SDO Hat Trick at SMA TAGS

The Schenker Documents Online project was well represented at the recent Society for Music Analysis's Theory and Analysis Graduate Students (TAGS) conference on Saturday 21st April at the University of Southampton. Graduate students Kirstie Hewlett and Georg Burgstaller, who are supervised by Prof. William Drabkin and Dr Andrea Reiter respectively, opened the session on Schenker with their papers, before the session was concluded with a Keynote address by William Drabkin, which began with a 'show-and-tell' session featuring some Schenker first editions. The abstracts for the three papers are below. Keep an eye out for the review of TAGS (to include this SDO session) which will be appearing on the SMA website ( in the next few weeks.

Georg Burgstaller and Kirstie Hewlett at the SMA TAGS, April 2012

Georg Burgstaller and Kirstie Hewlett (SMA TAGS, Southampton, 21st April 2012)

Kirstie Hewlett, "Music Analysis as a Political Act: Heinrich Schenker and the Expression of Austro-German National Identity"

Heinrich Schenker's polemical statements about the culture and politics of his time have often been the subject of censorship - even his publishers sought to distance themselves from his nationalist and antimodernist diatribes. Likewise, and perhaps more strikingly, a large amount of polemical material was omitted from the early translations of his work produced in America after his death, for fear it would alienate readers following the Second World War. However, from a modern perspective, much of this censored material is rife with a nationalist attitude that is richly emblematic of Austro-German thought during the inter-war period.

Although potentially raising more questions than answering them, this paper places Schenker's patriotism within its contemporary political context. It explores the notion that both his political and musical judgements made in publication strongly mirror the nationalist trends in society at this time. At the heart of this research lies the question of how Schenker engaged with politics in his private affairs; of why his self-identification with Austro-German nationalism appears as such a paradox to his position as a Jewish immigrant in Vienna, particularly at a time when anti-Semitic hostility was growing in Austria. This paper offers the suggestion that Schenker's expression of Austro-German identity was passively cultivated by his social and cultural surroundings, that it was brought about by a nationalist mindset that was present in the intellectual lives of many Austrian citizens at this time.

Georg Burgstaller, "'A corner-shop for democratic phrases': political subtexts in Heinrich Schenker’s polemics against Paul Bekker, 1913-1922"

In early twentieth-century Vienna, music criticism - both journalistic and scholarly - was widely read and captivated the readership with its opinionated tone and displays of rivalry and petty intrigue. Although often deliberately engaging with the work of other writers, these essays essentially remained monologues, designed to satisfy the readership's enthralment with Persönlichkeit, the personal voice embellishing factual reportage.

My paper will look at one such rivalry, between music theorist Heinrich Schenker and the foremost German music critic of his day, Paul Bekker. On the surface, Schenker's attacks on Bekker, published in the Erläuterungsausgabe of Beethoven's late piano sonatas, were concerned with the critic's hermeneutic style - at a time when Schenker came to recognise the unique contribution that his "elucidations" represented. The differences between these two assimilated Jews were, however, far more substantial, involving at times diametrically opposed views on art, criticism, democracy, and nation. Writing about the music of a politically charged figure such as Beethoven, became, for both men, a means to articulate these views, especially during the chaos of the First World War and its aftermath.

Drawing on unpublished sources in Schenker's archive and consolidating these with recent new research into the life and critical mind of Bekker, my paper will address issues of identity at the heart of the two men’s varying dispositions. By considering the socio-historical background, and illustrating parallels to political arguments rendered by contemporaries such as Thomas and Heinrich Mann, I will put their public dispute into a literary rather than musicological context, an aspect so far neglected in Schenker studies.

William Drabkin (Keynote), "Schenker's Army: Defending the Fundamental Line of Mozart’s G minor Symphony"

The second volume of Heinrich Schenker's Das Meisterwerk in der Musik appeared in the summer of 1927. While the content of this "yearbook" of analytical work is as varied as any of his publications of the 1920s, one essay stands out for its length and scope: that on Mozart's Symphony in G minor, K. 550. Three years later, an article entitled "Über die Urlinie [Concerning the Fundamental Line] appeared in the influential monthly journal Die Musik. Its author, Walter Riezler, was at the time curator of the Municipal Art Gallery in Stettin and better known as an art and architecture critic than as a writer on music. Riezler argued that Schenker's Urlinie did not merely distort Mozart's achievements, about which an intellect of Schenker's calibre could have written far better in more humanistic terms: it was also putting people off his writings and would soon result in his being consigned to musicological oblivion.

Although Schenker did not reply to Riezler's attack upon the very foundations of his new theories, he did encourage some of his pupils to do so, hoping that a response might be published in a subsequent issue of Die Musik. Replies of differing character, by two of Schenker's lesser-known pupils, survive in special collections housed at the New York Public Library and the University of California at Riverside. These unpublished essays shed light not only on analytical issues arising in Mozart's symphony but also on the way in which Schenker's radical way of understanding musical structure was received almost at the moment of its creation.


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