of Freud, that he ‘lived far less in Austrian Vienna than in his own mind’. Though he does not specifically connect it to the Jewish context, Robert Morgan (2002: 273) makes a similar point by means of a quotation from Adorno (at that time living, like Schoenberg, in Los Angeles): ‘For someone who no longer has a homeland, writing becomes a place to live’. And Morgan continues:
Schenker, trapped in cultural and historical exile, created such a ‘place to live’: an alternative, self‐contained Utopia, safely sequestered from outside events, where the ‘great works’ of the Western tradition, despite all inconsistencies and complexities, could be shown to coexist in a perfectly ordered system, with all their components joined in mutual cooperation, working with clockwork precision. Constructing such a system was not only an immanently modernist gesture, it was an immanently human and understandable one.
But the Jewish context adds a further dimension to this gesture. Marsha Rozenblit (2001: 156) speaks of the debate about Jewish identity that was prompted by the demise of the multinational empire: ‘An (p.248) endless stream of articles in the liberal and orthodox press’, she writes, ‘reflected the turmoil and conflict that accompanied the Jewish quest to reconstruct an identity that would fit changed political realities’. And it was precisely at this time that Jews of both Zionist and non‐Zionist persuasions made the attempt to reconceive Jewish identity in terms of a political autonomy modelled more or less closely on that of the nation‐state. David Rechter (2001: 12) comments that this ‘experiment in Jewish autonomy’ collapsed rapidly as the new nation‐states came into operation, and so—in Rozenblit's words (156, 160)—the Jews of these nation‐states effectively abandoned the attempt to forge a new identity, simply maintaining ‘their old identity even if it did not fit the situation in the new nation‐state’; in short, they ‘retreated to the comfort of Jewish ethnic identity’. On the reading I offered in chapter 3, Schenker's contemporaneous essay ‘Von der Sendung des deutschen Genies’, generally seen as evidence of Schenker's political involvement, rather marks his disengagement from serious consideration of the politics of the real world: as an exercise in the politics of fantasy, with its constant emphasis on Germany and apparent unconcern with the practical situation of Austrian Jewry, it reflects a personal identity constructed through cultural assimilation. (Perhaps the clearest statement of this comes in the fifth issue of Tonwille, where Schenker writes: ‘just as all of your imperialisms, your money‐bags, foundations, trusts, businesses, armies, presidents, statesmen, and all your fathers and children are nothing before a short, tiny prelude by Sebastian Bach, so shall you be nothing before him who first heard and communicated this prelude, all of you, every one of you shall be nothing before me, a German speck of dust!’ [T1 223].) If the comfortably ordered system of Schenker's theory as formulated in his final writings in this way represents a music‐theoretical equivalent of Rozenblit's retreat from an impossibly chaotic world, then in its autonomy it might be seen as the translation of another Jewish dream, in its own way a promised land.
Other than a modest recrudescence of his journalistic activity from around the mid‐1920s, with articles for a relatively broad readership in such journals as Der Kunstwart,2 Schenker's principal output following the final issue of Tonwille (1924) is quickly summarised: the three volumes of Das Meisterwerk in der Musik (1925, 1926, and 1930); the analytical portfolio Fünf Urlinie‐Tafeln (published in 1932 by Universal Edition and in the following year, as Five Analyses in Sketchform, by the David Mannes Music School, but now generally known by the title of the Dover Publications reprint, Five Graphic Music Analyses); the annotated edition of Brahms's Oktaven u. Quinten u.A., produced for the composer's anniversary in 1933; and of course Der freie Satz, which was published (p.249) posthumously. But this picture is rather misleading, because Der freie Satz had been occupying Schenker since as early as 1917, when as I mentioned a very preliminary version of it was drafted in the form of a chapter for Kontrapunkt 2, under the title ‘Freier Satz’ (Siegel 1999); by 1920, Schenker was envisaging it as a third volume of Kontrapunkt (hence the notation ‘II3’ by which he sometimes referred to it, meaning the third volume of the second part of Neue musikalische Theorien und Phantasien). By 1925, it had become what it is now, the third and final part of Neue musikalische Theorien und Phantasien, with the title ‘Der freie Satz’ first appearing a year later (T1 21n.), but even then it was subject to repeated redrafting and reorganisation, as testified by the enormous quantity of related material in the Oster Collection.3 The manuscript was dictated to Jeanette—which may in part explain what Ernst Oster calls its ‘poetic, sometimes almost rhapsodic quality’ (FC I xii)—and according to his pupil Felix‐Eberhard von Cube, Schenker ‘took the manuscript everywhere with him, and never let it out of his sight’ (Tepping 1983: 91). Schenker's diary records the difficult conditions under which he worked towards the end as his health gave way, and as I mentioned he finished correcting the proofs less than three weeks before his death on 14 January 1935. In his funeral address, Anthony van Hoboken wrote how the completion of Der freie Satz ‘consumed his remaining strength. With it, the gigantic struggle of his life was completed’.4 But it is not just the eighteen‐year genesis and the timing of its completion that fulfils the mythological requirements for the work long seen by Schenkerians as the summit of its author's achievement: it is also an unevenness—particularly in the last stages of the book, where you have the impression that Schenker is racing against time—that has allowed plenty of scope for interpretation and appropriation on the part of subsequent scholars. (There is a parallel with such other highly influential works as Saussure's Cours de linguistique générale and Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.)
First‐generation Schenkerians, precisely because they saw Der freie Satz as the summit of Schenker's life's work, invested a great deal of effort into demonstrating not only its internal consistency but also the logical, if not inevitable, manner in which Schenker's earlier work led to it. Oswald Jonas saw Der freie Satz as ‘the definitive form, indeed the codification of all Schenker's concepts’ (FC I xvi); it was then only logical for him to claim that Schenker ‘established his terminology (first the term “Urlinie”) before he himself was able to arrive at a completely clear formulation of the concept’.5 Yet this latter formulation carries with it the quite misleading implication that the later concept was already (p.250) latent in the original use of the term, just waiting to be discovered. These demonstrations sometimes crept into the editing of Schenker's writings, which as a result acquired something of the Talmudic depth I referred to in chapter 4: in the case of Free Composition (the English translation, or maybe one should say version, of Der freie Satz) it is necessary to disentangle the work of Schenker—and Jeanette, of whom Schenker wrote in a codicil to his will ‘my work was her work as well’6—from that of Jonas (who revised Schenker's text for the second German‐language edition, eliminating certain passages and adding some footnotes of his own together with a preface), Oster (who edited and translated Jonas's text,7 again making some deletions and adding footnotes and a preface of his own), and John Rothgeb (who following Oster's death in 1977 translated most but not quite all of the deleted passages, relegating them to the notorious appendix 4, checked Oster's translation, and added further footnotes), not to mention the series editor (Gerard Warfield, who added a note explaining the above, though not quite accurately), and Allen Forte, who added an introduction to complement Schenker's own introduction.
As for the teleological dimension, this may be illustrated by the annotations added by Jonas to Harmonielehre (and retained in the 1985 English translation), which seek out anticipations of ideas elaborated in Der freie Satz, or even correct what Schenker wrote in light of his later theory. (‘We have left the illustrations used by Schenker throughout the work as nearly as possible in their original form’, Jonas writes in his introduction; ‘We have added, however, an Appendix to this Introduction in which a number of illustrations are presented in the form which, according to all probability, Schenker would have given them at a later stage; and we have added the necessary explanations for this hypothetical development’ [H viii].) Other, silent changes included the reordering of sentences and sometimes whole paragraphs, and significant deletions from Schenker's text. As William Drabkin (1973–74) was the first to point out, this kind of editorial bowdlerising—Drabkin was talking specifically about Jonas's version of the Erläuterungsausgaben of Beethoven's last sonatas but the point is a general one—amounted to a thoroughly unhistorical approach to Schenker's work, because it did not seek to interpret Schenker's earlier writings in their own terms and in light of contemporary circumstances: instead it postulated a normative version of ‘Schenkerian analysis’ (as in the title of Allen Forte and Steven Gilbert's Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis, based mainly on Free Composition and Five Graphic Music Analyses), which was assumed to (p.251) be represented with greater or lesser accuracy and completeness in Schenker's different writings.8 I put this in the past tense because there is now an established tradition (represented for instance by Joseph Lubben and Robert Snarrenberg) of viewing Schenker's writings in a historically informed manner, and so valuing for their own particular strengths and weaknesses the different musical insights represented by the different phases of Schenker's theorising. While what I have to say about Der freie Satz falls within this tradition, I begin—again prompted by Morgan—by viewing Schenker's last book as a literary work, and against the background of other literary works.
Morgan (2002: 267–70) situates Schenker in the context of the Austrian novelists of the period after the First World War, like Hermann Broch and Robert Musil, whose works reflect the fragmentation of established value systems and of a sense of individual identity; as he puts it (269), ‘Schenker resembles Musil in his conviction that the new world arising from the rubble of the past has been deprived of its essential connections: it is all surface, fragments, lies. And both men react with corresponding despair to the surrounding chaos’. Morgan contrasts this with the late Schenker, who ‘finds escape, but only into a private realm, its order hidden beneath the surface, accessible but to a privileged few’. This might in turn prompt direct comparison with other German‐language novels of the period—Hermann Hesse's Das Glasperlenspiel (The glass bead game) of 1943 would be an obvious candidate—but the retreat into what Carl Schorske calls ‘the garden’ was an established trope of earlier Austrian literature. Schorske (1980: 281–95) chooses as his principal example Adalbert Stifter's novel Der Nachsommer (The Indian summer) of 1857—as the date might suggest, a nostalgic evocation of the time before 1848, just as writers after 1918 attempted to evoke the prewar years. It takes the form of a Bildungsroman in which the protagonist, Heinrich Drendorf, seeks refuge from a storm and so stumbles upon the Rosenhaus: a country estate owned by Freiherr von Risach, who becomes Heinrich's ‘mentor and surrogate father’ (289), to the description of which most of the novel is devoted. The Rosenhaus is, as Schorske says (288), ‘the central symbol of Stifter's (p.252) social ideal, a Paradise Regained’; it is a lexicon of Gemeinschaft values presented in the context of nostalgia for the Vormärz, full of resonances with Schenker's work. It epitomises the Beethovenian aristocracy of the spirit for which Schenker (like Schoenberg) yearned, its artful horticulture operating just as music does in Schenker's world, by harnessing the forces of nature to ‘create a setting of beauty for the flowering of the human spirit’ (289). Risach even devotes himself to reconstructing and restoring the masterpieces of the past, in the form not of music but of old art objects and furniture, ‘removing the overlay of later ages‐… to purify the works that could edify the spirit’ and so ‘keeping the past alive’ (291). As Schorske comments, Risach is in this way ‘not a creator but a curator’, and so the Rosenhaus has ‘the character of a museum’: it represents ‘an essentially static harmony of elements from which man, by his labor, eliminates the dissonance’ (292, 291, 309).
Schenker was an avid reader of Stifter—there are notes on Stifter in both the Oster and Jonas collections9—and, though it would be absurd to push the comparison too far, it is possible to read Der freie Satz as a music‐theoretical analogue to Stifter's novel. Schenker's last book has a kind of narrative organisation that none of his others have, an organisation that subordinates empirical reality to abstract idea. Rather than structuring it, as he easily might have, in the form of a narrative quest from foreground to background—in other words, as a kind of music‐analytical detective story—Schenker takes the reverse course: Der freie Satz is organised as a journey from the background to the foreground, from the abstract to the concrete. Its three parts deal successively with the background, the middleground, and the foreground, in the manner of the late Tonwille and Meisterwerk analyses to which I referred in chapter 1 (and in this chapter I am picking up on the music‐theoretical narrative I there traced up to the 1920s). Although the detailed organisation within each part varies, there is a common plan that moves from the general to the particular (so that in part II, for instance, chapter 1, ‘The middleground in general’, is followed by chapter 2, ‘Specific characteristics of the middleground’). And more than that, Schenker attempts as far as possible to organise the discussion of particulars along parallel lines within parts II and III: there is an exact correspondence between sections 1–15 of chapter 2 of each part, except that one additional section (on voice exchange) is interpolated in part III. As was commonly the case with his analyses, however, the part concerning the foreground is considerably longer than the others, including additional chapters entitled ‘Specific foreground events’, ‘Meter and Rhythm’ and ‘Form’ (the last two being in most people's estimation the least developed parts of the book).
(p.253) All this can be understood as charting a process of individual growth, similar to a Bildungsroman, but there is a further aspect to Schenker's abstract‐to‐concrete plan which can be illustrated in terms of the opening chapter, the first two sections of which are ‘The concept of background in general’ and ‘The background in music’. Beginning this way has two advantages for Schenker. In the first place, it means that he can present the masterworks of music as the direct outcomes of ideal, first principles, and in this way the very structure of the book embodies Schenker's favourite analytical ploy of showing how the music had to be precisely as it is—a strategy which, in the context of art history, has been termed ‘retrospective prophecy’ (Lorda 2000: 120), and to which I shall return later in this chapter. It might not be too extreme to say that this operates as a kind of conceptual censorship: the contingencies of reality are admitted only to the extent that they can be derived from first principles (no more than in the Rosenhaus is there room in Der freie Satz for such ‘counter‐examples’—Schenker's term [MM2 106]—as Reger or Stravinsky). In the second place, it makes clear right from the start that, while at one level the book is about music, at another level its scope is far broader: within the first few pages Schenker has told us that ‘music mirrors the human soul in all its metamorphoses and moods’, that the motion of the fundamental line is ‘a full analogy to our inner life’, that ‘music is subject, just as we ourselves are subject’, and even that fundamental structure and foreground represent ‘the celestial and the terrestrial in music’.10 In this way Der freie Satz creates its vision of music as not just music but the emblem of an aristocratic world in which art and nature work together harmoniously, from which dissonance is, if not eliminated (as in the Rosenhaus), then harnessed firmly in the service of consonance, and in which the masterworks of the past live again. It is as much an evocation of the Vormärz as Der Nachsommer, which is also to say that it evokes a time when it was possible to be both Jewish and German.
The problematic or at least unproductive nature of Stifter's utopia is obvious enough, in its cultural elitism, its uncreative nature, its lack of concern for empirical reality. (Schenker himself made the last criticism: in a sheet of notes about Der Nachsommer from 1927 he writes, ‘Stifter presents the most complete purity and chastity…. It is as if he fulfils our dreams of Paradise’, and then adds ‘everything is transferred into the inner life…. This inner life is so much in the foreground that in Nachsommer Stifter, immersed in it, even fails to give the artistic form its foreground.’)11 And the point is that all of these are accusations which have at one time or another been levelled against Schenker, and especially against the Schenker of Der freie Satz. The cultural elitism is perhaps the most obvious. Inherent from an early stage in Schenker's (p.254) theory, Schenker's obsession—no other word will do—with genius, and concomitant dismissal of nongenius, reaches a climax in the ‘Vermischtes’ section of the final volume of Meisterwerk: ‘Verdi was only a talent’, he proclaims, and as such ‘contributed absolutely nothing to genuine art’, while Debussy ‘would not rate as a composer at all’. And he adds that the ‘vanishing of the genius’ this illustrates is ‘very welcome to the commonplace man, for the spectacle of towering superiority disturbs his cosy self‐complacency’ (MM3 71–3). Schenker's tirades from this period retain the tone of passionate critique from ‘Von der Sendung’ but, instead of being to some extent focused—however unrealistically—around the politics of the First World War, they are now directed scattergun‐style at any and all aspects of contemporary culture: despite their sometimes furious expression, they seem increasingly disengaged from the world about him, conveying the sense that Schenker no longer saw himself as a participant in the culture he was criticising—which is of course exactly the point Morgan was making about Schenker's later theory when he described him as ‘on the outside looking in’. (When in Tonwille 8/9 Schenker refers to ‘the sun‐storm of synthesis which raged through German art for two centuries’ [T1 106], he is presenting it as a historical event now receding into the past, and himself—like Risach—as a curator of the masterpieces it left behind.) And while much of the anger has gone under the surface in Der freie Satz—the polemics are sublimated or at least abbreviated, and the personal attacks have disappeared, apart from a few sentences on Riemann—the basic subject position remains.
As for the second and third criticisms—lack of creativity and concern for empirical reality—these were already being voiced during the later years of Schenker's life. As early as 1924, replying to a letter in which Schenker had used the derogatory term ‘foreground music’ (Vordergrundmusik), August Halm—who was an active composer as well as theorist—called this a ‘good expression’, adding that he would accept it as a characterisation of his own music ‘with much modesty as well as some pride. That is, I have long since believed that the foreground, or surface, has been neglected at the expense of the background’.12 Four years later, an article by Hans Mersmann complains about the ‘rigidity and unproductivity’ of Schenker's approach in general and the Urlinie in particular, while the more sympathetic Hermann Roth suggests in 1931 that Schenker's theoretical interest in the ubiquitous manifestations of the Urlinie now outweighs his analytical concern with the music.13 But these criticisms were spelt out more fully in (p.255) what might be termed a critical obituary published by the American composer Roger Sessions just before the appearance of Der freie Satz (though it is evident that Sessions had prepublication access to it). Sessions is at pains to recognise the value of Schenker's work: he ends his article by saying that ‘the musicians of today and tomorrow‐… will derive much profit and help from the clear and profound conceptions in Schenker's earlier works’—and then adds, ‘just as they will turn away from the Talmudic subtleties and the febrile dogmatism of his later ones’ (1985/1935: 13–4). It is perhaps predictable that a composer would bridle at the ex‐composer's claim to define the necessary attributes not just of classical composition but of all composition: Schenker, Sessions complains (12–3), ‘envisages creation as the painstaking and meticulous embodiment of principles that were once vital and in process of development, but whose very definiteness and, so to speak, formulability proclaims either their insufficiency or their exhaustion’. (Had Schenker still been alive, the comment on formulability, echoing his own early critiques of the ‘formalists’ and ‘classicists’, would no doubt have particularly infuriated him.) And Sessions continues: ‘It is precisely when Schenker's teachings leave the domain of exact description and enter that of dogmatic and speculative analysis that they become essentially sterile’: as he puts it a couple of pages earlier, at such times Schenker's interpretations appear to be ‘dictated by the impulse to find confirmation for an a priori assumption, even when one must admit that this assumption was arrived at only after years of painstaking research’ (11). In short, the complaint is that Schenker's later theory goes too far: it represents theory for theory's sake.
This may sound like little more than the classic standoff between artist and theorist (itself a telling observation, given Schenker's concern at the time of Harmonielehre to style himself as an ‘artist’). But Sessions's basic criticism—that Schenker's later theory is just too abstract—can be expressed in a more precise and technical manner. What makes possible the abstract‐to‐concrete approach of Der freie Satz is more than anything the development of the archetypal Ursatz as found from Meisterwerk on, that is to say as a predefined, a priori entity in one of its three forms (with the Urlinie descending from ̂8, ̂5, or ̂3 to ̂1). David Neumeyer (1987: 276–8) has traced the process of codification through which the idea of the Urlinie became more and more narrowly defined: whereas early Urlinien are as likely to ascend as descend, or to do both (as in the case of the Tonwille graph of the Kaiserhymne I mentioned in chapter 3), descending Urlinien become increasingly prevalent during the successive volumes of Meisterwerk, in the last of which Schenker states as a matter of established fact that the Urlinie falls from ̂8, ̂5, or ̂3 (1930: 7). And William Pastille (1990: 71–2) has chronicled the development of this archetypal concept of the Urlinie, via the intermediate concept of melodic fluency (‘a principle‐… of shaping melodic lines so that successions of large leaps are avoided’), from what is in a sense its (p.256) diametric opposite: the motif, conventionally understood as the most compact embodiment of what is characteristic or unique to a given piece of music. The difference emerges from a revealing annotation Schoenberg entered in his copy of ‘Die Urlinie: Eine Vorbemerkung’ (from the first issue of Tonwille, apparently the only one he acquired). It should be possible to say what the Urlinie is in one sentence, Schoenberg writes, and as Schenker has failed to do this he will attempt it himself:
The Urlinie is the uniform reduction of all appearances to their simplest base and shows not only the characteristics of the ideas brought to their common unity, but also that it is in its entirety only a development of the basic idea. It is the real inspiration of the composer, that totality, seen all at once and yet containing everything of substance, through which a piece of music is conceived as a whole by its author.14
Schoenberg added that ‘More could be said, but that would then be more by me than by Schenker’—yet he had already said enough to underline the difference between his own, essentially traditional, understanding of the motif and Schenker's concept of the Urlinie. (Perhaps the most striking feature they have in common is the apparent imprint of pseudo‐Mozart.) Moreover, Schenker's development of the Urlinie concept resulted in a redefinition of the motif: by 1925 Schenker's use of the term no longer refers to characteristic melodic formations but rather to ‘the constituent transformative elements of Schenker's method—that is, linear progressions, arpeggiations, octave transfers, and the like’ (Cadwallader and Pastille 1992: 132). To paraphrase what I said earlier, characteristic melodic formations are recognised only to the extent that they can be derived via these transformations from the Urlinie, and so it is only logical that in Der freie Satz Schenker now adopts the term ‘diminution’, leaving ‘motif’ as a pejorative term associated with ‘false theory’. Schenker's view is now that, as conventionally defined, there are no such things as motifs.
In fact, Schenker's theoretical development could be characterised as a progressive denial of the basic categories of conventional theory (and this is the key to the reputation for iconoclasm to which I referred). In a sense, this goes back as far as the attacks on the ‘formalists’ or ‘classicists’ of the 1890s—attacks directed ostensively at composers but equally denying the musical reality of the pedagogues' formal schemes. However, the tendency becomes much more striking (p.257) with the appearance of the Urlinie. In ‘Die Urlinie: Eine Vorbemerkung’, Schenker writes that ‘all the various divisions and classifications such as classical, Romantic, programmatic, absolute, and the like, disappear in the face of the Urlinie, since these are biased by personal feeling or historical understanding’ (T1 21–2): the Urlinie, in other words, pertains to a higher, indeed timeless, domain of musical reality than individual response or historical contingency. The list has become longer by the second volume of Meisterwerk, where we find Schenker announcing: ‘Triads and seventh chords, dissonances, passing notes, sequences, progressions, melodies, motives and motivic developments, imperfect and perfect cadences etc., as understood by conventional theory, are simply not present in music’ (MM2 59). And by the time of Der freie Satz it has turned into a refrain. Paragraph 50 is headed ‘Rejection of the conventional terms “melody”, “motive”, “idea”, and the like’; elsewhere (FC I 131, 8) Schenker denies the reality of conventional categories of form (‘I reject those definitions of song form which take the motif as their starting point and emphasize manipulation of the motif by means of repetition, variation, extension, fragmentation, or dissolution’) or key (‘the most baleful error of conventional theory is its recourse to “keys” when, in its lack of acquaintance with foreground and middleground, it finds no other means of explanation’).
The example of key is particularly revealing because the theoretical basis—the idea that what are conventionally seen as subsidiary keys should instead be seen as the expansion of scale steps within a single structural key—is already present in Harmonielehre, but applied quite differently from in Der freie Satz.15 In a section of Harmonielehre called ‘Theory of modulation’, Schenker writes:
Modulation means a complete change from one key to another. This change must be so complete that the original key does not return. In this lies the only essential difference between modulation and those changes to chromatically simulated keys which are changes only apparently, while in reality they are a fuller elaboration of a strictly diatonic scale‐step, whereby the diatonic system must be assumed to continue. (H 321)
The distinction between appearance and reality, between simulacrum and the real thing, is in place. But Schenker uses it to make fine distinctions between one context and another (he then goes on to subdivide true modulations into three categories, each separately discussed and illustrated), and recognises the psychological effect of chromatic simulation; one might say that it is in the tension between appearance and reality that the analytical work is done. And at least as late as the (p.258) final issue of Tonwille one can find similar, contextually informed discussions of whether a particular key is to be regarded as apparent or real.16 But by the time of Der freie Satz all this pussyfooting has been swept away, subsumed under the category of ‘illusory keys at the foreground level’.17 (Schenker cites bar 12 of the Kaiserhymne as an example.) He explains what is at issue as follows:
The coherence of the whole, which is guaranteed by the fundamental structure, reveals the development of one single chord into a work of art. Thus, the tonality of this chord alone is present, and whatever else we may regard as a key at the foreground level can only be an illusory one…. The error in the viewpoint of present‐day theory consists in its mechanical reading of the degrees at their face value. This can only obstruct the perceptions of coherence. (FC I 112)
The effect of this is that a discourse designed to make fine discriminations has been replaced by a dichotomous, totalising one: keys are illusory or real, surface or background, black or white.18 As Carl Schachter says (1999b: 150–1), in his very balanced discussion of this whole topic, ‘Schenker minimizes possibly valid distinctions between large‐scale, structural modulations and smaller, local ones…. Between these large structural key changes and the fleeting tonicizations that some authors call modulations, there is a vast range of possibilities.’ But the dichotomies of Der freie Satz do not make it easy to capture this range of possibilities; the result is a discourse that might be described as ideological in the sense that, whatever is said, the effect is to assert the universal validity of the theory that informs it. And it is also in Der freie Satz that Schenker makes what Richard Cohn (1992a: 9) has characterised as ‘wild attempts’ to subsume hitherto untheorised aspects of music such as orchestration and instrumentation under the ‘complete control’ of the Urlinie. (It was in the preceding Meisterwerk volumes that Schenker had attempted the same in relation to dynamics and, however perfunctorily, rhythm.)19 To say it again, the theory does not so (p.259) much register as define what counts as musical content; put crudely but not I think inaccurately, the counter‐examples of Reger and Stravinsky are counter‐examples because their music is not music, and it is not music because it doesn't fit the theory—so that, after showing the lack of adequate composing‐out in a passage from Stravinsky's Concerto for piano and wind instruments, Schenker can conclude that ‘My demonstration gives me the right to say that‐… Stravinsky's way of writing is altogether bad, inartistic, and unmusical’ (MM2 18). And it is in this sense that one may talk of Schenker's final theory being unconcerned with empirical reality; in the end, Schenker decides what is music in the same sense that Lueger decided who was a Jew.
In referring to the dichotomies inherent in Der freie Satz, I meant to imply an affinity with the patterns of conservative thinking I described in chapter 3, in which one term of the dichotomy is always valorised at the expense of the other. Lubben has emphasised the way this happens in Schenker's writing even as early as Tonwille, for instance in the opposition of real (positive) versus apparent (negative): Lubben (1995: 56–7) cites such phrases as ‘misled by‐… appearance’, ‘merely coincidental’, ‘nothing more than’. Cohn (1992b: 8–9) similarly quotes a passage from Meisterwerk which expands this into a principle: just picking out notes from the foreground is meaningless, Schenker says, unless the tones can withstand ‘the test of counterpoint [der Satzprobe]! The only valid conclusion is that which can be verified through the voice‐leading transformations’.20 Anything that fails this test, Cohn comments, is ‘illusory, apparent, false, and even nonexistent…. to fail the Satzprobe is to be denied any ontological status whatever’. (Schenker virtually says this in his Stravinsky analysis: ‘the only surety even for dissonances—and this is the crux of the matter—is the cohesiveness of a well‐organized linear progression: without cohesiveness, dissonances do not even exist!’ [MM2 18]) The objection is obvious: something may be merely coincidental in terms of theoretical derivation while at the same time being highly striking in terms of moment‐to‐moment experience, in which case the substance of the analytical observation will lie in the tension between the one and the other. In Der freie Satz, for example, Schenker dismisses conventional ideas that sonata developments involve ‘changing keys’ or the ‘“working out” [of] “motivic” materials’ (his quotes), adding that ‘none of these‐… rooted as they are in the “motivic” concept, are pertinent for the development section’ (FC I 136): but of course changing keys and the working out of motives are what listeners hear. However sophisticated the theoretical grounding, (p.260) such sweeping denials, prompted by the language of ‘merely’ or ‘nothing more than’, lead to an approach towards analysis that is careless, at best, about what people actually hear when they listen to music.
In Tonwille, as Lubben argues, the problem is more at the level of rhetoric than of substance: there is a dynamic interaction between empirical observation and theoretical explanation (and I shall come back to this), of a kind that is largely absent from Der freie Satz, with its constant motion from the theoretical to the empirical—and with the empirical being grasped only to the extent that it illustrates the theory. There is in Der freie Satz no obvious feedback mechanism that might enable an empirical counter‐observation to result in modification of the theory, for how could mere appearances change reality? From the very beginning—from ‘The concept of background in general’—the theory is presented as simply how music is. If there is no space for counter‐examples in Der freie Satz, there is no room for doubt either. Cohn (1992b: 8) describes Schenker as a ‘monist’—which is what prompted my comparison with Rabbi Boruch in chapter 4—and this quality is underlined by the prophetic tone as much as the overt content of an excluded exclusion from Der freie Satz that I quoted in chaper 2: in both art and religion, says Schenker, there is
only one prime cause in the background‐… so‐called heathens are those who, whether creative or re‐creative, consider only the foreground of the work and lose themselves in its particulars, while confessors of a true divinity are those who worship the background. In the artwork, too, the one prime cause remains immutable in the background, and deviating toward the cravings of the foreground heathens is a sin against the spirit of monotheism.21
An argument might of course be made that all this is the case not because some reductive transformation had come over Schenker's thinking by the time of Der freie Satz, but because the purpose of Der freie Satz is to draw together the many theoretical threads dispersed through Schenker's earlier publications: it is a work of systematic exposition rather than analytical application, the argument goes, and the empirical justification of the theory is to be found in the Erläuterungsausgaben, the Tonwille and Meisterwerk analyses, and Fünf Urlinie‐Tafeln. (Edward Laufer describes Der freie Satz as ‘a compendium‐… a treatise to be assimilated continually, ever more sharply, in conjunction with making and remaking one's own sketches’ [1981: 158].) The idea that Der freie Satz is, in effect, a reference manual for the Schenkerian system does not adequately explain the kind of monism Cohn refers to, which is not a matter of literary genre but a basic habit of thought; even if it did, though, the problem would simply resurface in terms of the way Der freie Satz, or at least Free Composition, has been treated by many subsequent (p.261) theorists as the definitive model for a reified Schenkerian practice. (Recall what I said about Forte and Gilbert's Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis.)
Many interpretations of Schenkerian analysis are reductive. A case in point is the idea already anticipated in Schoenberg's interpretation of the Urlinie as the concentrated essence of a work, a kind of musical stock cube that results from boiling off everything that is merely routine. Some such conception underlies the complaints made by Joseph Kerman in his widely read Contemplating Music: Schenkerian analysis, Kerman says (1985: 81–2), ‘repeatedly slights salient features in the music’ (he cites the omission of the low A in Schenker's reduction of the ‘Ode to Joy’ tune)22 and ‘ignores rhythmic and textual considerations’ (here Kerman cites the following note, the syncopated F#, also omitted by Schenker). The counter‐argument is obvious: the substance of the analysis lies not in the analytical graph, on the stock cube model, but in the experience it prompts, in the shuttling back and forth between the actual music and the reduction—which is also to say between the obvious and the nonobvious, the particular and the general, the empirical and the theoretical. (As regards the A, there is an even more obvious counter‐argument, which is that Kerman has ignored the context of Schenker's analysis: Schenker is saying that the ‘Ode to Joy’ is a kind of compound melody containing its own bass progression, so that the A actually is in the graph, the point being that it appears in the bass.) And Schachter (1999b: 148) makes a similar argument in the discussion of Schenker's concept of key to which I have referred: comparing graphs of the Allemande from J. S. Bach's French Suite no. 4 and the first movement development from Beethoven's Sonata op. 7, he writes that ‘to a casual reader’ they ‘might look pretty much the same. But anyone reading the Beethoven graph correctly—with ears as well as eyes—will hear the difference’. Kerman's problem, then, is that he is not reading the graph correctly; he is using his eyes and not his ears. It is the same problem Schenker was complaining about in his 1894 essay ‘Das Hören in der Musik’, only translated to a new context.
Although I think Schachter's argument is valid (I have made the same argument myself),23 it isn't the end of the story. Schachter continues, ‘And of course the analyst could easily refer to the key plan in a text accompanying the graph’, in this way anchoring the graph in the particularities of the music. But then, it was Schenker who, in 1933, initiated the practice of wordless analysis with Fünf Urlinie‐Tafeln: ‘The presentation in graphic form’, Schenker wrote in his foreword, ‘has now been developed to a point that makes an explanatory text unnecessary’.24 (It would probably be misguided to see in this an echo of the (p.262) logical positivism promulgated by the Vienna Circle, or even a rejoinder to the last sentence of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico‐Philosophicus: ‘What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence’.) What Schenker says may be true for the experienced Schenkerian analyst, but the wordless presentation does nothing to orientate the less experienced reader to the purpose of the analysis; it is perhaps unfortunate that, because of the low‐cost reprint edition by Dover Publications, Five Music Graphic Analyses was for a long time the most widely disseminated of Schenker's publications. And there are other contexts, too, in which Schenker could display a distinct lack of regard for the legitimate interests of different readers.25 At one point in the Ninth Symphony monograph, for instance, he quotes a passage from Hermann Kretzschmar's Führer durch den Konzertsaal (1887) and comments witheringly:
Kretzschmar would undoubtedly have fared better if, instead of the plethora of words—‘brief moment’, ‘happy frolic’, ‘elements of weary longing’, ‘stifled’, ‘cheered on’, ‘forceful strokes’—, he had, while maintaining the same brevity, provided concepts of truly orientational value, such as ‘modulatory theme’, ‘second theme’, and so forth. (BNS 159)
Schenker's point is basically the one Hanslick argued in Vom Musikalisch‐Schönen: the basis of an understanding of music's expressive properties must be an understanding of its musical properties. But Hanslick's argument was about the proper scope of aesthetic theory. When he wrote reviews for the Neue freie Presse, as Peter Kivy (1993: 274–5) has pointed out, he wrote quite differently, because he was writing in a different literary genre for a different public. In the same way, Kretzschmar's Führer durch den Konzertsaal was written, like Hirschfeld's Vienna Philharmonic concert programmes, for new audiences of inexperienced listeners seeking means of engaging with unfamiliar music, and the publication and dissemination history of Kretzschmar's book shows that it was successful in this role. Schenker seems incapable of appreciating that it is legitimate for different readers to have different requirements, or more likely he was ignoring it for the sake of a perhaps cheap rhetorical effect.26
(p.263) There is also a parallel case to which Snarrenberg has drawn attention, and where the problem runs deeper. This is in the Meisterwerk 1 (1925) essay on the Prelude from Bach's Partita for Solo Violin no. 3, where—in addition to experimenting with dynamic analysis—Schenker attacked Ernst Kurth's concept of linear counterpoint. (Here, incidentally, is a further point of contact with Schoenberg [1975: 289–97], who wrote two unpublished essays attacking Kurth's approach, while characteristically explaining that he had not read his book.) In essence, Kurth describes how the music's thematic contours generate and dissipate energy (his writing is full of words like ‘highpoint’, ‘nadir’, and ‘culmination’). Schenker complains about Kurth's ‘continual deliberate evasion of any precision in concept and word’, ascribing this to ‘his basic viewpoint that melodic construction‐… is an independent force’ (MM1 51): motion, Schenker continues, is ‘more than motion pure and simple’, it is motion from somewhere to somewhere else, and these places are defined by the structural harmonies. Misled by false theory, Schenker continues, ‘Kurth clearly failed to find the power of hearing necessary to comprehend those horizontal realizations of vertical chordal conceptions’; instead of reading the music in a musical sense, he just looked at it, observing that ‘here the notes go upward, there they go downward (these being the only two possible directions)’. And against Kurth's literary evocation of the effects of the theme from the B Major Fugue from Bach's Das Wohltempierte Klavier (Book 2), Schenker sets his own, severely technical interpretation, consisting of a voice‐leading graph together with a verbal commentary that succinctly identifies the tonal spaces traversed by the various linear motions, and points out that in order to accommodate the combination of a third‐ and a fourth‐progression Bach has recourse to a 5–6 exchange (MM1 52–3).
It is at such moments as this that Schenker seems to draw closest to the ‘positivist’ (Kerman's term) theorists of postwar America—such as Milton Babbitt—who played such an important role in the afterlife of the Schenker project, and to whom I shall return in the next section. Snarrenberg's point, however, lies in what Schenker does not say. Unlike Kurth, Schenker specifies the contrapuntal origins of the theme. But having done so, as Snarrenberg observes (1997: 137), ‘Schenker says nothing at all about the character of the melodic motion that he has charted…. He does not describe the effect of the line created by an unfolding of the contrapuntal complex, that synthesis of the effects of sustained harmony, passing motions, and unfolding’. And Snarrenberg continues: ‘Ordinarily I would argue that this is not so much a failure as an oversight or simply the result of a limited purpose. But not (p.264) here, where the content of the thematic line is precisely what is at issue in his critique of Kurth’. He points out that in this respect Kurth's description was in fact highly compatible with Schenker's own analysis, and suggests that Schenker may have stopped short because of ‘the risk of sounding too much like Kurth’. That would of course tie in with the anxiety of influence I read into the Ninth Symphony monograph, where—in order to distance himself from Wagner—Schenker blatantly contradicted himself, refused to understand apparently self‐evident musical issues, and passed in silence over perhaps the most baffling and frequently discussed moment in the entire symphony (the beginning of the Alla Marcia section of the finale).27 But it may equally be seen as an early symptom of the more abstract, less empirical orientation of Schenker's thought in his final years. The problem, to bring this argument back to its starting point, may not after all lie only in how later theorists have read Der freie Satz.
In the next section I will pursue the story beyond Schenker's death by tracing both the subsequent development of the totalising tendencies I have identified in Der freie Satz and the reaction against them. But first I want to complete the job I started by comparing Der freie Satz to Stifter's Der Nachsommer: after all, denigrating the totalising tendencies in the final phase of Schenker's thought is a cheap gesture unless accompanied by a genuine effort to understand them as a product of historical circumstance. Stifter's novel exemplifies the nostalgic and escapist strand present in Viennese culture since the Vormärz, and the circumstances of Vienna in the interwar period help to explain its attraction at that time. I have said that the 1920s and 1930s were a time of growing chaos in Austria, with deep divisions between Vienna (from 1919 under a Social Democratic mayor, Jakob Reumann) and the rural areas dominated by the Christian Socialists; there were riots at the time of the Fourteenth Zionist Congress (1925) and again in 1927 (the ‘Justizpalast’ massacre). Both socialist and conservative factions formed their own armies; the Austrian Parliament was suspended in 1933 (the same year, of course, as Hitler's accession to power in Germany), and in 1934 the country slid into civil war. If Schenker's retreat, as Morgan put it, into a ‘self‐contained Utopia, safely sequestered from outside events, where the “great works” of the Western tradition‐… coexist in a perfectly ordered system’ represented an act of escapism—what in the previous chapter I called an ‘inner emigration’ into a kind of musical Rosenhaus—then this is neither incomprehensible nor unparalleled: the same kind of creeping detachment from an intractable reality can be identified in, for example, Hans Kelsen, a Bohemian Jew who studied law at the University of Vienna (and subsequently at Heidelberg, (p.265) with Georg Jellinek) and taught there from 1911 to 1929, as well as being responsible for drafting the Austrian federal constitution in 1920.28
As with Jellinek and Ehrlich, whom I discussed in chapters 1 and 3, it is easy to find points of comparison between Schenker's thinking and Kelsen's. In particular, there is an obvious parallel between Schenker's hierarchical theory of music and Kelsen's analysis of the operation of Habsburg law, in which there were multiple levels of jurisdiction ‘from k. und k. ministries down through Austrian ministries and those of individual crownlands to municipalities’ (Johnston 1972: 97): Kelsen developed what he termed a ‘pure theory of law’ consisting of autonomous ‘norms’ against which actual laws were to be measured and evaluated, giving rise to a strict hierarchical system the topmost level of which Kelsen called the ‘Urnorm’. This abstract‐to‐concrete approach, similar to Schenker's in Der freie Satz, represents just the opposite of Jellinek's and Ehrlich's historical approach, according to which the starting point for any theoretical understanding of law must be detailed study of actual legislative systems in real social contexts, and which I compared to Schenker's early approach to music: if Kelsen's thought represented a reaction against Jellinek's and Ehrlich's, then perhaps Der freie Satz should be considered as much a reaction against Schenker's earlier thought as a continuation or summation of it. Johnston (98) continues, ‘Against a welter of ideologies and maneuvers prevailing here below, Kelsen counterposed seamless unity in a higher world of norms’, adding that ‘he paralleled members of the Vienna Circle who elevated logic into a self‐contained science while jettisoning whatever did not fit their premises’. He links Kelsen's way of thinking not only to the general influence of Plato, but more specifically to the tradition of Leibnizian idealism which Schenker's teacher Robert Zimmermann helped to disseminate throughout the Austro‐Hungarian empire almost into the twentieth century (Zimmermann died in 1898)—and indeed, instead of Kelsen, I could have invoked others whom Johnston includes in his chapter entitled ‘Last Exponents of the Leibnizian Tradition’, such as Othmar Spann, whose reinstatement of Gemeinschaft values was accused of tending towards totalitarianism, and of whom Johnston (314) says that he ‘shared political naiveté with countless other professors in Germany and Austria, for whom studying the history of ideas had obfuscated political reality’. This then is the tradition that underlies such characteristically Schenkerian pronouncements as ‘tones, just like stars in the firmament‐… have but few primal laws which remain as immutable at their core the more mutable, indeed in their mutability the more bewilderingly they objectify themselves (p.266) in individual phenomena’29—and, if I am right, the basic conception of Der freie Satz.
But there is a problem here. In this book I have repeatedly emphasised the dependence of Schenker's thought on Hegelian principles, or at least generalised principles of German idealism that can be illustrated by reference to Hegel. Even something as basic as the controversy between Schenker and Schoenberg has to be understood in terms of competing Hegelian constructions of music history: Schoenberg does not just think in terms of progress towards an as yet not fully envisaged future, but explicitly invokes the Hegelian dialectic (‘Even if our tonality is dissolving, it already contains within it the germ of the next artistic phenomenon’),30 whereas Schenker—like Spengler—sees the contemporary world as one of decline, with the period from Bach to Brahms representing a singular and now irrecoverable event in human history. That is what I meant when, in chapter 1, I said that you need some awareness of idealist philosophy to understand the form the argument takes. But the problem is one I also mentioned in chapter 1: we are now on the verge of conflating two quite different philosophies of idealism. Michael Cherlin (1988: 130, 131) emphasises the foundational role of Hegelian historicism in Schenker's thought, and argues on this basis that to read Schenker ‘in Platonic or Neoplatonic terms is‐… untenable’: as he explains, ‘a Platonic reading of a Schenkerian graph does violence to that graph by viewing it as a static, atemporal blueprint. Organicism, in order to include teleological organicism, requires that the process of unfolding in time be a necessary aspect of reality’. And from a philosophical point of view, Cherlin's argument is irrefutable: in Frederick Beiser's words (1993: 276), you cannot at the same time believe with Plato or Leibniz that ‘the object of thought is an eternal form, complete in all its meaning prior to our reflection on it’, and with Hegel that ‘the meaning of ideas is never complete and given to us, as if it were only a question of our perceiving their transparent essence. Rather, they become clear and distinct and take on a determinate meaning only through our activity of thinking about them’.
But then, Schenker was not a coherent philosophical thinker, the reason being (as I argued in chapter 1) that he was not a philosophical thinker at all. Or perhaps a more generous way of putting it would be that Schenker encountered both strains of idealism as a student at the University of Vienna—most obviously from Zimmermann on the one hand and Jellinek on the other—but failed to resolve the tension between them.31 Either way, the fact is that, despite the indisputable role in Schenker's thinking of idealism of the Hegelian type, the profoundly (p.267) un‐Hegelian idea that there exist such things as eternal, unchanging ideas, removed from the circumstances of the world, is scattered throughout his writings: its best known formulation may be the passage from Der freie Satz I quoted at the beginning of chapter 1 (‘whoever has once perceived the essence of a pure idea—whoever has fathomed its secrets—knows that such an idea remains ever the same, ever indestructible, as an element of an eternal order’), but as early as the Geist essay of 1895 Schenker is claiming that ‘the material of the art of music is imperishable’ (p. 330). While we cannot save Schenker as a philosopher by arguing that he switched allegiance from one coherent version of idealism to another, then, it does seem as if the Platonic or Leibnizian version was particularly associated in Schenker's mind with the developing Urlinie concept. At all events, Schenker specifically invokes both Plato and Leibniz in relation to the Urlinie: in his first systematic explanation of it (‘Die Urlinie: Eine Vorbemerkung’) he writes that the composer ‘assigns his tones a merciful fate full of agreement between the life of each individual tone and a life that exists above and beyond their being’ and adds in parentheses ‘like a “Platonic idea” in music’ (T1 22),32 while in Meisterwerk 1—as it happens just a few paragraphs after the passage about the Satzprobe—Schenker writes that ‘the Urlinie, to apply Leibniz's concept, is the preestablished harmony of the composition’ (MM1 109).33 I shall come back to the contradiction at the heart of Schenker's thinking which this suggests when, in the next section, I discuss the posthumous reception of Schenker's theoretical ideas.
What then are we to make of Schenker's project by the time of his death? In chapters 1–2, I presented it as something more than (but also, in its early stages, less than) a theory: a comprehensive and integrated agenda for musical reform, encompassing composing, performing, listening, writing, teaching, and editing. And in subsequent chapters I suggested that the project was not only a musical one but also and at (p.268) the same time a social one, with music functioning as both a symbol and a means of enacting Gemeinschaft: in this way a theory of music that shows how the interests of part and whole may be reconciled is also a theory of the organic society, a Gemeinschaft of the spirit rather than the blood (and that is where the anti‐Semitic dimension comes in). But the whole fabric of the project as I have interpreted it begins to unravel after the First World War. The first symptom is the totalising tendency that appears in Schenker's hysterical panegyrics of Germany and fulminations against its enemies, possibly tending towards a susceptibility to ‘strong man’ solutions to political chaos. This totalising impulse then becomes progressively reflected in the theory, with the Urlinie being seen in an increasingly abstract manner, underpinned by a Platonic or Leibnizian concept of the timeless. Ironically, then, as the power of the theory to model the interaction of part and whole increases, so Schenker's own orientation seems to become more narrow and schematic, and as this happens the social dimension of the theory withers away: we end up not with the Schenker project as I have described it, but rather with what Der freie Satz has traditionally been seen as—a work of music theory, throughout which are scattered a large number of rather gratuitous remarks pertaining to philosophy, religion, society, or the individual.
More than anything, perhaps, this amounts to a transition from optimism to pessimism, and we have already encountered some of the principal milestones in this process (here I am developing what I said near the end of chapter 2). The Geist essay of 1895, as I interpret it, is a plan for action, even though much of what it promises is as yet undeliverable: it is future‐oriented, as when Schenker explains the nature of properly critical listening and then adds, ‘it is to be hoped that the majority of listeners will eventually experience music in this way’ (p. 324). By the time of Harmonielehre (1906) the agenda has solidified, while the orientation to the future remains and has indeed become more urgent: logically it would have been better to present his planned work on counterpoint first, Schenker says in his preface, but ‘Any delay, however small, in initiating the needed reforms seemed to me to be counterindicated’ (H xxvi). Yet just two years later, in the first volume of Kontrapunkt, the agenda has become one of disaster management: ‘our first task must be a real excavation before we can even begin work that (p.269) will allow us to proceed (I do not say: “progress”!)’ (C1 xxv). And after a further two years, in the Ninth Symphony monograph, Schenker refers to the ‘dark hour of crisis’ (BNS 25), continuing: ‘I fear that in the artistic life of the German nation the generation of those fathers who lived in the second half of the nineteenth century have played an all too fateful role! May their children succeed in averting the calamity!’
Even this gloomy prognosis can be presented in a more positive light: in a letter to Hertzka of the same year, Schenker writes, ‘Only when it is all long gone—the Debussys, Korngolds, Schoenbergs, Rétis, etc.—will the time have come for me and what I represent.’34 (This, predictably, is a prelude to discussion of fees.) And after the First World War, in ‘Die Urlinie: Eine Vorbemerkung’—the first musically oriented essay of Tonwille—Schenker seems to outline a new plan for action when he writes that ‘The nadir of musical art was already reached long ago’ and speaks of performing a great service to the art ‘in the foreseeable future…. The hour of turning back has tolled’ (T1 24). Only a year later, however, in Kontrapunkt 2 (1922), we find the bleakest assessment of all, which I quoted in chapter 2: music has been ‘utterly eradicated’, Schenker writes, so that ‘Today the task before us is more to transmit the essence of music to more distant eras, since we cannot expect it to be restored in the near future’ (C2 xii). In Der freie Satz, Schenker's prognosis has not really changed, but it is expressed more elegiacally: ‘If, after centuries have passed, only one person is once more capable of hearing music in the spirit of its coherence, then even in this one person music will again be resurrected in all its absoluteness’ (FC I xxiv). Despite the dangers of selective quotation, the broad picture is clear enough: by 1935 the vision of renewal belongs more to fantasy than reality, and Schenker has retreated into his Rosenhaus.
A paragraph away from that last quotation in the original edition of Der freie Satz, but now removed to appendix 4, Schenker wrote:
But how strange it is: mankind is more interested in the most distant star in the universe than in music, the star of the spirit's heaven! May the light of that noble star shine on! It surely is captured and protected in my eyes, but what will happen when my eyes have closed for good? (FC I 158)
The Posthumous Schenker
In an unjustly neglected dissertation on the philosophical and music‐theoretical background to Schenker's work, Barbara Whittle (1993: 321–2) suggests that it was because of his lack of success as measured in money, fame, or prestigious appointments that Schenker came to see himself in terms of the Romantic mythology according to which geniuses (p.270) are unrecognised in their own time. ‘To have endured the most extreme poverty was a blessing for me’, he told von Cube in 1928, continuing: ‘I am very proud to have thus been marked out by fate. For it became my happy duty to set a spiritual plus against the material minus…. Only by serving the spirit faithfully and selflessly was I able to find what was granted from above for me to find’.35 (He even remarked in the same letter that his death would be the ‘first precondition’ for the wider success of his theories.) Schenker's followers were also inclined to see him this way, and the result is that—as William Drabkin (2002: 835) and Ludwig Holtmeier (2004: 248) have both noted—there is still a tendency to underestimate the extent of Schenker's impact while he was alive, not only in Vienna but beyond.
One way to dispel this impression is simply to flick, or rather scroll, through Schenker's scrapbook in the Oster Collection (OC 2): his compositions, arrangements, performances, editions, and publications received a significant amount of critical attention, mainly though not exclusively in Austrian and German newspapers and periodicals. (Contrary to Schenker's allegations against Universal Edition, the scrapbook contains some handsome display advertisements for his publications.) There were in the first place supporters who published sometimes extensive profiles of Schenker and his work, in particular Walter Dahms and Otto Vrieslander, with both of whom Schenker was in close personal contact. Dahms, who was the author of books on Bach, Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn, is represented in the scrapbook by a series of articles and reviews published between 1913 and 1928: he is a proselytiser rather than an independent commentator, and the same might be said of Vrieslander, who is represented by publications from 1922 on. (As we saw in chapter 3, the one exception to this concerned Schenker's politics.) Then there are commentators who retain a greater critical distance from Schenker's work while at the same time strongly supporting its general thrust: the most obvious example is August Halm, who maintained an extensive correspondence with Schenker—they never met—but, unlike Dahms or Vrieslander, was a theorist of distinction in his own right. (In chapter 3 I also quoted his sharp criticism of Schenker's political views; he could be equally outspoken about Schenker's musical judgements, writing of Schenker's critique of Berlioz in Tonwille 5 that ‘such derogatory condemnation is not permissible without specifying precisely what is meant…. And even then one should consider whether the same clarity cannot be achieved with less harsh language.’)36 Perhaps more telling, however, is the sheer number (p.271) of references to Schenker—often carefully underlined—in articles on a variety of general musical matters ranging from analytical method, performance, and the phenomenology of music to Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and more contemporary composers. There are even two instances of the word Urlinie finding its way into journalistic criticism: in 1925 ‘E.B.’ praises a Philharmonic concert on the grounds that ‘what Heinrich Schenker calls the Urlinie of an artwork, the unity of theme and compositional structure, was grasped by the conductor’, while in 1928 a review of Krenek's Jonny spielt auf invokes the Urlinie as a symbol of the highbrow concerns of contemporary German culture (‘here flowers still a knowledge of the Urlinie of all music, the secret of its origin’).37
But it is the many reviews of his editions and theoretical works that give the fullest insight into Schenker's reputation during his lifetime. In some ways they are as variable and contradictory as the reviews of Schenker's compositions I consigned to a note in chapter 1, particularly in terms of the responses to Schenker's polemics. ‘H.L.’, writing in 1903 about Ornamentik, sees Schenker's attacks on Bülow and other virtuosos as ‘healthy sideswipes’ adding to the enjoyment of the work (and continues, ‘seldom does a knight of the musical spirit, armed to the teeth with knowledge and true love, grasp his problem so well and with such daring’); a decade later, Bruno Schrader says that Schenker ‘should be thanked for his bravery in taking a stance against the false teachings of the Leipzig music‐prophet Riemann’.38 For other critics, by contrast, Schenker's polemics are ‘overly sharp’; Hermann Wetzel, who in 1909 complained of Ornamentik that the polemics are ‘too heated’ (adding ‘he works himself up where only the driest, calmest presentation can convince’), explained five years later in a review of the op. 109 Erläuterungsausgabe that ‘it is not the fact that Schenker criticizes which I dislike, it is rather the hurtful, personally agitated tone’.39 At the same time, critics saw Schenker's unwillingness to recognise the value of others' work as the flip side of his deep personal commitment to music. (p.272) I have already quoted Halm's statement (from 1917) that Schenker ‘did not practice polemics out of personal inclination’ but rather let himself be ‘destined for such a duty by the crisis’, and there are other, similar views: an unidentified reviewer of the ‘Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue’ edition complains about Schenker's dismissive attitude to artists whose Bach ‘transcriptions’ he does not like, but goes on to ask how one could hold this against someone who fights for his beliefs, and whose only reward is that others take what he has done and proclaim it as their own.40 This review, undated but probably from 1910, is one of the first to present Schenker in the light of a missionary, a tendency that grows stronger with the passage of time, especially among his closest adherents: in 1926 Dahms justified Schenker's polemics by likening him to ‘a lonely individual who hears no echo of his voice’ and hence shouts louder and louder, going on to describe him as ‘a spiritual leader’ who ‘moves towards the light’,41 while I have already cited the memorial article in which Viktor Zuckerkandl refers to the Schenkerian campaign against falsifications of art as ‘almost a religious war’.
In any case, the disagreements mask basic responses to Schenker's work that are more or less ubiquitous. Even those who have serious reservations about Schenker's work recognise its seriousness of purpose and attention to detail—particularly in relation to the Bach editions, the Erläuterungsausgaben, and the Ninth Symphony monograph, which appear to have been the key works in the forging of his reputation. Indeed, an anonymous reviewer of the Ninth Symphony monograph, writing in 1913, goes as far as to say that it is high time the universities recognised Schenker and offered him an appointment: this anticipation of Furtwängler's letter to Karpath twenty years later, which I mentioned in the introduction, was no doubt prompted by general knowledge of Schenker's failure to obtain a position at the Conservatory.42 As it happens, an article mentioning this, which dates from the previous year, appears on the preceding page of the scrapbook.43 And the fact that this was reported in the German press strongly suggests that Schenker's profile was higher than his mythologisation as unrecognised genius would have it. At the same time, his exclusion from the academic establishment became an essential element of that myth. Equally characteristic then is the claim that, as Snarrenberg (1997: xvi) puts it, Guido Adler (who as I mentioned in chapter 2 occupied the chair in music at the University of Vienna from 1898 to 1927) ‘did what he could to check Schenker's influence, even for a time keeping Schenker's writings out of his seminar reading‐room’; (p.273) this is based on two of Schenker's diary entries for 1914, entries that might alternatively be read as reflecting Schenker's readiness to buy into conspiracy theories—or to contribute to the process of his own mythologisation.44
Ayotte's (2004) research guide lists twenty‐four articles in German during the ten years after Schenker's death, as well as four in English. But the twenty‐four articles in German are not evidence of broad dissemination: they were all published in Der Dreiklang: Monatsschrift für Musik, a short‐lived journal coedited during 1937–38 by Schenker's former pupils Oswald Jonas and Felix Salzer.45 Conceived in order ‘to venerate Schenker's memory and interpret his work’,46 Der Dreiklang contained published and unpublished articles and extracts by Schenker, articles by members of the Schenker circle (but mainly Jonas), and—in several issues—‘Aphorisms’ culled from such writers as Goethe, Kant, Schopenhauer, and Schenker himself. If this last feature harks back to the Vermischtes section of the Tonwille and Meisterwerk volumes, the title of the first article in Der Dreiklang I makes an explicit link with Tonwille‐1: written by Salzer, it is entitled ‘Die historische Sendung Heinrich Schenkers’ (The historical mission of Heinrich Schenker), and in some ways anticipates the postwar Americanisation of Schenker—to which I shall soon turn. Salzer presents Schenker as reformulating nineteenth‐century musical insight in the form of twentieth‐century theory (the word he uses is Lehre or teaching), and thus acting as a bridge between one artistic epoch and another: even if we live in a period of decline, Salzer argues, such periods can give rise to highly original artists, and there are those who have been inspired by Schenker's own work to anticipate a new flowering of tonality (Salzer 1989/1937: 8–11). Such relatively optimistic views were not exceptional even among Schenker's closest supporters: a 1914 article by Dahms, which lampoons the idea of musical ‘progress’, nevertheless concludes that ‘our music of today‐… is only an episode. We shall gain a better music’, while in 1920 Halm says that he does not share Schenker's pessimism, but adds that his views should be taken seriously and draws the obvious parallel with Spengler.47
(p.274) The conventional Schenkerian history has it that only in its Americanised form was it possible for Schenker's theory to enter the academy. Yet there was more penetration of German‐speaking musical academia than the mythology allows, both during Schenker's lifetime and up to the Second World War. We know from the documentation of Schenker's dispute with Universal Edition that university music departments at Berlin, Bonn, Breslau, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Göttingen, Halle, Königsberg, Leipzig, and Munich all took out subscriptions to Tonwille during 1924–25 (T2 viii). And as early as 1927, on the occasion of his pupil Reinhard Oppel's appointment to the Leipzig Conservatory, Schenker wrote to Felix‐Eberhard von Cube that ‘the effect continues to broaden: Edinburgh (also New York), Leipzig, Stuttgart, Vienna (myself and Weisse), Vrieslander in Munich (he is writing a long monograph about me), yourself in Duisburg, and Halm, etc., etc.’48 (It is at this point that Schenker makes one of his most celebrated remarks, though usually only the first sentence is quoted: ‘All this shows that, in spite of Schoenberg and Hindemith, the hour has struck for us, too, but this hour will last an eternity because it bears the truth, not merely a fashion. Oppel will receive 700 marks for twenty hours of teaching; the Vienna Academy certainly does not pay as well.’) Then there was Jonas at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin between 1930 and 1934, while in 1931 von Cube and Moriz Violin established a private but short‐lived Schenker‐Institut in Hamburg.49 A second Schenker‐Institut was set up at the New Vienna Conservatory in 1935, the year of Schenker's death; it lasted until 1938, when Jonas, Salzer, and Violin all emigrated in the wake of Hitler's annexation of Austria.50 (That was also why Der Dreiklang folded.)
The real issue, as Holtmeier (2004) has made clear, is not so much that Schenker's ideas never became established, but that they were eliminated during the Third Reich, along with so much of the rest of the predominantly Jewish music‐theoretical tradition. In 1934 von Cube was forced out of his position at Hamburg, apparently by those who saw Schenker's theory as ‘Jewish propaganda’.51 In 1939 the theory (p.275) was held up as an example of Jewish intellectualism by the influential musicologist Wolfgang Boetticher, and—as I said—the following year Schenker was listed in Stengel and Gerigk's Lexicon der Juden in der Musik, with the comment that his ‘basic ideas were widespread’ (Berry 2004: 435–6); Schenker was named, too, in the 1944 book Judentum und Musik by Karl Blessinger, who spoke disparagingly of his ‘fabulous’ Urlinie (Holtmeier 2004: 251). And after the war, Schenker's rabid nationalism worked against the kind of rehabilitation Schoenberg enjoyed: as Holtmeier puts it (249), ‘Thanks to the Third Reich, Schenker the politician was able to wipe out Schenker the theorist from public awareness in Germany’. In Vienna, Franz Eibner put on seminars and courses on Schenker during the 1950s and 1960s at both the old and the new conservatories, while Jonas taught on a visiting basis up to the 1970s (Fink 2003). But in Germany, partly as a result of sustained hostility from the highly influential Carl Dahlhaus, there was a lengthy hiatus in the study of Schenker. It would be fair to say that until 1991, when Martin Eybl was appointed to the University of Vienna, the only postwar Schenkerian scholars in the German‐speaking countries to attract international attention were Hellmut Federhofer (a Jonas pupil who started his academic career in Graz but later moved to Mainz), and perhaps the less prolific Eibner and Karl‐Otto Plum.52 It is only very recently, under the influence of younger scholars such as Holtmeier, that this situation has begun to change.
Although there was one Schenker adherent in the United Kingdom (John Petrie Dunn, who taught at Edinburgh University, was not a pupil but had studied Schenker's writings), the exodus to the United States prompted by the Anschluss meant that the story of the posthumous Schenker was an almost exclusively North American one—at least until around 1980, when Schenkerian analysis first became established in other English‐speaking countries, particularly the United Kingdom, and after that in parts of continental Europe.53 William Rothstein's 1986 article ‘The Americanization of Heinrich Schenker’ is the classic overview of the story of the American reception—or transformation—of Schenker, while an ongoing series of studies by David Carson Berry (2002 and 2003) is filling in many of the details, so my summary of its externals can be brief. I mentioned that a connection had been forged with America through Schenker's pupil (from 1912) Hans (p.276) Weisse: while still in Vienna he taught a number of American students (including William Mitchell), but the beginning of Schenkerian analysis in North America is usually traced to 1931, when Weisse was offered a post at the David Mannes Music School in New York, since 1953 the Mannes College of Music.54 (That explains why Fünf Urlinie‐Tafeln—which Weisse used in his teaching—was copublished by the Mannes School.) Weisse would no doubt have had more influence on the subsequent history of Schenkerian theory had he not died in 1940, but he was replaced at the Mannes School by Felix Salzer, who had studied with both Weisse and Schenker (and also, like Weisse, with Guido Adler at the University of Vienna): Salzer's Structural Hearing: Tonal Coherence in Music, published in English in 1952, remained until the 1970s the principal English‐language source for Schenkerian theory (or at least Salzerian theory, which was not always the same thing). Prior to this, in 1938, Oswald Jonas, himself the author of a German‐language introduction to Schenker's theory,55 had emigrated to the United States, teaching from 1941 at Roosevelt University (Chicago) and later at the Riverside campus of the University of California—as had Jonas's pupil Ernst Oster, who taught at the New England Conservatory and subsequently at Mannes College. (By this time Salzer had moved on to Queens College, since 1961 part of the City University of New York, which together with Mannes is the leading international centre for work on Schenker today.) And of course the fact that so many of these obtained positions in American higher education made it possible for them in turn to train the next generation: Weisse, who as I mentioned had taught Mitchell before leaving Vienna, taught Adele Katz, for example, while John Rothgeb studied with Jonas, Carl Schachter with Salzer, and Edward Laufer with Oster.
While this network of first‐ and second‐generation pupils represented a strategic base for the development of Schenkerian theory in North America, a key role in its dissemination was played by Allen Forte, who himself taught at Mannes College from 1957 to 1959 before moving to Yale University; together with Milton Babbitt, of whom more shortly, it was Forte who was ‘instrumental in bringing Schenker firmly into the Ivy League’ (Rothstein 1990a: 199). And more than anyone else, it was Forte who transformed Schenkerian theory from something with the qualities of an at times embattled religious sect into (p.277) a contemporary American college subject, combining it with his own approach to atonal music to produce the still more or less standard ‘Schenker and sets’ conformation of academic music theory. As Patrick McCreless has argued (1997: 22), Schenkerian theory ‘helped the theory teacher transform into a music theorist’: one reason for its success, then, was its efficacy in furthering a post‐war institutional agenda, the transformation of what had been seen as essentially service teaching into a research‐based discipline. The integration of Schenkerian theory into American higher education also disposed of the traditional idea that it had to be taught through a one‐to‐one apprenticeship (hence the genealogies through which the older Schenkerians, like concert pianists, were identified by reference to their teachers—preferably with an unbroken line of succession going back to Schenker himself). Again this development is associated with Forte, culminating in the Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis, which I have already mentioned.
I referred to the ‘external’ story of the posthumous Schenker: it is the language of American Schenkerian theory that provides the ‘internal’ story. In his ‘Americanization’ article, Rothstein (1990a: 198) compared the rhetoric of the founding fathers of Schenkerian analysis: he characterised Schenker's own tone as that of an Old Testament prophet, Jonas's as poetic and philosophical, Salzer's as authoritative and kindly, and Forte's as that of the ‘cool taxonomist’. (It is only fair to Rothstein to point out that he characterises his own characterisations as ‘oversimplified’.) He also told the full, or nearly full, story of the notorious appendix 4 of Free Composition, consisting as I have already said of the polemical and mystical passages from Der freie Satz which Jonas and later Oster excised in order to protect Schenker's reputation in American academia, and which after much argument were finally included but not reinstated to their original locations—which, of course, meant that Schenker's critics could find all the most incriminating passages in one place, without the trouble of reading the rest of the book. (What Rothstein for some reason did not mention is the excluded exclusions.) Most telling, however, is the change that was wrought in Schenker's language by English and more particularly American translators—and specifically Oster, whose rendering of Der freie Satz comes complete with a two‐way dictionary of terms (appendix 5) and is described by Drabkin as ‘the ultimate court of appeal in disputes over Schenkerian terminology in the English language’ (in MM1 xiii). This story has been told by Robert Snarrenberg (1994, 1996): in a nutshell, Snarrenberg shows how, in the decade or so following his death, Schenker's own biologically oriented terminology, in which the central metaphor is one of procreating, was systematically replaced by a terminology closer to that of architecture or engineering, in which the central metaphor—a metaphor nowadays so familiar that we hardly recognise it as a metaphor at all—is that of structure. As Schenker's verbs turn into nouns, Snarrenberg (1996: 328) argues, so process is transformed into product: (p.278) the dynamic terminology of ‘earlier’ and ‘later’ that Schenker uses to characterise the layers of his analyses is replaced by a static vocabulary of ‘higher’ and ‘lower’, and the emphasis is transferred from synthesis (in essence an idealised compositional act) to analytical reduction.
But in linguistic terms, the most extreme appropriation of Schenkerian theory must be that which took place at Princeton University from around 1960 under the presiding genius of Milton Babbitt, who had taken private lessons with Roger Sessions—hardly the conventional route into the Schenkerian world—but was also a personal friend of such insiders as Jonas and Oster. (Despite this, Babbitt comments [2003: 478], he ‘was necessarily an outsider, perhaps even a suspect outsider’.) Schenkerian theory formed a complement to Babbitt's theory of combinatorial serialism in much the same way as with Forte's Schenker and sets: the aim was to retain the central insights of Schenkerian theory, but to express them in a terminology that was both more rigorous and more internally consistent than Schenker's. Among the directions opened up by this agenda were computer implementation of the theory and generalising it beyond the specific repertory in terms of which Schenker had formulated it (Michael Kassler's and Benjamin Boretz's doctoral dissertations, completed respectively in 1967 and 1970, illustrate these approaches). Just to say this, of course, is to demonstrate the distance between Schenker's Vienna and Babbitt's Princeton. Perhaps predictably, the ‘neo‐Schenkerian’ project of decoupling Schenker's system from the ‘chord of nature’ and the entire repertorial value system it supported met with a great deal of hostility from the first‐ and second‐generation Schenkerians, who like most emigré communities proved fiercely loyal to their traditions: as may be seen from the way Oster (1960) responded to Roy Travis's (1959) application of the idea of prolongation to nontriadic harmonies, the dropping somewhere in mid‐Atlantic of Schenker's biological language, metaphysics, and German suprematism might be one thing, but analysing Le sacre du printemps alongside the German masterworks was quite another. Yet there were distinct points of contact between Schenker's own approach and the academic milieu of post‐1945 American music theory: precisely the tendencies I emphasised in my account of Der freie Satz—its concern with and indeed delight in autonomous systems, its willingness to subordinate empirical realities to a higher conception, as well as what Kerman calls its ‘clear method with an objective feel to it’ (1985: 82)—facilitated its assimilation within an extremely non‐Schenkerian world in which the sciences were valued above the arts, and in which compositional authenticity was identified with a hard‐core modernism based on systematic approaches sometimes unhampered by any concern for perceptual constraints.
Schenkerian theory might be said to have reached a fully comfortable accommodation with the American academy only as a new generation of native Schenkerians reached positions of academic power. (p.279) Or perhaps not a fully comfortable accommodation with the academy: Rothstein (who studied with both Oster and Forte) wrote in his 1986 article that while the academy might have accepted Schenkerian theory, its acceptance ‘of Schenkerians themselves is still in part an uneasy one’56 (it is at this point that he charts the evolution of Schenkerian rhetoric from Schenker to Forte, the point being that the tone of the ‘cool taxonomist’ is that of the academy). One symptom of this discomfort is the tension in editions and translations of Schenker's writings between the furtherance of a cause and accepted scholarly practice, as represented by the difference between Jonas's bowdlerised and teleologically annotated texts on the one hand and the editorially cutting‐edge teamwork of Drabkin's Meisterwerk and Tonwille translations on the other; a small but telling sign of the transition from the former to the latter is the disappearance of the once obligatory (and selective) list of Schenker's works at the end of each volume, last seen in Irene Schreier Scott's 2000 translation of Die Kunst des Vortrags. More generally there is a tension between what is sometimes called ‘Schenkerism,’ the focus of a community of believers, and the scholarly practice of Schenker studies: even today, the Schenker symposia held at the Mannes School of Music retain a certain ritualistic quality uncharacteristic of other musicological conferences. But a particularly explicit demonstration of what is at issue was provided by the publication in a 1989 issue of the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy of an article entitled ‘A Schenker Pedagogy’ by Gregory Proctor and Lee Riggins.
‘It may well be that the production of a good Schenkerian analysis requires an artistic upbringing’, Proctor and Riggins argued (1989: 21), ‘but if the behaviour belongs to the academy, then it can be taught, it can be good, without requiring or eliciting metaphysical sensibilities…. What we are proposing is the demystification of Schenker’. In an uncharacteristically vitriolic letter to the journal, published the following year, Rothstein responded (1990b: 298): ‘I believe—and this is really the point of my “Americanization”—that my kind of Schenkerian pedagogy is in conflict with the American university system as it is currently structured’. What matters to Proctor and Riggins, Rothstein complains (295), ‘is how well a given analysis conforms to a predetermined theory, not whether it does justice to a piece of music’; Schenkerian theory is made to fit the educational system, in other words Americanised, through ‘jettisoning all ambiguities, all internal inconsistencies, all that arises from analysis rather than from theory, and all that is not narrowly technical’. Judged by such standards, Rothstein adds, ‘Mr Schenker himself was a woefully poor student of “Schenkerian analysis”’, freely breaking his own rules when they contradicted his musical intuitions; by contrast, Proctor and Riggins's ‘preconceived idea of what they will find easily blinds them to what actually occurs in (p.280) the music. Theory wins, music loses’ (295, 297). The point I want to make is the one I made in relation to Stifter's Der Nachsommer: these are in essence just the same objections as have been levelled against Der freie Satz, only now magnified to the nth degree. It is not surprising then that Rothstein (297) reserves study of Free Composition for advanced students, while the final sentence of Proctor and Riggins's article reads ‘most of all, we recommend that Free Composition be not hidden from students’.
It is telling, though under the circumstances also rather ironic, that Rothstein characterises ‘Americanization’ in very much the way Schenker himself would have, or any other German cultural conservative of the period up to the Second World War: Rothstein's reference to turning Schenkerian analysis into ‘a streamlined technology—very much in the American spirit’ (1990b: 295) evokes precisely the Gesellschaft values of which America was seen as the epitome, as in the Bösendorfer/Steinway dichotomy I discussed in chapter 3. And it is the American assimilation of Schenker that gave rise to the idea of ‘structural hearing’ (the title of Salzer's 1952 book): a model of how music should be heard and understood that not only carries a great deal of ideological baggage with it (Subotnik 1988), but might also be seen as a musical equivalent to architectural modernism of the Bauhaus/Le Corbusier type. The ideal that inspires structural listening is transparency: heard right, a musical composition reveals its structure in the same way as a Bauhaus building. But nothing could be further from the Viennese modernism of Loos, the ‘discreet’ exterior of whose houses concealed rather than disclosed the private spaces that lay within, or of Schoenberg and Schenker, for both of whom truth lay concealed behind appearances.57 The ‘better listening’ Schenker called for (T1 119)—what Furtwängler called ‘long‐range hearing58‐… applied over great spans to fundamental relationships that often spread across many pages’ (1985/1954: 3) —was less a matter of total disclosure than of orientation, as Schenker makes clear when he goes on to speak of the need to ‘guide the ear down those paths along which our great masters have created such novel and ingenious varieties and prolongations of the fundamental laws’. For Schenker, the idea of concealment, which I traced in chapter 4, extended into broader aspects of interpretation and performance, as illustrated for example by his attacks in the Ninth Symphony monograph on the ‘clarification‐mania’ which led Wagner to clarify through reorchestration what Beethoven had artfully camouflaged (p.281) (BNS 86, 70–1). This kind of clarity, whether Wagnerian, French,59 or American, belongs to a tradition of modernism quite distinct from that of Loos, Schoenberg, and Schenker: the fact that there are such distinct traditions of modernism was one of the main points I was attempting to establish in chapter 2. And my purpose in providing this brief narrative of Schenker's posthumous assimilation to a very non‐Viennese kind of modernism has been to provide a point of departure for what might be called postmodern approaches to Schenker—approaches that turn out be at least as close to the historical Schenker, or maybe I should say one historical Schenker, as the modernist orthodoxy of Schenkerian theory.
Korsyn's image, to which I referred in chapter 1, of a deconstructionist Schenker, who destabilises the opposition between the organic and the mechanical through a faultless application of Derridean technique, may be simply anachronistic (or not so simply, given Nietzsche's place in the genealogy of deconstruction). But then there is Morgan's image, which I have previously mentioned, of Schenker as ‘the consummate cultural “Grenzjude”’—an image that evokes Jacques Le Rider's (1993: 204) characterisation of the assimilated Jew as ‘the prototype of the postmodern self’. And Rothstein's reaction against Proctor and Riggins's Americanised modernism exemplifies an increasingly widespread image of Schenkerian analysis that might at least loosely be termed postmodern. Kofi Agawu (1989: 295), for instance, succinctly replicates Rothstein's complaints: ‘neo‐Schenkerian efforts‐… have reduced away the exciting tension in his analytical method. To put it crudely, we are being taught how to make grammatically correct statements rather than interesting or profound ones’. Writers such as Peter Smith (1995: 277) and Joseph Lubben (1995: chap. 2), too, have celebrated Schenker's inconsistencies, his self‐contradictions, his preparedness to sacrifice neatness of graphing to the rich messiness of musical particularity. Nor is this just a matter of celebration: in the last few years there has been a movement, largely driven by Lubben, to model Schenkerian analysis more on Tonwille than Der freie Satz, in other words to substitute a diverse and less systematised analytical practice for the perfectly ordered, clockwork‐precise world of Schenker's last work. If, as Rothstein complained, Schenkerian analysis of the Proctor‐Riggins variety encourages a top‐down approach where you know what you are going to find before you have looked for it, then it is more than anything the archetypal, multiple‐choice Ursatz that encourages (p.282) this. (Eugene Narmour  said as much in his once influential book Beyond Schenkerism.) And the analytical focus on the Ursatz tends to direct attention to the most abstract and least audible—perhaps least useful—level of musical structure, that of an entire movement. In the late 1980s, David Neumeyer (1987a, 1987b) put forward a number of commonsense proposals for relaxing the archetypes—by allowing for ascending Urlinien or expanding the Ursatz to three parts—but it can be argued that these tinker with the problem, basically by introducing an additional remote middleground layer, rather than address it head on. In this section, then, I consider some proposals for postmodernising Schenker's system, so to speak, through overhauling and recategorising the archetypes, if not doing away with them altogether.
If this reaction against the particular kind of modernism represented by Der freie Satz (and even more so Free Composition) is not so much a reaction against Schenker as a siding with the middle‐period Schenker against the late—by which I also mean posthumous—Schenker, then the same might be said of something that penetrates deep into the dynamics of Schenkerian analysis. As Richard Cohn (1992b) tells the story, I take some of the blame for what happened through an obvious misreading of the idea of ‘tension’ to which Schenker frequently refers. In a contribution to a 1989 colloquium entitled ‘The future of theory’, I cited Schenker's reference to ‘the tension of musical coherence’ (FC I 6) as evidence of what I saw as an analytical turn towards issues of tension, conflict, and disunity, adding ‘maybe it has taken deconstructionism to sensitize us to phrases like this in Schenker's writings’ (Cook 1989a: 72). As Cohn pointed out, and as anybody who knew anything about German idealist philosophy would have known, this is plain wrong: Schenker means ‘tension’ (Spannung) in the sense of overcoming conflict in order to create a higher synthesis, that is to say of the Hegelian dialectic. Cohn quotes another passage, this time from Meisterwerk 2, which makes it clear: ‘The conceptual unity of a linear progression signifies a conceptual tension between the beginning and the end of the progression: the primary note is to be retained until the point at which the concluding note appears. This tension alone engenders musical coherence’.60
This is the basis of Schenker's theory of dissonance, the central means through which music is constituted as culture rather than nature. The hearing of a dissonance, Schenker says, is accompanied by ‘the covert retention, by the ear, of the consonant point of departure…. It is as though the dissonance would always carry with it the impression of its consonant origin’, and he adds that the consonance ‘always stands at its [the dissonance's] cradle’ (C2 57–9). To translate this into Husserlian terminology (and it is here that Schenker's thought (p.283) comes close to Husserl's), it is the unified consciousness of retention and protention that defines a musically meaningful entity, whether at the level of a single phrase or an entire movement. We are in fact talking about no more and no less than what in Tonwille 7, in the course of his analysis of Beethoven's Sonata op. 57, Schenker calls ‘German synthesis—synthesis pure and simple!’ (T2 54–5): he goes on to define this as ‘the binding together of a tonal whole’ by means of what he terms ‘the lineage of a tone’, the Urlinie, the Ursatz (then a very new term), prolongation, harmony, diminution, and registers. It comes as no surprise to find in this same passage the reference to the tonal body having ‘boundaries that arise from within, from its soul, and are not given to it from without’ which I quoted in chapter 3, as well as mention of the ‘miraculous, secret way’ in which the synthesis extends to the piano itself.
As this already makes clear, Schenker applied the same fundamental insight not only to the passage of time, or the relationship between consonance and dissonance, but more generally to the relationships between structural levels. Speaking of the act of composition, and echoing his earlier reference to the dissonance's cradle, Schenker writes in Der freie Satz that ‘the fundamental structure‐… accompanies each transformation in the middleground and a foreground, as a guardian angel watches over a child’.61 And there is no contradiction between my calling this the fundamental insight of Schenkerian theory and my saying the same of axial causality in chapter 1,62 for they are in reality the same thing: prolongation, as I said there, works axially rather than laterally, or maybe one should say that for Schenker axial causes have lateral effects. All this, incidentally, explains why it is a mistake to place too much weight on apparent anticipations of Schenkerian analysis in terms of graphic reduction technique: what matters is the larger framework of axial causality or prolongation which informs such techniques. Indeed, Schenker implied as much when, in Der freie Satz, he emphasised the desirability of pursuing graphic analysis as far as the middleground or background, and added that in order to do this one ‘need only employ the familiar method of reducing more extensive diminutions, as taught in textbooks and schools’ (FC I 26).
It is then abundantly clear that the idea of tension, and everything Schenker draws from it, has nothing to do with postmodern celebrations (p.284) of conflict or difference. I was at least in good company—Agawu (1989: 290) quoted the same passage about ‘the tension of musical coherence’ a few pages before referring to the ‘exciting tension’ in his method—but Cohn's point was a larger one. Though what he called the ‘paradigm of constructive conflict’—the idea of interplay between conflicting structural elements—was quite foreign to Schenker's way of thinking, Cohn argued, it is commonplace in many of the writers who make up the contemporary Schenkerian orthodoxy: Cohn cited David Beach, John Rothgeb, and Carl Schachter as theorists making use of this paradigm (and if he had been writing more recently, he could have cited any number of others, from Leslie Blasius [1996: 55] to Lawrence Kramer ). To illustrate the point from an article I have already quoted, after Schachter criticises the later Schenker's catchall category of ‘illusory keys at the foreground level’, he sets out a taxonomy of key types and criteria for identifying structural modulations which he then applies to Cherubino's arietta ‘Voi che sapete’ from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro: ‘To concentrate on background continuity to the exclusion of foreground disruptions’, he concludes, ‘is to produce a skewed picture of a piece or passage’ (Schachter 1999b: 157). What Schachter is advocating, then, is the theorising of conflict between different layers of the music, and in this way he shows—as he had already written elsewhere, with specific reference to Der freie Satz—that Schenker's concept of coherence is not one ‘that results from uniformity but one that is based on the interaction between contrasting elements’ (1981: 120).
That is a telling remark, linking with the way I characterised Schenker's project in chapters 2 and 3: as a quest for unity through the reconciliation, or sublation, of contrasting elements, in contrast to the standardised approach ‘that understands unity only as uniformity’ (as Schenker put it in ‘Weg mit dem Phrasierungsbogen’).63 Perhaps the most intriguing statement of this idea comes in the op. 101 Erläuterungsausgabe, the work in which the Urlinie first appears: ‘no idea can come naked into life’, Schenker proclaims, explaining that ‘even if everything‐… derived from a single, all‐fundamental reason for being, it nonetheless has a life of its own which we immediately confront in the veiled, illusive present, and which is there to drive the fundamental idea, so to speak, into the background’.64 (This is as much as to say that there is an inherent tension between the idea and its realisation.) And it is easy to multiply references on Schenker's part to this more dynamic kind of kind of unity. In Harmonielehre, for instance, he writes that ‘the independence of different counterpoints results in the creation of a superior kind of complex. This very friction, which is caused by independent voice‐leading, and the psychological labor required to overcome it reveal to our mind the goal of unity’ (H 160). In Kontrapunkt (p.285) 2, referring to the combination of species, he expresses it more concisely: ‘unity is revealed only through the act of conquering the contrast’ (C2 191). Indeed, one might see the dialectical conception as built into the very structure of Neue Musikalische Theorien und Phantasien: first the ‘independent spheres’ of harmony and counterpoint are outlined in succession, and then their synthesis in the higher unity of free composition.65 But before coming back to the role Schenker may have played in Cohn's paradigm of constructive conflict, I want to consider the area in which it has perhaps been most influential: the analysis of musical form.
What is at issue here is essentially the rehabilitation of certain aspects of what Schenker saw as ‘false theory’ and hence attempted to eliminate from Der freie Satz. I have already quoted Schenker's rejection of ‘those definitions of song form which take the motif as their starting point’, but his denial is a much more general one: ‘All forms appear in the ultimate foreground’, he writes, ‘but all of them have their origin in, and derive from, the background’ (FC I 130). In short, though Schenker refers to chapter 5 of Der freie Satz as setting out a ‘new theory of form’ (FC I 130), his basic position appears to be that there can in reality be no such thing. What are traditionally called forms are epiphenomena, simply the outcomes of deeper processes, the projection of background and middleground on the foreground: you cannot theorise them in their own right. ‘It is precisely because I derive the forms from the background and middleground’, says Schenker, ‘that I have the advantage of brevity in presentation’—and this way, Schenker adds, he has delivered ‘the “Essay on a New Theory of Form” which I have promised for decades’. (This was no exaggeration: Schenker's first reference to it, in the Ninth Symphony monograph [BNS 4], went back more than thirty years.) The brevity of his presentation has not, however, satisfied his critics, starting with Oster, who inserted a four‐column footnote to amplify what he saw as Schenker's ‘sketchy and in a number of ways incomplete’ account of sonata form (FC I 139).
If, as I have argued, it is not helpful to see Der freie Satz as the summary and culminating point of Schenker's life's work, then it might be better to think of it rather like the broken watch in a detective story: the trace of an ongoing process, frozen in time by Schenker's death. How might the ideas in Der freie Satz have developed if Schenker had died not at sixty‐six but at seventy‐eight (as Charles Rosen once said he did [1998: 163])? Bent speculates that if Schenker had lived longer he might have ‘come forward with a new conceptualization of total structure—a (p.286) formulation that eradicated the old formal constructs, the formal models, just as it had earlier eradicated the old phraseological terminology’ (1991: 33). That would be consistent with the position I put forward in the previous paragraph, and Gianmario Borio concurs (2001: 271): one might argue, he says, that ‘the centrality of the Ursatz and its prolongations renders superfluous the need for a theory of form as a discipline distinct from counterpoint and harmony’. But then Borio makes the essential point: the fact is that Schenker nevertheless included a chapter on form in Der freie Satz (just, Borio adds , as did Salzer and Federhofer in their textbooks published shortly after the war). In this way, Borio concludes, however Schenker's theoretical claims might suggest the contrary, in practice he ‘did not consider the question of form to have faded away sic et simpliciter thanks to the theory of structural levels’. Borio accordingly sees the Der freie Satz chapter on form not as a kind of vestigial remnant of false theory, but rather as ‘a first draft (and not the definitive version) of a structural morphology’.
What might the definitive version of Schenker's structural morphology have looked like? This is probably not a sensible question, but recent Schenkerian debate about form has tended to revolve around the question of how far formal patterns—like modulation a significant component of perceptual experience—can be accommodated within voice‐leading structure. Perhaps the most substantial contribution to this debate is Charles Smith's (1996) proposal for a comprehensive reformulation of Schenker's theory as expressed in Der freie Satz, the basic objective of which is an analytical practice that ‘complements and enhances our formal intuitions instead of contradicting and replacing them’ (Smith 1996: 242). In reality, Smith argues, Schenker didn't ignore what Smith calls taxonomic form in the way that his theoretical formulations claimed: he used it as a criterion for the identification of the fundamental structure, but covertly and inconsistently (‘Regrettably’, Smith remarks , ‘Schenker's formal instincts were irregular at best’). But Smith's central point is not the importance of taxonomic form for identifying the fundamental structure: it is that the fundamental structure should itself embody the essential features of taxonomic form, thereby reconciling what have up to now been paradoxically seen as ‘two disconnected types of musical form’ (280). And he sets about this through a systematic analysis of the background structures found in Der freie Satz, showing how in practice such features as the three archetypal forms of the Ursatz, patterns of division, patterns of openness and closure within divided forms, and even major versus minor mode are all interrelated: many theoretically possible combinations are nonexistent or inherently contradictory. By eliminating the redundant combinations and classifying the others, Smith arrives at an expanded range of background structures, a new set of archetypes incorporating all these features: this gives rise to a modified Schenkerian practice in which ‘structural analysis consists of invoking a repertoire (p.287) of fundamental structures, each of which is derived from and signalled by a formal pattern—so that pieces with similar forms have similar structures’ (270).
Perhaps the most iconoclastic of Smith's proposals is the incorporation within the fundamental structure of keys other than tonic and dominant, such as the form‐defining cadence in the subdominant at bars 7–8 of ‘Wenn ich in deine Augen seh”, the fourth song of Schumann's Dichterliebe: figure 5.1 shows the relevant passage, while figures 5.2 and 5.3 respectively show Schenker's sketch from Der freie Satz, in which the subdominant is reduced to a surface feature, and Smith's (1996: 208) resketching ‘to reflect formal shape’. One might of course argue, as I did in relation to the ‘Ode to Joy’ tune, that the substance of Schenker's analysis lies in the discrepancy between graph and song. But that seems like sophistry in the face of Smith's obviously plausible argument that Schenker's downgrading of the subdominant cadence is not in reality a response to the music, but the consequence of an unnecessarily restrictive dogma: as Suzannah Clark (1999: 96–9) has explained, while in the terms of Harmonielehre such a feature might be seen as a ‘surrogate’ for the normative dominant, in those of Der freie Satz (FC I 112) it must be consigned to Schenker's catchall category of ‘illusory keys at the foreground level’. (The elimination of all structural
Of course, things are never quite this simple, and in the hands of someone like Carl Schachter the archetypal backgrounds can prove
My aim here is not on the basis of a single, perhaps untypical, example to construct a general argument against the extension of Schenkerian structures to incorporate so‐called exotic keys, but to suggest that the attempt to integrate the different elements of the music within a single summative representation may not necessarily be the most productive way in which to deploy Schenkerian techniques. In the case of ‘Wenn ich in deinen Augen seh”, the issue might be seen as turning on the distinction between the standard, dominant‐oriented expectation modelled by Schenker's analysis and the idiosyncratic (Schenker might have said ‘artificial’) subdominant structure modelled by Smith's. But the point is a more general one, and for once it is Adorno who expresses what is at issue most lucidly. Near the beginning of his 1969 radio talk ‘On the Problem of Musical Analysis’, Adorno (p.290) makes the familiar argument that analysis is not a matter of simply mapping music onto formal schemata: rather it involves what is going on ‘underneath these formal schemata’. For contrary to widespread belief, Adorno says,
even that which is going on underneath is not simply a second and quite different thing, but is in fact mediated by the formal schemata, and is partly, at any given moment, postulated by the formal schemata, while on the other hand it consists of deviations which in their turn can only be at all understood through their relationship to the schemata. (2002: 164–5)
The framework of this remark is, obviously, the Hegelian dialectic. Yet Adorno is not attempting to push through towards a resolution of the conflicted relationship between taxonomic and unique form: his concern seems to be with keeping the different elements mobile, keeping them in play. One might say that Adorno is interested in the interactive rather than the integrative dimension of sublation. (Or one might invoke Bakhtin and characterise this as a dialogical rather than dialectical relationship.) To borrow Cohn's word, Adorno's approach is not monist, in the way that Schenker's approach in Der freie Satz often seems to be—and certainly that Bent's predicted trajectory, if Schenker had lived longer, would have been. On the other hand, Adorno's description is very much in line with Schenker's earlier analytical practice, such as the Tonwille analysis of the Kaiserhymne. Lubben's readings of the Tonwille analyses in general might be described as antiteleological—that is, he focuses on precisely those aspects that were not carried over into Der freie Satz—and they revolve in particular around the interaction between voice‐leading structure and other parameters such as motivic organisation, melodic design, and rhythm: ‘The final configuration of the musical surface’, Lubben writes (1995: 25), is ‘seen as the result of the composer's arbitration of the conflict between these independent tendencies’. And on this basis he distinguishes two distinct senses in which Schenker used the term ‘synthesis’ in Tonwille: when he is analysing particular pieces, Lubben explains, it means this interaction between largely autonomous parameters (in the Tonwille 2 analysis of Beethoven's Sonata op. 2 no. 1 Schenker writes that ‘in the world of synthesis, the sense of interaction, of relationship, is decisive’),67 whereas when he is talking in more general theoretical terms it means (p.291)
We can return to the Kaiserhymne in order to make the point more concretely. As Lubben says (1995: 38–9), the main graph in the Tonwille analysis (fig. 5.4) does not look too different from Schenker's final practice, in particular because linear and harmonic structures are fully coordinated with one another (unlike in the 1923 analysis of the fifth of Bach's Twelve Little Preludes, which I referred to in chapter 1 and which Lubben analyses immediately before the Kaiserhymne). But as Lubben goes on to explain (44), Schenker had a different story to tell in the rest of his article, which ‘skewed his derivation graphs in an ad hoc manner, and included mutually contradictory descriptions of structure within a single analysis’. Lubben details the way Schenker describes motives, melodic design, and rhythm as independently converging on the highest note (the g2 which elicited Schenker's comparison between royal and artistic justice):68 this represents an arbitration between or coordination of autonomous elements. The mutual contradiction is evident in Schenker's second graph (fig. 5.5), the purpose of which is to show the functioning of what Schenker calls ‘superelevations’, that is rising and falling motions from one note of a triad to another. But the words above the stave (Brechung des G‐Klanges: Grundton—Terz—Quint—Oktav—Quint—Terz—Grundton) spell out an arpeggiation from g1 to g2 and back again which cannot be seen as deriving in any way from the analysis in the first graph: as Lubben puts it (42), this is ‘an alternative reading of the middleground’. Schenker, in short, is explaining the particular force of the g2 in terms of the interaction of two individually salient but mutually incompatible structural processes, as (p.292)
Schenker came back to the Kaiserhymne in Der freie Satz, and his analyses there illustrate Lubben's second kind of synthesis: all aspects of the music are as far as possible coordinated with the Ursatz—and where this is not possible, Schenker is inclined to pass over the offending feature in silence. As in the case of the ‘Ode to Joy’ and ‘Wenn ich in deinen Augen seh”, then, what is striking about the Der freie Satz graphs of the Kaiserhymne is what is absent from them, even the most detailed one (fig. 5.6). That the arpeggiated approach to the g2 from figure 5.5 has been eliminated will occasion no surprise. In its place is a series of asterisks outlining a series of ‘peak tones’ which, Schenker insists, must ‘under no circumstances’ be read as a genuine linear progression (FC I 101); this caution seems so gratuitous that one wonders whether Schenker intended it as an oblique cancellation of his earlier interpretation, even though the notes do not entirely coincide. The g2—in terms of both structural and social meaning the nub of Schenker's Tonwille analysis—appears in figure 5.6, but only as local detail; in the other graphs from Der freie Satz it appears in brackets, or not at all. In short, however we read it, figure 5.6 embodies a coherence
In the previous section I referred to the tension between dialectical thinking predicated on historical change and the unknowability of reality on the one hand and a Platonic or Leibnizian world of eternal ideas on the other. We can now see that this maps onto the tension between Schenker's two kinds of synthesis, between coherence as dynamic interaction and as static uniformity, between pluralism (again Cohn's word [1992b: 6]) and monism. A particularly telling example of such tension is a passage from ‘Rameau or Beethoven?’ in the final volume of Meisterwerk, where Schenker begins by setting out a dialectical point of view but then overrules it. He begins by explaining that ‘From the moment counterpoint entered into music‐… a tension between the horizontal and vertical axes has pervaded the history of musical composition’ (MM3 2), and goes on to complain that Rameau ‘reduced all musical phenomena to fundamental basses and the progressions proper to them’. But then, instead of showing how the horizontal and vertical axes may be thought together—instead of setting out his own approach to interaction and synthesis—he argues a position that is just as reductive, just as monist, as Rameau's, only the opposite one: ‘It is the temporal‐horizontal axis of musical motion, however one may otherwise explain its laws, that alone generates musical content and guarantees the latter's cohesiveness’.71 And it is the same monist compulsion that informs such rhapsodic tirades as the one that concludes ‘Das organische der Fuge’ (The organic nature of fugue): ‘there is only one path to progress, (p.294) leading into the depths, the blue depths!’ Schenker exclaims. ‘Return to the fathers, I cry, back to the masters, but now, finally, with an ear attuned to the depths!‐… With eyes and ears focused on the depths, let us bind eternity to eternities!’ (MM2 54)
There is something impossible about this monist compulsion, a point at which it begins ineluctably to unravel. In terms of logic, there is a basic contradiction within Schenkerian theory as embodied in Der freie Satz. It is a matter of principle that features of surface ‘design’—motives, themes, taxonomic forms, and the rest—can only be properly apprehended on the basis of the fundamental structure (that is what they are designs of, so to speak), yet in practice, as Smith pointed out, it is only on the basis of such features that you can decide what the fundamental structure is.72 In principle, that is to say, there can be no such thing as Schenkerian analysis, because there is no discovery procedure for the Urlinie. In terms of Schenkerian practice this is clearly an absurd position. Yet even in the 1920s, when his analytical practice embraced interaction and contradiction, Schenker had a weakness for fantastically sweeping pronouncements along such lines, as when he wrote of Beethoven's Sonata op. 2 no.1 that ‘nothing in the outward existence of the tones betrays the mysterious relationships that rule within, which no ear has yet received, no tongue named’ (T1 83). At such times the disconnect between a compulsively monist theory and a relatively pluralist practice seems complete. It is as if Schenker the theorist was in denial about Schenker the analyst.
And Lubben makes a telling observation that ties in with this. Even in Der freie Satz, he says, Schenker cannot avoid making occasional reference to the constructive impact of foreground features within the synthesis, as in the following two passages, both of which Lubben cites (and the second of which I have already quoted in part):
The content of the second and subsequent levels is determined by the content of the first level, but at the same time it is influenced by goals in the foreground, mysteriously sensed and pursued. (FC I 68)
It is impossible to present in specific and perceptible forms all the events which occur through the miraculous rapport of fundamental structure with foreground—especially in forms which would satisfy the superficial interest of the curious. A wonder remains a wonder and can be experienced only by those blessed with special perception. (FC I 27)
Even after making allowances for Schenker's usual profligacy with words like ‘mysterious’ and ‘miraculous’, there is something curiously Delphic about these utterances: why, Lubben asks (1995: 25), does Schenker insist on assigning this kind of interaction ‘to the realm of the (p.295) unfathomable’? I hope the answer is now obvious. These points of awkward mystification, of conceptual embarrassment, mark the fault‐lines between two incompatible modes of thought: on the one hand the dialectical thinking conveyed by the quotation from Adorno, which is predicated on an interaction between foreground and background; on the other the idealism of a Platonist or Leibnizian type that pervades Der freie Satz, according to which ideas are abstract and eternal, removed from the generations and their times.
There is in this way a double mismatch in Schenkerian theory: on the one hand between the monism of Schenker's theoretical proclamations and the relative pluralism of his analytical practice, and on the other between the relative monism of Schenker's analytical practice in the last phase of his work and his earlier, more pluralist practice. Schachter (1999b: 149) has observed that Schenker was in the habit of using the same word at different times to mean different things, usually without warning his readers of this (as just illustrated by his use of the term ‘synthesis’, and earlier of ‘prolongation’ and ‘motif’); there is a similar sense in which, as Lubben suggested in relation to the Kaiserhymne, the graphic representations in Tonwille and Der freie Satz can mean essentially different things even when they look the same. In this way, the paradigm of constructive conflict is not as foreign to Schenker's way of thinking as Cohn suggested. Cohn (1992b: 12–3) put it down to the influence of more recent theorists such as Meyer, Berry, Narmour, Epstein, or Lerdahl and Jackendoff, suggesting that Schenkerians were influenced by these theorists' approach to cross‐parametrical interaction even as they often criticised them: ‘Schenkerian theory has given way to post‐Schenkerian theory’, he writes (18–19), and for this reason ‘tonal theory cannot proceed in good health if it continues to be executed under the watchful eye of Schenker's ghost’. Given the extent to which the paradigm of constructive conflict is in fact anticipated in Schenker's analytical practice of the 1920s, however, it can be argued that what is needed is not so much exorcism as winding the clock back.
By itself, however, that may not be enough. The commentary in Schenker's Tonwille analysis of the Kaiserhymne makes it clear that the analysis revolves around the interaction of different parameters—Lubben's first kind of synthesis—but the main graph, at least, does not, and that is why Schenker's meaning has failed to communicate. As early as the ‘Eroica’ analysis from Meisterwerk 3, Drabkin has remarked, ‘The text functions more as an aid to understanding the graphs, rather than the other way round’ (MM3 x), and in the wake of Five Graphic Music Analyses a practice of Schenkerian reading developed for which the graph is the analysis. A Schenkerian—or post‐Schenkerian—analytical practice predicated on the interaction of different parameters or structural principles needs ways of representing such interaction more explicitly than the traditional Schenkerian graph, whether through the (p.296) incorporation of different elements within a single representation or through the use of complementary representations. For this reason, Smith's graph of ‘Wenn ich in deine Augen seh” need not be seen as a replacement for Schenker's, but can rather stand alongside it as a construal of the music from an alternative perspective, with difference between the two representing—to use Schenker's phrase once again—the tension of musical coherence.73 Rethinking the Ursatz‐dominated synthesis of Der freie Satz, in short, has opened up possibilities within a broadly Schenkerian practice, and in its relationship to other analytical approaches, that were progressively foreclosed during the final decade of Schenker's life. It seems somehow fitting to be arguing such a position in 2006, the year when, in much of the world, copyright in Schenker's writings expired.
The difference between monism and pluralism, to repeat Cohn's catchwords, is in part an epistemological one. In one of the passages Cohn quotes from Der freie Satz—a passage that stands wholly opposed to the alternative development of Schenkerian practice I have just outlined—Schenker writes: ‘The fundamental structure represents the totality. It is the mark of unity and, since it is the only vantage point from which to view that unity, prevents all false and distorted conceptions. In it resides the comprehensive perception’ (FC I 5). But this is ‘perception’ in a strongly idealist sense, as far removed as could possibly be from the kind of experimental psychology to which Korsyn tried to assimilate the Schenker of the 1890s:74 as Ruth Solie says (1980: 150), Schenker ‘predicated his notion of totality not upon perceptual mechanisms in the observer, but upon the work of art itself’. He says how the music is, not how it is heard (though, to repeat Rehding's phrase, from this follows the ‘implicit “ought”’ embodied in long‐range hearing). As we have seen, however, in order to defend Schenker's method against crass misunderstanding, present‐day Schenkerians such as Schachter have resorted to explanations that are perceptual in the quite different sense that they revolve round aural‐imaginative experiences, ‘hearings’ of the music prompted by analysis. So there is clearly another mismatch here, which I shall address by reference to a principled approach to Schenker's writings that might be considered postmodern in its ascription of meaning not to the music but rather to the act of interpreting it.
Earlier I presented Babbitt as the presiding genius of the neo‐Schenkerian project, based as it was on the translation of Schenker's insights into a rigorous and internally consistent metalanguage. It was Babbitt who famously, or infamously, wrote: ‘there is but one kind of language, one kind of method for the verbal formulation of “concepts”, whether in music theory or in anything else: “scientific” language and (p.297) is revealed“scientific” method’.75 But in some way that I suspect is fully intelligible only to those who have been long enough at Princeton, Babbitt simultaneously acted as godfather to an ostensively quite different analytical epistemology based on the construction of meaning through experience. In a review of Salzer's Structural Hearing, published in 1952, Babbitt raised and dealt with the familiar complaint that nobody hears Schenkerian backgrounds as follows:
the test of the validity of Schenker's conceptions is not whether ‘one hears that way’ but whether, after having become aware of these conceptions, the listener does not find that they may not only codify his previous hearing but extend and enrich his perceptive powers by making listening more efficient and meaningful, by ‘explaining’ the formerly ‘inexplicable’, and by granting additional significance to all degrees of musical phenomena.76
This is a rationale for the Schenkerian practice which, to misquote Schachter, mght be called hearing with eyes as well as ears.
The most searching development of this idea, however, may be found in a 1990 article by Joseph Dubiel (who took his doctorate at Princeton), entitled ‘“When You Are a Beethoven”: Kinds of Rules in Schenker's Counterpoint’; Dubiel's thinking is in turn developed in Robert Snarrenberg's 1997 book Schenker's Interpretive Practice, though I do not need to pursue the story that far. In essence, Dubiel reads Kontrapunkt as providing a systematic training in hearing the qualities of different note combinations—qualities which are not simply inherent in the musical sound, but result from the relationship between the sound and an appropriately constituted act of hearing. Accordingly, Dubiel says (1990: 316), we should ‘interpret the study of species counterpoint not as the introduction of fundamental truths about “the tonal material”, but as a field in which to practice making attributions which, in Schenker's (not ungrounded) opinion, it will be useful to make consistently and fluently’.77 Seen from this point of view, Schenker's characteristic way of talking about music—in terms of the tones acting of their own volition, so that the music had to be the way it is—is revealed (p.298) as a rhetorical sleight of hand: it smuggles agency from the analyst or listener into the music itself, thereby creating an impression of objectivity and inevitability. Despite what I just said, I shall quote Snarrenberg (1997: 133) at this point, since he puts it particularly clearly: ‘The habit of investing tonal entities with subjectivity‐… minimizes the role of the perceiver's subjectivity in constituting content and thereby promotes the illusion that content is out there in the world, objective, eternal, immutable’.
There is a strong resonance between Dubiel's argument and Schenker's presentation, as early as the Geist essay, of counterpoint as a means of disciplining the aural imagination—an idea which underlies both volumes of Kontrapunkt, sometimes close to the surface and sometimes deeply buried. As for the rest of Dubiel's explanation, however, Schenker would have had no truck with it. What is at issue becomes clear when Dubiel cites a passage from Kontrapunkt 1 in which Schenker quotes Riemann's much more modest contention that consonance or dissonance are not inherent properties of chords but depend on the relationship of the chord to its context. Schenker then snorts: ‘isn't the thing we call a “relationship” in truth merely a mode of our way of conceptualizing‐… and in no way an objective reality? But why should a “mode of thought” have such power over the natural phenomenon of consonance as to alter its innermost nature?!’ (C1 282; recall what I said earlier in this chapter about appearances changing reality.) The standoff between Riemann and Schenker is ontological and intractable: Riemann sees consonance as a cognitive construction, whereas Schenker sees it as an objective reality, a fundamental truth, an absolute—out there in the world, objective, eternal, immutable.
And there is an even sharper example of such a standoff in ‘Musikkritik’ (Music criticism), an article written for the second issue of Tonwille but ‘censored’ (Schenker's word) at proof stage by Hertzka.78 Here the target is Paul Bekker, who had excited Schenker's ire by, among other things, comparing Schenker's writings unfavourably with those of Kurth and Halm. In one of the many passages Schenker quotes, Bekker sets out the standard hermeneutical epistemology deriving from Dilthey:79 ‘The special art of criticism’, he says, ‘lies in making judgments based on feeling understandable and believable from the material penetration of the artistic substance’ (T2 162–3). And because of this, Bekker continues, it is
in no way desirable that critical statements agree with one another. Such a result would turn criticism into what it always has been for the lazy (p.299) thinkers among the reading public: the inviolable expression of ‘the way it was’. In truth, however, every piece of criticism is invisibly headed by the words: ‘the way I see it’.
But the whole raison d'être of Schenker's theory was of course to say ‘the way it was’ and not ‘the way I see it’: one of Schenker's Meisterwerk critiques, directed this time at Walter Engelsmann, concludes each of its four main arguments by intoning ‘That is the way it is, not otherwise’ (MM1 100–103), while in a later Meisterwerk passage on the masses and genius Schenker expands this into the positively liturgical ‘Thus it was, thus it is, and thus it shall ever remain’ (MM2 46). And so his response to Bekker's position is predictable enough: ‘God save us then’, he remarks acidly, ‘from ultimately discovering who Bach is, who Beethoven is, how Beethoven differs from Wagner, and how these two are in turn utterly different from the symphonic illiteracy of, for instance, a Berlioz or a Mahler’. Further aspersions follow regarding Bekker's ‘singular lack of objectivity’ and ‘hermeneutical misguidedness’ before Schenker relapses into more or less personal abuse. In the face of such an epistemological gulf, there can be no basis for reasoned debate.
Perhaps the reason for Schenker's extreme sensitivity is that this again represents a fault‐line in his own thinking. In chapter 1, I emphasised Schenker's insistence—despite his suspicion of scientific approaches—that music must be explained in terms of strict causality, which is to say according to the criteria associated by Dilthey with the natural rather than the human sciences; I quoted his rhetorical question from Harmonielehre (‘Is it not true that a system must be strong enough to explain, without exception, all phenomena within its range?’), while later in the same work he proclaims that ‘from the point of the view of the artist, each note must be heard in its artistically immanent cause and effect’ (H 121). It was this concept of what it means to explain music, I argued, that led to the impasse embodied in the Geist essay, as well as—eventually—Schenker's solution to it in terms of axial causality. This solution allowed him to develop his theory beyond the self‐evident absurdity of strict note‐to‐note determinism and incorporate within it the idea of freedom within the law to which I referred in chapter 2—but without forcing a rethinking of his epistemological assumptions, as may be seen from his exclamation in the last of the Tonwille pamphlets (T2 152): ‘How wonderfully one force leads to another, each step becomes an event that embeds itself in the ordered succession, everywhere there is cause and effect, pattern and copy’. (Maybe the image of causality flowing from the background to the foreground was a further impediment to Schenker's conceiving of a two‐way, interactive relationship between levels.) And seen from the perspective of such an epistemology, Schenker's exasperation with Bekker is easy enough to understand.
But the version of what Schenker meant by explaining music that (p.300) I have just set out is diametrically opposed to the one Wayne Alpern presents on the basis of his study of Schenker's legal education, as may be seen from a series of brief quotations from his thesis:
Schenker's musical laws are modelled upon nomos, the civil laws of society, and not physis, the physical ‘laws of nature’ like the laws of thermodynamics or gravity. They are normative and prescriptive rather than objective and descriptive…. Schenker's musical legislation imposes normative obligations upon free agents like the laws of society or morality. Unlike the laws of physics or the logical dictates of mathematics, legal and moral obligations can be broken by free agents. Even so, the law remains…. Schenker presents music not as a logical construct or unalterable causal process, but as a social drama invoking an expressive internal dynamic offering critical means of adjudication and resolution within an overall framework.
And as evidence for this, Alpern cites Schenker's claim in the Geist essay that music lacks any principle of causation. Now it would be tempting for me to respond that you cannot characterise Schenker's thinking as a whole in terms of the Geist essay, and that this is just another example of the misinterpretation that results when quotations from different periods of Schenker's work are mixed together. But I do not think that would be right, for Alpern's image of the jurisprudential Schenker does indeed capture much of the tone and process of Schenker's analytical practice at least up to the mid‐1920s. Yet the kind of musical explanation this embodies is quite incompatible with the idea of a natural‐scientific mode of explanation based on causality: aiming at persuasion rather than proof, it stands much closer to Dilthey's model of the human sciences, or indeed to the kind of hermeneutical approach Schenker was condemning in Bekker. Schenker's views about what it means to explain music are, in short, as conflicted as his understanding of philosophical idealism. The most generous construction, which is probably too generous, is that he insisted on strict causality as a matter of principle, but in practice was more flexible, more humanistic than his principles should properly have allowed.
All the same, to bring back this argument to its starting point, it is inconceivable that Schenker would have accepted Dubiel's claim (1990: 332) that in Kontrapunkt he was formulating ‘rules determining the content of possible attributions (and thereby roughly constraining the making of these attributions)’. Yet Dubiel makes an irresistible case that it would have been better all round if Schenker had framed his theory this way, and not in terms of supposed absolute laws the unavoidable—one sometimes feels intended—effect of which is to undercut the possibility of reasoned debate. Dubiel (307) professes himself perplexed as to ‘why anyone would want to respond to a highly esteemed composition by telling a story of how it had to be exactly as it was’, and wonders if this doesn't suggest some kind of character defect. But it is perhaps more productive to see it as an example of what I referred (p.301) to as retrospective prophecy, the deeply conservative pattern of thought by which you explain empirical phenomena through positing ideal (eternal, immutable) entities that correspond to them, and then deriving the former from the latter, the actual from the ideal. This is what Schenker does in the Ninth Symphony monograph: as Snarrenberg puts it (1997: 34), Schenker explains what Beethoven wrote by setting out the effects that Beethoven intended, then ‘takes the intention as given and specifies the “necessities that caused the tonal content to arise in just this way and not otherwise”’. It is a way of thinking that makes it necessary—inevitable—that everything should be precisely as it is (which is why I called it deeply conservative). And, as Schenker's continued rhetoric of inevitability shows, it is a way of thinking that survived the transition from the effects/means model to the axial causality one: indeed, as I suggested in the course of my comparison with Der Nachsommer, is it built into the very structure of Der freie Satz. It is also the conceptual mechanism that lies behind the exasperatingly normative and exclusive quality of Schenker's thought, the slippage from the demonstration of how (Viennese classical) music is to the claim that all music must be so—what Babbitt called ‘an illicit derivation of a “should” from an “is” or—given that the analyses are exegetic wakes—of a “should” from a “was”’.80
Are we then to understand Schenker's theory on his own terms, however flawed or unacceptable we may consider his epistemology, or on ours, as illustrated by Dubiel's creative misreading of it? Is it defensible to pick and choose what we want from his work? Can it make sense to adopt his analytical methods while ignoring his aesthetic, political, and philosophical beliefs? The first two questions seem straightforward enough: in the United Kingdom at least, the term for authors' moral rights is identical to that for copyright, and in any case it is less a question of morality than of trades description, as when in his critique of Proctor and Riggins's ‘Schenker pedagogy’ Rothstein complains that ‘in the interests of honesty, they should call theirs a Proctor‐Riggins pedagogy and leave the name of Schenker out of it’ (1990b: 295). But the last question is a hardy perennial of Schenker studies, and one that has become increasingly pressing as more and more work has been done on setting Schenker in his period context: work that has tended to roll back the modernist assumptions of Schenker's postwar reception, or—perhaps better expressed—to replace those assumptions with a more realistic, more conflicted, messier conception of Viennese modernism itself.
At one extreme is the position set out by Bent, which I quoted at the very beginning of this book: ‘where his world of ideas is concerned, there are no margins: there is only a single, integrated network of thought’. At the opposite extreme is the position expressed by Rothgeb, which emanates from the first‐generation followers and their editorial (p.302) policies: ‘however much Schenker may have regarded his musical precepts as an integral part of a unified world‐view, they are, in fact, not at all logically dependent on any of his extramusical speculations. Indeed, no broader philosophical context is necessary—or even relevant—to their understanding’.81 (1987 may have been a little late in the day to be saying this, but it is only fair to note that this passage follows on Rothgeb's justification of his and Jürgen Thym's decision, as editors and translators, not to abridge the text of Kontrapunkt.) The classic statement of this position, however, has to be the one Allen Forte gave in his introduction to Free Composition (FC xviii):
The modern‐day English language reader may be somewhat puzzled, or perhaps even offended, by the polemical and quasi‐philosophical material in Schenker's introduction and elsewhere…. In part, this material is typical of many other German language authors of an older period; in part, it is characteristic of Schenker, and must be placed in proper perspective. Almost none of the material bears substantive relation to the musical concepts that he developed during his lifetime and, from that standpoint, can be disregarded; it is, however, part of the man and his work.
As Schachter has said (2001: 10), the truth of this magisterially diplomatic formulation, with its recognition but at the same time marginalisation of context, would have at one time seemed self‐evident but is nowadays less so. All the same, Schachter's own views are essentially the same, though expressed in a characteristically irresistible manner: of course the polemical and quasi‐philosophical material is important for an understanding of the development of Schenkerian theory, he concedes, but it is irrelevant when it comes to analytical practice—to making specific interpretive decisions in particular musical contexts. ‘I must confess’, he says, ‘that I never think about Schenker's politics, religion, or philosophy when engaged in analyzing a piece or refining a theoretical concept’ (13). There isn't really an answer to that. There are however two comments that can be made, one short and the other longer.
The short comment is that to separate practice too cleanly from theory is to encourage a practice that is unreflective—in which skills are acquired and procedures gone through without consideration of why they might be the appropriate skills or procedures, why the questions (p.303) they are designed to address are the right questions, what indeed the questions are and where they have come from. In McCreless's words (1997: 31), Schenkerian theory (like atonal theory) is based on ‘an aesthetic ideology whereby analysis validates masterworks that exhibit an unquestioned structural autonomy’. Or as Benjamin puts it (1981: 164), ‘the theory encourages certain conceptions of what it means to “know music” and resists others’. Through the very act of practising, or teaching, Schenkerian analysis in the twentieth‐first century, we work to an agenda built on such assumptions as that the moment‐to‐moment diversity of music represents a problem to be overcome through encompassing it within a larger unity (or, better, a reciprocal understanding of the local in terms of the global, and vice versa); that music is an ultimately cognitive entity which cannot be reduced to a series of sounds, gestures, or emotions; that what is most important about music is concealed (or, better, that what is overt needs to be understood in terms of what is not), meaning that a deep understanding of music entails special, indeed specialist skills; and so on. None of these assumptions is self‐evident; there are always alternatives. That does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with working to these assumptions—depending on the repertory in question and the kind of understanding aimed at, they may be indispensable—but the point is that decisions have been made. They are built into the method. (As Neumeyer puts it [1990: 25], ‘When you pick up the tool that is Schenker analysis, much of this comes with it.’) And a knowledge of the context within which Schenker formulated his theory—of its social, political, religious, or philosophical dimensions—is important not just if one is to understand why these particular decisions have been made, thereby taking ownership of them, but if one is to understand that decisions have been made at all; the danger otherwise is of an analytical practice that has all the answers but none of the questions. (Rothstein comes near to saying that of Proctor and Riggins.) This is not to claim that Schenker's view of democracy, for instance, has any relevance at the moment of deciding whether the primary tone is ̂3 or 5̂, much less that one needs to condone it—but if you have never worried about Schenker's elitist conception of culture, never wondered what Schenker saw as the point of analysis, never asked what Schenker's project was, then there is an odds‐on chance that you are doing analysis because it is there to be done, because it is doable, rather than on the basis of any more critical or personal investment. Analysis can mean more than that.
The second and longer comment has to do with the particular argument that Schachter invokes to justify his position. Schenker believed firmly in the autonomy of music, Schachter says, and so did his friends and pupils who accepted his musical insights while deploring his politics, and in this way ‘the removal of political ideology from Schenker's approach—a trend that developed in full force here in the (p.304) United States—actually began early on in Austria and Germany’ (Schachter 2001: 12). That is undoubtedly true: after the comment I quoted in chapter 3 that not all Schenker's friends supported his political statements, for instance, Vrieslander continued: ‘Art may indeed be kept free of all that serves the present day, and all political grumbles belong to that’.82 Yet the autonomy of music is not the straightforward and self‐evident concept for which the postwar music‐theoretical establishment took it, as is evident from the highly contested role it plays in Schenker's writings. The statement by Richard Wallaschek I quoted in chapter 3 (‘German music in fact has no national‐characteristic element in its artistic works; it is pure beauty’) illustrates what is at stake, as does Neumeyer's characterisation of the Americanisation of Schenker (1990: 25): ‘the analytic method was in fact detached from Schenker's ideology, but only to be plugged into another kind of ideology appropriate to the American academy’. (He adds: ‘post‐structuralist analysis of texts to uncover the exact components of this ideology would be very welcome’.) Perhaps predictably, the problem goes back to Hanslick, or rather the misreading of Hanslick to which I referred in chapter‐1. I can make the point in terms of a passage from ‘Die Urlinie: Eine Vorbemerkung’ which Schachter himself quotes:
The so‐called poetic idea is also given the lie by the Urlinie. Although ever so many analogies may be swept from human life into music (how should humanly conceived art not embody the human?), the poetic idea may be relied upon all too often by all those muscle‐men of ‘expression’ who do not grasp that it is only possible for them to dissolve themselves in art and not art in themselves; or by certain hermeneutical babblers of ‘affect’ whose inability compels them to see rather than hear their way about in music, as in the rest of the objective world, and thereby compels them to debase music to a cinema for the ears. Above and beyond all that, music with the Urlinie remains a world of its own, unto itself, comparable to the Creation in the sense that it rests only in itself, operating with no end in sight. (T1 21)
Schenker is marshalling against those who ascribe poetic ideas to music the same argument he used to attack Kretzschmar and Kurth (whose observations of the notes going upwards or downwards, ‘these being the only two possible directions’, illustrate the ‘cinema for the ears’ that Schenker refers to here). It is only because musical ideas are specifically musical, Schenker is saying, only insofar as they are governed by the Urlinie, that they possess specific expressive meaning: the hermeneutic babblers misunderstand musical meaning because, like Kurth, they do not realise that it is generated by specifically musical processes, and that is why their descriptions of it are otiose and redundant. Or as Schachter puts it (2001: 11), ‘For Schenker the symbolic connections between music and the world take on validity only when (p.305) the music is heard and understood in its autonomy’. But that of course is precisely Hanslick's central argument in Vom Musikalisch‐Schönen—the argument which, as I said, has since Hanslick's own time been persistently misrepresented as a denial that music can be anything except autonomous, that it can convey feelings, moods, or emotions. Peter Gay sees Hanslick as having brought this misreading on himself through his ‘memorable, but far too simple, sentence: “The contents of music are sounding moving forms”…. Once Hanslick had launched it, he had launched the myth of his formalism’.83 If that is so, then perhaps Schenker brought the same misunderstanding on himself, for in the preface to Harmony he came close to quoting Hanslick's phrase (‘the theory of harmony presents itself to me as‐… a system of ideally moving forces’).84 Either way—to repeat it once more, but it seems to be something one has to keep repeating—the essential point is that neither Hanslick nor Schenker are seeking to deny that music has meaning in more than a technical sense: their argument is that you need first to understand music as music (‘as an autonomous domain’, as Schachter puts it ), for only then are you in a position to understand it as the bearer of expressive or social meaning.
It might be said that Schachter—like the larger postwar music‐theoretical project to which he has made so distinguished a contribution—has turned the claim that it is necessary to understand music as an autonomous domain into an assumption that it is sufficient to do so: that is what underlies his distinction between Schenkerian theory, for which an understanding of context is important, and Schenkerian practice, for which it isn't (Schachter 2001: 13). And Schachter reads a parallel distinction into Schenker's own work: ‘The polemical statements’, he writes, ‘are only rarely attached to the analytical monographs or the theoretical explanations; they appear as separate essays, as introductory material (perhaps in a foreword), or as aphorisms placed in a section of miscellaneous remarks’ (12). That is often true, of course, for instance in Kontrapunkt, where the polemical material is basically restricted to the prefaces, or Der freie Satz, where it comes mainly in the introduction—which actually includes a section called ‘Aphorisms’—or the first chapter, ‘The Background’ (these are the source of ten of the seventeen passages in appendix 4 of Free Composition). But it is not so true of other writings, as illustrated by several of the 1890s essays, or by the Ninth Symphony monograph (where analytical and polemical materials roughly alternate), or the Meisterwerk essay ‘Weg mit dem Phrasierungsbogen’, which—as I have repeatedly said—presents (p.306) an argument that is about music and politics at the same time. And in these latter cases, any straightforward categorisation of Schenker's writing into the technical and the polemical, the musical and the extramusical, ceases to be tenable: the domains of the musical and the extramusical become coextensive.
As so often, the problem comes from trying to read Schenker's work as a whole through Der freie Satz, where the passages on music's broader social and cultural meaning no longer seem fully thought into the work. Sometimes they have an obvious source in one of Schenker's earlier writings (as in the case of the comments on Scarlatti, which as I said in chapter 4 come from Meisterwerk 1). At other times they have the appearance of ideas or quotations Schenker has previously stockpiled and now applies decoratively, as Rytting said;85 this is most obviously the case in the ‘Aphorisms’ section, which is exactly what its title suggests—an unordered sequence of observations that did not find a home anywhere else. The disorganised impression may be just the result of the circumstances under which Der freie Satz was completed, or maybe it would be better to say brought to a halt. But it may be that, by 1935, many of the basic impulses that had motivated the Schenker project in the 1890s had lost their hold on Schenker, or perhaps it was just the certainty that they would not be given realisation in his lifetime; either would explain the way in which the aphorisms have taken on the quality of fossils, vestigial remains of a more broadly imagined project. And if so, there is, after all, a sense in which the editors of Free Composition knew what they were doing when they removed those passages to appendix 4.
(1) Notley (1999: 59–63) documents the way these groups ‘aspired to create a less distant, more interactive relationship with audiences’, and cites the Erstes Wiener Volksquartett für Classische Musik (founded by August Duesberg), which invited audiences to vote on their concert programmes, aiming thereby to create an ‘almost personal communication’ between musicians and audience.
(2) The Munich‐based journal Der Kunstwart became Deutsche Zeitschrift in 1931; it was in the latter that Schenker published his article of the same year on the pseudo‐Mozart letter.
(4) Loose typewritten sheet between OC 2/90 and 91.
(6) It is this codicil, dated 25 May 1934, that directed that Der freie Satz should be dedicated to Jeanette (OJ 35/6).
(7) Oster's translation actually had its origins in a ‘rough draft’ Allen Forte had prepared but had not been able to place with a publisher; Forte handed it over to Oster in 1962 (Babbitt et al. 1977: 341).
(8) Because it is so self‐evident by present‐day standards that Drabkin's position is right, and that the Jonas/Oster position represents a basic failure of scholarly practice, it is worth quoting Edward Laufer's arguments (1981: 163) against the reinstatement of (most of) the deleted passage from Der freie Satz: ‘Regrettably’, he writes, ‘in a well‐intentioned but misguided act of scholarly rectitude, all of Ernst Oster's excisions from Schenker's text were restored, in an appendix. Any curious person could always consult the German edition. Oster's deletions were carefully considered and within his right as an editor. In all cases they involved irrelevant, speculative material, sometimes of a metaphysical nature: interesting, to be sure, but having nothing to do with the musical discourse and only obfuscating the artistic and philosophical positions. And, one might add, they provide grist for the malevolent’. Laufer's argument that people can always read the original seems perverse: why then translate it at all?
(9) The Oster Collection includes a large collection of papers in a wrapper marked ‘Stifter’ (OC 12/176–248), but only two pages appear to concern the novelist, the rest being on miscellaneous topics. I am not the only reader of Schorske to have been struck by the parallel between Stifter and Schenker: see Snarrenberg 1992: 124 and 1997: 150.
(11) This sheet, headed ‘Schenker über Stifter’, is in the Jonas Collection (OJ 21/3).
(12) Letter of 6 May 1924 (OC 12/15–7), transcribed and translated by Lee Rothfarb, Schenker Correspondence Project website.
(14) Translated in Dunsby 1977: 32. Reporting on an interview with Hans Weisse, the American critic Irving Kolodin (1932: 51) defined what he transcribed as the ‘Ear‐line’ in very similar manner: ‘a pattern which is inherent in the thematic germ of the music, and which can be traced through the composition from beginning to end, and to whose inner life the composer's life is inseparably linked’. Schenker's scrapbook contains a copy of this article (OC 2/86), together with a translation in which Schenker has picked out the phrase corresponding to ‘a pattern which is inherent in the thematic germ of the music’.
(15) One difference, of course, is that the analytically crucial idea of linear motions generating ‘surface’ keys developed subsequent to Harmonielehre. But this does not affect my argument.
(16) See for instance Schenker's discussion of the modulations to E minor and C major in Schubert's G Major Impromptu D. 899 (op. 90), no. 3 (T2 139).
(17) The ‘simulated’ keys of the Harmonielehre translation and the ‘illusory’ keys of the Der freie Satz translation both correspond to the same word (Scheintonarten).
(18) Suzannah Clark (1999: 96–9) has made a related point in her discussion of the relation between the ‘surrogate’ keys of Harmonielehre (H 250) and the ‘illusory’ keys of Der freie Satz; see also the discussion of Schumann's ‘Wenn ich in deinen Augen seh’’ below.
(19) See the dynamic markings in the foreground graphs of the Largo from Bach's Sonata no. 3 for Solo Violin BWV 1005 and the Prelude from the Partita no. 3 BWV 1006 (MM1 35, 42–3): the markings above the stave represent dynamics generated at the surface, those below it dynamics generated at the middleground, with the performer's job being to combine these in an appropriately balanced manner (MM1 37–8). Schenker's urge to subsume dynamics within the overall synthesis goes back to his astonishing statement in the Ninth Symphony monograph that if that work had ‘come down to us without explicit indications, a capable hand would have had to enter the dynamic markings exactly as Beethoven himself did’. For rhythm see MM2 68, with a further apparent reference in FC I 15 (para. 21).
(22) FC II fig. 109 e3.
(24) Schenker 1969/1933: 9.
(25) In a letter to Hertzka concerning the second (1908) edition of Ornamentik, Schenker makes the telling remark that he is concerned ‘always to offer the reader the best that my knowledge and the truth have to offer, less perhaps out of regard for the reader than in fulfillment of the subject matter itself’ (letter of 26 August 1908, WSLB 16, transcribed and translated by Bent, Schenker Correspondence Project website).
(26) As it happens, two contemporary critiques pasted into in Schenker's scrapbook make exactly this point: Hans Friedrich (‘Über Musikkritik’, Der Merker, 1 December 1917, p. 794) writes that hermeneutical approaches are appropriate to certain audiences, adding that Schenker would have to adopt them if he were a newspaper music critic, while a presumably slightly later and apparently derivative article by Eberhard Freiherr von Waechter (‘Von moderner Musik, modernen Musikern und moderner Musikkritik’, Das Neue Österreich1, 62) claims that ‘the music critic of a daily paper has no other choice but to resort to hermeneutics’, adding that ‘hardly anyone else is so capable of inspired hermeneutical dreams as the sensitive and perceptive Heinrich Schenker!’ (OC 2/53, 2/54).
(28) Details from Johnston (1972: 95–8), on which the following draws; Alpern (forthcoming) refers to Kelsen only briefly, but explores the idea of what he calls Schenker's ‘federalized bureaucracy of free counterpoint’ in some detail.
(29) Draft letter dated 29 December 1916 from Schenker to Halm (OC 1/B9, version 1), transcribed and translated by Rothfarb, Schenker Correspondence Project website.
(31) It is evident from Alpern's thesis that the history of nineteenth‐century German‐language jurisprudence could be written largely in terms of these opposing principles: ‘Legal Germanism’, Alpern writes, ‘represented a humanistic, pluralistic, and moralistic conception of law rooted in historical time and space, in opposition to the rational, systematic, universal, and dehumanized abstractions of natural law, Roman jurisprudence, and crystalline generalizations of the Napoleonic Code’. He also cites Rudolf von Jhering's satirical description of the latter as ‘an abstract, insular, and logically consistent “heaven of juristic concepts”’, a formulation reminiscent of Johnston's ‘heaven of ideas’ (see p. 32 above).
(33) See p. 32 above. It might also be possible, though here I am being entirely speculative, to see one of the sources of Schenker's theory of levels in an attempt to combine Hegelian historicism with the Zimmermannian idea of timeless aesthetic norms, which I mentioned in chapter 2 in relation to Schenker's contemporaries Hirschfeld and Adler. Botstein writes (1985: 1105), with specific reference to Hirschfeld: ‘The conceit that the musical text had an objective spirit rested on the notion that the proportions and essence of melodic shape and dynamics, genuine phrasing and tempi, which all created a sense of form and narrative, were somehow constant elements beneath a surface of individual and time‐bound historical musical conventions’. Seen in this light, Schenker's theory would be an elaboration of Botstein's ‘somehow’, with the background—the level of pure (or German) musical logic—corresponding to constant, timeless norms, and the foreground to changing historical styles. If there is anything in this—the most one can say is that Schenker and Hirschfeld were acquaintances and in 1907 actually discussed the influence of time on musical technique (Federhofer 1985: 301n.)—then the element of historical change increasingly dropped out of the equation as the theory developed.
(34) Letter of 9 June 1912 (WSLB 120), transcribed and translated by Bent, Schenker Correspondence Project website.
(35) Letter to von Cube dated 29 April 1928 (vC 14), transcribed and translated by Drabkin, Schenker Correspondence Project website.
(36) Letter of 1 April 1924 (OC 12/13–4, transcribed and translated by Rothfarb, Schenker Correspondence Project website); Schenker's remarks about Berlioz may be found in T1 189–90. This is a rare case of Schenker clearly respecting someone who disagreed with him: ‘Each time I see a work of yours’, he wrote in a postcard dated 22 January 1927, ‘the feeling comes over me that we two, despite all, would find ourselves in close accord if only we could first speak with one another (instead of writing)’ (DLA 69.930/14, transcribed and translated by Bent and Rothfarb, Schenker Correspondence Project website).
(37) E[lsa] B[ienenfeld], ‘Philharmonisches Konzert’, Neues Wiener Journal, 17 March 1925 (OC 2/64); H[ans] L[iebstöckl], ‘Krenek spielt auf’, Die Stunde, January 1928 (OC 2/74). In a 1920 review of Walter Niemann's Johannes Brahms, Bienenfeld (otherwise known as a supporter of Schoenberg) had called Schenker ‘the most significant theorist of the present day’ (Neues Wiener Journal, 20 June 1920, translated by Bent, Schenker Correspondence Project website).
(38) Illustriertes Wiener Extrablatt, 18 September 1903 (OC 2/5), Die Zeit am Montag, 25 March 1913 (OC 2/29).
(39) ‘F.S.’, in Musikpädagogische Zeitschrift, 1912 (OC 2/29); Wetzel, Die Musik, January 1909 (OC 2/4); and Die Musik, 15 March 1914 (OC 2/40).
(40) Wiener Mode (OC/21).
(41) Dahms, ‘Schenkers “Meisterwerk in der Musik”, Allgemeine Musikzeitung, 24 December 1926 (OC 2/72).
(42) ‘Beethovens neunte Symphonie’, Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 7 April 1913 (OC 2/29).
(43) Hugo Ganz, ‘Die Wiener Woche’, Frankfurter Zeitung, 3 July 1912 (OC 2/28).
(44) The diary entries, for 29 May and 24 October 1914, are transcribed in Federhofer 1985: 50–1: they record that Schenker's pupil Hans Weisse—who also studied in Adler's class—told him on two separate occasions that Adler was keeping Schenker's works from the students. Schenker adds that the reason was ‘the comment in Harmonielehre’, which according to Federhofer may relate to a passage on Reger omitted from the English translation.
(45) All nine published issues of Der Dreiklang (really seven, but two were double issues) were reprinted in 1989 by Georg Olms Verlag (Hildesheim).
(46) Letter of 9 March 1935 from Jonas to Jeanette Schenker (OJ 12/6 ), translated by John Rothgeb, Schenker Correspondence Project website.
(47) Dahms, ‘Musikalischer “Fortschritt”’, Neue Preussische (Kreuz‐) Zeitung, 9 April 1914 (OC 2/41); Halm, ‘Heinrich Schenkers “Neue musikalische Theorien und Phantasien”’, Der Merker, 1 September 1920, p. 506 (OC 2/55). Schenker, characteristically, was less generous about Halm, describing his Von zwei Kulturen der Musik as ‘a downright grotesque mixture of technical and the most far‐flung aesthetics’ (diary entry for 17 March 1914, transcribed and translated by Bent and Rothfarb, Schenker Correspondence Project website).
(48) Letter of 1 June 1927 (von Cube family collection, vC 10), transcribed and translated by Drabkin, Schenker Correspondence Project website). Vrieslander's monograph never appeared.
(49) For further details see Matthews 2001 (Jonas); Jackson 2001 (Oppel); and Drabkin 1985, where information on the Schenker‐Institut may be found on pp. 187–8, Tepping 1982, and Tepping 1988 (von Cube).
(51) Letter of 7 June 1934 from von Cube to Schenker (OJ 9/34 ).
(52) A polemical exchange between Dahlhaus, Federhofer, and Plum, which took place in 1983–84 and was sparked off by Dahlhaus's review of Federhofer's 1981 book Akkord und Stimmführung in den musiktheoretischen Systemen von Hugo Riemann, Ernst Kurth und Heinrich Schenker, conveys the barricaded nature of Schenkerian debate in Germany at this time (Federhofer puts Dahlhaus's hostility to Schenker down to his admiration for Schoenberg): the exchange is summarised in Puffett 1984.
(53) And beyond: visiting Shanghai Conservatory in the late 1980s, I discovered to my embarrassment that I had pitched a lecture on Schenkerian analysis at much too low a level for my audience.
(54) Detailed information on Weisse's pedagogy may be found in Berry 2003. One of the not so familiar parts of the story is that Schenkerian ideas were already circulating in the United States prior to Weisse's arrival, as represented by the work of Victor Lytle, George Wedge, and Carl Bricken, who had also studied with Weisse in Vienna: Berry discussed this in ‘Verborgene Wiederholungen? Schenker's (Hidden) Influence in America before Hans Weisse and the Mannes Vanguard’, paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory, Seattle, 11–14 November 2004.
(57) See p. 118 above. Holly Watkins has pursued this comparison between Loos and Schoenberg, concluding from it that structural hearing is an inappropriate approach to Schoenberg's atonal music, in ‘Schoenberg's Interior Designs’, paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory, Seattle, 11–14 November 2004.
(58) Fernhören, a term coined by Schenker by way of presumably ironic reference to the telephone receiver (Fernhörer); see Bent's explanation in T1 164n.
(59) In ‘Von der Sendung des deutschen Genies’, Schenker lampooned the Clarté group and the very idea of French clarity: ‘Clarity courtesy of French mediocrity?‐… The French language—the supreme rule of which is: effect, especially effect on others of the opposite sex—is intrinsically unsuited to accurately perceiving and promoting genuine clarities’ (T1 14).
(61) FC I 18. Schenker goes on to speak of ‘this “continual present” in the vision of the composer’, characterising the composer's perception as ‘the meeting of past, present, and future’, so making explicit the association of axial causality with the pseudo‐Mozart image of creation I discussed in chapter 1. This is one of the features of Schenker's theory strikingly anticipated in Louis and Thuille's Harmonielehre of 1907: quite extended passing‐chord passages are explained on the principle of the ‘ideal organ‐point’, according to which ‘we retain the fundamental of the first chord in our memory unaltered’ (translated in Wason 1985: 131).
(65) In one of its several versions, the opening sentence of the ‘Freier Satz’ section intended for Kontrapunkt 2 reads ‘Two independent spheres begin to bear a relationship to each other for the first time in free composition: the scale degrees and voice leading’ (quoted in Siegel 1999: 16).
(67) T1 90; in the next issue of Tonwille Schenker spells out the ‘constant interaction of the operative forces’ more explicitly, writing that ‘sometimes the constraint of repeating a motive impels new harmonic degrees and Urlinie tones to appear, while at other times the Urlinie and harmonic degrees, with their own constraint, make a new motive credible’ (T1 112). And in the first volume of Meisterwerk, Schenker writes of the seventh of Bach's Twelve Little Preludes that ‘each separate attribute of the voice‐leading does not pertain to itself alone; it exists not only for itself but contributes to all the others’ (MM1 61).
(71) Schenker's emphases. Compare his related, but pluralist, reference in Kontrapunkt 2 to ‘a constant interaction between the demand for triadic completeness and the laws of voice leading, so that in truth it is only the act of reconciling the two forces that represents the essence of three‐part counterpoint’ (C2 4).
(72) I originally set out the critique I am now developing in my Guide to Musical Analysis (Cook 1987: 60–1); Cohn 1992a advances a related and more detailed argument with specific reference to motives.
(73) See Kielian‐Gilbert 2003 for a development of the idea of ‘oscillating’ between different readings.
(77) Botstein (1997: 16) comes close to ascribing just such a model of musical meaning to Schenker, arguing that the unpredictable interactions between combined musical effects result in ‘the potential for the attachment of changing emotional and extramusical meaning…. The classical masters‐… created musically coherent works that possessed an infinitely differentiated and individual opportunity for the ascription of emotional meaning’. The idea that combinations of effects might be (in Douglas Dempster's  term) ‘semantically compositional’ seems to me at least compatible with Schenker's thinking, if nowhere actually stated by him. But to move from this to an attributional model—in which meaning is constructed through the act of ascription—is to move from what Schenker might have said to something he would never have said: for Schenker, meaning (of whatever sort) is always inherent in the music and the listener's job is to recognise it for what it is.
(78) Actually much of the material was doubly ‘censored’, having been written for the op. 101 Erläuterungsausgabe but deleted, again at proof stage (T2 xv–xvi, 161n.).
(81) C1 xiv; see also Laufer's comments on Free Composition, quoted in note 8 above. Actually this view might be traced back as far as Schenker's original publishers, for as Drabkin and Bent write with specific reference to Tonwille, ‘Universal Edition never seems to have grasped Schenker's conception of the Miscellenea as integral to their volumes: they viewed this section as an appendix (Anhang), while referring to the remainder of an issue as its content (Inhalt)’ (T1 xi). There is indeed a sense in which it might be ascribed to Schenker, who at one time considered publishing his polemics—the preface to the Ninth Symphony monograph, the forewords to the two volumes of Kontrapunkt, extracts from the Erläuterungsausgaben, the ‘Vermischtes’ sections from Tonwille and Meisterwerk—as a separate, stand‐alone volume (MM3 69n.); mercifully he never did so.
(84) H xxv; the similarity is however in part an artefact of translation (Hanslick's phrase is ‘tönend bewegte Formen’, Schenker's ‘eine Welt von ideell treibenden Kräften’).