Monday, February 26, 2007

How One Becomes Lonely

I feel tired, but pleasantly so, despite tomorrow looming up ahead of me.

I think that it is important to value tension over happiness: because what I am most interested in is exploring the world and writing about it, not being comfortable or safe.

Anyone who thinks about being an artist should read Arnold Schoenberg's 'Style and Idea,' and specifically an essay in it called "How One Becomes Lonely:"

"....As long as an audience is not inclined to like a piece of music, it does not matter whether there happens to be, besides some more or less rough parts, also smooth or even sweet ones. And so the first performance of my Verklarte Nacht ended in a riot and actual fights. And not only did some persons in the audience utter their opinions with their fists, but critics also used their fists instead of their pens....

"But see: an artist treated in this way becomes not only suspicious, but even rebellious. Seeing that even parts of undoubted beauty could not protect him, knowing that those parts which were found ugly could not be wrong because he would not have written them if he himself had not liked them, and remembering the judgement of some very understanding friends and experts in musical knowledge who have paid tribute to his work, he becomes aware that he himself is not to blame.

"But then this happens: after having composed an extensive work, he visits a dear friend, his closest one and one whose judgement and musical knowledge seem to him perfectly indisputable. The friend looks over the whole score and his judgement is: 'This work shows a complete lack of inspiration; there is no melody, no expression; it seems to me dry, and the way you write for the voices is mere declamation, but no kind of song.'

".....Knowing I had written melodies and feeling that they were not poor, I had the choice either of being discouraged or of doubting my friend's authority.

"....I decided not to be discouraged. But I had to wait for more than thirteen years before, in 1913, at the first performance of Gurrelieder in Vienna, the audience affirmed my stubbornness by applauding at the end of the performance for about half an hour.

"As usual, after this tremendous success I was asked whether I was happy. But I was not. I was rather indifferent, if not even a little angry. I foresaw that this success would have no influence on the fate of my later works. I had, during these thirteen years, developed my style in such a manner that, to the ordinary concert-goer, it seemed to bear no relation to all preceding music. I had had to fight for every new work; I had been offended in the most outrageous manner by criticism; I had lost friends and I had completely lost any belief in the judgement of friends. And I stood alone against a world of enemies...."

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