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Schoenberg: “Verklaerte Nacht,” Part 1

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The choice for today’s post came down to either part 1 of Verklaerte Nacht (part 1)  by Arnold Schoenberg as performed by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center or Meatloaf. Here is part 2.

This is from an article on Verklaette Nacht. It starts like this:

Arguably the most influential composer of the twentieth century, and perhaps of all time, Schoenberg’s fame arose from his escape from tonality and his innovation of the serial method. While detractors still demonize him for having destroyed music, the largely self-taught and hugely inventive Schoenberg saw his work as a logical evolution of cherished tradition.

Another essay is entitled Why We’re Still Afraid of Schoenberg, though it seems to have been taken down. I guess Arnold was a classical bad ass.

The piece — in English, the title is Transfigured Night — was inspired by a poem by Richard Dehmel. It’s not exactly upbeat. Here is the translation of the opening moments from Wikipedia:

Two people are walking through a bare, cold wood;
the moon keeps pace with them and draws their gaze.
The moon moves along above tall oak trees,
there is no wisp of cloud to obscure the radiance
to which the black, jagged tips reach up.
A woman’s voice speaks:

“I am carrying a child, and not by you.
I am walking here with you in a state of sin.
I have offended grievously against myself.
I despaired of happiness,
and yet I still felt a grievous longing
for life’s fullness, for a mother’s joys

Not a lot of laughs, to be sure. The video is worthwhile because it runs above has a chyron with lines from the poem. They really explain a lot about what is going on and made me feel less ignorant, but only marginally so.

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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