September 13, 2007

David Yeagley is no Arnold Schoenberg!

From the Bad Eagle blog

Today is the birthday of celebrated composer Arnold Schoenberg, noted the world over for his groundbreaking new theory of harmonic development: twleve-tone music. Happy birthday Arnie. But — wait-a-moment — didn't the piano doctor also invent a new theory of harmony?

ARNOLD SCHOENBERG

Born: September 13, 1874, Vienna
Died: July 13, 1951, Los Angeles, California

Schoenberg's development of the twelve-tone method of composition was a turning point in twentieth-century music.

Few composers have presented as radically new an idea as Schoenberg did with what he called his "Method of Composing with Twelve Tones Related Only to Each Other." In it, he broke with a system of tonal organization that had developed over hundreds of years and had become a hallmark of Western music.

Schoenberg began his musical studies on violin at age 8. Although he had no compositional training, he began composing his own music. In 1895, he began lessons with Alexander von Zemlinsky, only three years his elder. From 1901 to 1903 he held various conducting posts in Berlin. In 1904 he moved to Vienna, and there began teaching (Alban Berg and Anton Webern were early pupils). In 1919 he founded a society for performance of new music, and in 1925 returned to Berlin to teach. In 1933 he was forced, as a Jew, to leave Berlin. Ironically, he had converted to Lutheranism in 1898, but after fleeing to Paris he renounced the Christian faith and returned to Judaism. In 1934 he emigrated to the United States and in 1936 began teaching at UCLA. He remained in Los Angeles until his death in 1951.

Schoenberg's early music was clearly marked by the style of the late nineteenth century, and influences of Brahms, Mahler, and others can be seen in pieces such as his Verklärte Nacht. But as his compositional style developed, it became more concise and contrapuntally intricate. At the same time, Schoenberg's chromaticism intensified to the point that any strong tonal focus disappeared. Such works as Pierrot lunaire (1913) are in a fully atonal style. The music of this period is also marked by a style that is referred to as expressionist, and Schoenberg had contact with, and a great deal of admiration for, the expressionist painters and writers (Schoenberg himself painted in an Expressionist style). These ideals can be seen in the dark and dreamlike atmosphere conveyed in Pierrot lunaire, based on the expressionist poetry of Albert Giraud. The kinds of internal conflicts we associate with Freud and his school of psychoanalysis are played out in exquisite musical detail.

From 1915 to 1923, Schoenberg produced relatively few works, in part due to wartime service. At the same time, he was working on his theoretical ideas of twelve-tone writing. Starting in 1923, with his Suite for Piano, he began writing in a fully twelve-tone musical language. Along with this came a return to more classical means of formal organization and larger works such as his Variations for Orchestra (1928). Although he never abandoned these principles, he never extended them to other elements as his student Webern had. And after his move to the United States, he more freely blended tonal elements within his twelve-tone writing.

Of course, our own pontificator, the piano doctor, likens himself to the world's great harmonic theorists. Below, we see David has written his own biography including his stupendous claims to have created a fantasmical new theory of harmony.

David Yeagley — "David Yeagley is a conceptualist, an architect, as it were. He has created a new system of harmonic organization. He does not contribute to new form, or new gesture. His music is traditional, in the European classical sense. He has written strict contrapuntal music as well as grand romantic style opera"

And here (below) he toots his own horn, which Yeagley watchers have come to expect with the regularity of prune eaters.
David Yeagley — “I've invested in a new harmonic system, but my compositional prodedures [sic!] are classical, in the historical, European sense... In classical music, there are compositional procedures to be observed... The content of the music has to be there for it to be ‘classical’” (7-13-07).
Today’s composers invent their own harmonic theories often, as new harmonic theories are: (a) considered common practice, (b) not of noteworthy significance, and (c) certainly not notable for a composer’s biography. My own students create their own theories routinely, not that they are revolutionary or new, most harmonic theories are not new in fact. Harmonic theories are built on mathematically-defined relationships, so any ‘new’ harmonic theories would necessarily be accompanied by a revolutionary mathematical theory.

Yeagley has put forth no groundbreaking “E=MC2” type theory, let alone allow for a peer review of his harmonic claims by describing his theory to other composers. I suspect, Yeagley never will reveal it; but if it does exist, it is most likely a commonplace variation of preexisting harmonic theories and mathematics that have been around for centuries. Even more, in order to compose “classical” music, one would necessarily have been born in the Mozart era, the “classical” period. Yeagley might be technically considered a “Neoclassical” composer or “neoclassicist,” but whether he’s another Mozart I would highly question. Most reasonable people recognize mainly two kinds of music, ‘good music’ and (to be kind) ‘not-so-good music.’

These ‘classical’ vs. ‘popular’ music categories are rather useless, except to limit and constrain music to some ideal or imagined purity. Go to Brazil and the differences Yeagley tries to separate are all mixed up together, a country with a long and rich concert music tradition. Only in Yeagley’s imagined reality is there such a thing as pure “classical” music even in America, the cosmopolitan continent.

In other words, why would anyone wish to believe anything that little david pontificates about? Justifications for the Iraq War? — he was wrong about that. His steadfast denial of global warming — wrong about that. His sparkling new harmonic theory — it never happened. He's wrong about the plains tribes originating powwows. He's wrong about the lack of American Indian classical flutists. He's wrong on his 'Muslim hating,' race-baiting and sabre-rattling about Iran. He's wrong on his denigrating American Indians, blacks, hispanics and women too. Let's face it — the child is just plain wrong. So you little david sheeple followers, why do you do it? — Question of the decade.

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