Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-08-05 - 12:40 p.m.

I have belatedly started to tinker with Rosen’s magnum opus on the classical period which I happened across in a local bookshop. I was drawn by his claim to have synthesised key structures in Mozart operas and sonata form as an intrinsically dramatic undertaking. This led on to ordering all 6 of Haydn’s Op 33 SQs – something I have been meaning to do for decades. Rosen seems to offer a clear account of what is genuinely novel about the way of writing that Haydn claimed to have discovered in composing these 4tets – and which provoked Mozart in the early 1780s. Rosen also has some useful words on Schubert’s last 4tet – the G – which flops around from major to minor a lot.

I also realised that I had the score not only to Webern’s Op 20 String trio but not the trio published posthumously which he wrote in 1926 – the year before. Op 20 is the first purely instrumental piece that Webern wrote for around a decade – after the burst of aphoristic writing. I listened through to both with the scores and especially to Op 20. On this basis I have ordered Bailey’s long analytical book on Webern’s serial music. Op 20 is said to be the first (relatively) long serial piece that Webern wrote. A few months back I heard the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group do the Concerto for 9 Instruments which is a little later. It just sounded too schematic for me. But Op 20 intrigues because it is at the interface between intuition and schema.

With all the Kandinsky fuss at the moment there have been various journalistic forays into the relationship between Kandinsky and Schoenberg. Partly thus inspired we went to see Erwartung at the ROH – which is on with Bluebeard’s Castle. Erwartung was composed at the time K and S were eating a lot of cake together and S says that it was written completely on the basis of intuition. I bought the Boulez recording of Erwartung which I found less inspiring than the live performance – but also came with his treatment of Pierrot Lunaire which I really enjoy and makes a nice contrast to both the London Sinfonietta recording which I have and the version broadcast from the Aldeburgh festival a month or so ago.

Sometimes I think that Schoenberg was happier working off a text – a thought that was encouraged when I heard a broadcast of the Napoleon Ode a little while back. This was written in LA around 1940 as a deliberately anti-facist statement.

Schoenberg’ discovery of serialism seems to have been prompted by a need to write within a system – not for system’s sake – but because art needed to be systematic in his view to connect with our psychology and carry deep meaning – a very Kantian thought – and one which leads (inter alia) to the foundations of minimalism.

It’s easy enough to see Webern tagging along with this – but in his own way. Webern’s ‘own way’ might well have thrown post WW2 composers off the scent. Or to put the same point another way there can be more than one way of following in his footsteps – or indeed in Schoenberg’s. In my world its no coincidence that Cage and Lamont Young were pupils of Schoenberg.

Well that’s not quite true – LMY was a pupil of Stein who was Schoenberg’s helper in LA. LMY believes that by following certain fundamental principles, sound can connect with the mind and in that way become art.

James is home for a few weeks – doing an internship with an outfil called Exclusive Analysis in the City. Towards the end of the month he is off to Odessa to study Russian for his next degree.

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