Expressionism and the Second Viennese School

Composers: Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), Alban Berg (1885-1935), Anton Webern (1883-1945)

Arnold Schoenberg, creator of the twelve-tone system (or, dodecaphony): "I personally hate to be called a revolutionist, which I am not. What I did was neither revolution nor anarchy."


Style: Atonality, Serialism and Twelve-tone composition [Dodecaphony]


Characteristics of expressionism in the visual arts:

* non-representational; not a "straightforward presentation of the external world, but a projection of and internal idea without the use of literal symbols"
* a look into the emotional and psychological state; distorted images; irregular shapes
* portrayal of human terror, haunting anxieties, nightmarish fears, anguish
* materialism, industrialization, disillusionment, fragmentation,
* excursions into the subconscious
* distorting images depict the inner, psychological, subjective world of the artist


Characteristics of expressionism in music:
* episodic, fragmentary form and structure
* abrupt musical language
* clashing dissonances
* interest in common man
* tonality, triadic harmony, and consonance vs. dissonance are not valid anymore
* abstract procedures
* great emotional intensity


 Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

           The Scream


Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

           Composition #2

           Improvisation #7

           Improvisation #26

           Composition #7


Kandinsky (from his Concerning the Spiritual in Art): "That is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul."


Kandinsky: "The more obvious is the separation from nature, the more likely is the inner meaning to be pure and unhampered. . . . The more abstract is form, the more clear and direct is its appeal."


Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980)

           The Bride of the Wind

           Portrait of the composer Arnold Schoenberg, 1924