Skip to main content Accessibility help
Schoenberg's Atonal Music
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: June 2019
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online ISBN: 9781108296991

Book description

Award-winning author Jack Boss returns with the 'prequel' to Schoenberg's Twelve-Tone Music (Cambridge, 2014) demonstrating that the term 'atonal' is meaningful in describing Schoenberg's music from 1908 to 1921. This book shows how Schoenberg's atonal music can be understood in terms of successions of pitch and rhythmic motives and pitch-class sets that flesh out the large frameworks of 'musical idea' and 'basic image'. It also explains how tonality, after losing its structural role in Schoenberg's music after 1908, begins to re-appear not long after as an occasional expressive device. Like its predecessor, Schoenberg's Atonal Music contains close readings of representative works, including the Op. 11 and Op. 19 Piano Pieces, the Op. 15 George-Lieder, the monodrama Erwartung, and Pierrot lunaire. These analyses are illustrated by richly detailed musical examples, revealing the underlying logic of some of Schoenberg's most difficult pieces of music.


‘Schoenberg's Atonal Music offers a study of the endlessly fascinating and enigmatic music Schoenberg wrote from around 1908 to roughly 1920. Jack Boss is a complete master of the music and the surrounding literature; he has an appropriate and effective analytical methodology, and he offers a synoptic understanding of these challenging musical works that greatly enriches our understanding of them. This book is an important prequel to Schoenberg's Twelve-Tone Music (Cambridge, 2014), which deservedly received the Wallace Berry award from the Society for Music Theory.'

Joseph Straus - City University of New York

‘With this provocative re-interpretation of six of Schoenberg's middle-period works, Jack Boss turns time-honored conceptions of tonality versus atonality and ‘amotivicism' on their heads. Through his vividly argued analyses grounded in motivic/set-class relations, the ‘conflict-elaboration-resolution model' of the ‘musical idea', and the use of ‘expressive' tonality, Schoenberg's Three Piano Pieces, Op. 11, reveal a novel structural identity, cohering in a unified cycle. Erwartung, previously understood as the quintessence of amotivicism, finds logic in the development of a ‘basic image', two leitmotifs representing the Lover's body and the Woman's sense of loss. With further analyses based on the concepts of ‘musical idea', ‘basic image', and ‘spectres of tonality', Boss thus propounds a fascinating revisionist history - a consistent and steady development to and from atonality, setting the stage for Schoenberg's future twelve-tone works.'

Severine Neff - Eugene Falk Distinguished Professor of Music, Emeritus, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed