In this essay an attempt will be made to compare and contrast the music styles and compositions of the two great musicians of 20th century: Charles Ives and Arnold Schoenberg.
Arnold Schoenberg and Charles Ives are considered as the important music composers. They succeeded in redefining the contemporary music. Initially, their styles of composition and music philosophy attracted a few criticisms although later the Musicians realized the real value of their music styles. In this sense, although both Schoenberg and Ives belonged to different music schools, they shared a few similar features. However, one can also notice many differences in their music styles and philosophy.
Schoenberg originally belonged to Vienna, Australia and later he settled down in USA. He and Charles Ives can be considered as the contemporaries. Schoenberg was also a teacher of the music compositions. There were different phases in his personal life. After his wife left him, Schoenberg began to compose several revolutionary musical notes.
He decided to give more importance to atonical music by rejecting the music with tones. In fact, this led to the establishment of the new school of music philosophy named the Second Vienna School of Music. Schoenberg, unlike Ives, had no formal training in music and he was a self taught music composer. He gave importance to the freedom of the aesthetic thought. (Danuser, 1998)
Particularly after the First World War, he composed several works. Schoenberg also decided to introduce the compositions with twelve notes which became very much controversial among the contemporary musicians. Initially, his new music attracted only a minority of music lovers. Later however, his music was criticized and even attacked by those people who did not like his music style. Schoenberg enjoyed the service of his students and he was able to obtain the support of the music composers such as Albon Berg and Anton Webern. The main interest of Schoenberg was to break the monotony of the classical musical notes.
He wanted to produce simple and clear music. He found that the contemporary music tones lacked this quality. When he introduced the music with twelve tones, he considered this as a great discovery. In fact, after 1950s, many music composers have used the ideas of Schoenberg and have contributed to improve the dynamic quality of music. Schoenberg can be considered as belonging to the school of experimentation and modernism as he believed in introducing something new after experimenting with the tones. He composed the works such as Moses and Aron and many other compositions. (Wikipedia, 2005)
Charles Ives, on the other hand, belonged to America and he was influenced by the American music composers and his own father who believed in experimentation. Ives used to accompany his father in the music composition and gained valuable experience to become an experienced music composer. His father encouraged him to experiment with music by introducing bitonal and multitonal compositions. In this respect, one can find similarities between Schoenberg and Ives. However, Ives composed more popular music although some of his compositions are known for their complexity of detail.
He also worked in an insurance agency. The series of heart attacks led to increase in the creativity in Ivy and in 1922 he published his book – 115 Songs. (Ives, 2005) This collection included the various songs which were composed during the different periods of his life. He also composed the dissonant songs such as “The Majority”. He believed in the combination of the popular and the classical music leading to the creation of bitonal music. Ives belonged to the school of experimentation and dissonance.
His philosophy of music is expressed by the use of the term “eternal question of existence” in his music. (Ives, 2005) He was influenced by the philosophers such as Emerson and Thoreau and this influence can be seen in the music composed by Ivy. However, his works, like those of Schoenberg, were also not liked by many music scholars as they could not understand his music philosophy.
Ives was more concerned with popular perception of his music as he included many American folk songs. He was also praised by Schoenberg for his original compositions. He composed the works such as Variations on America for organ, Central Park in the Dark for chamber orchestra, and The unanswered question for chamber group. (Ives, 2005)
In fact, Schoenberg was also influenced by the experimentation of Charles Ivy. However, later Schoenberg introduced the twelve note music. At the same time his music was not liked by the ordinary music lovers as they could not understand the complexity of his music. (Hawes, 1998)
The above details show that although both Schoenberg and Ivis belonged to the school of experimentalism, there were major differences in their music compositions. Schoenberg worked as a teacher which allowed him to interact with his students regarding his music compositions. His works are influenced by the European musicians although he wanted to discover something new. Ives on the other hand gave more importance to the American folk music and integrated it with the classic music.
He was also influenced by the American philosophers. However, both the composers were criticized for their unconventional approach to music. Both the musicians composed complex musical works which the ordinary people could not understand and appreciate. Schoenberg gave importance to the German tradition. He was influenced by the German composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Brahms. He believed in the music philosophy of serialism which gave greater order to the twelve notes created by him. He also believed in the philosophy of modernism as he modernized the classical music by introducing radical changes to the earlier German compositions. (Modernism, 2005)
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Schönberg Center, retrieved online on 10-12-2005 from <http://www.schoenberg.at/1_as/essay/essay_e.htm#>
Hawes, Peter. (1998). “Learning to Love A Cranky Composer”, Yale Alumni Magazine,
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