Herbert Brün

I shall tell what I think while remembering Arnold Schoenberg, rather
than tell what he thought while predicting us. Where he was right, we
should be deeply ashamed, and where he was in error, I, at least, shall not
gloat. I can hear and understand the music he desired to compose, and
while writing the following pages I thought, not only, but in particular, of
his Trio.


Arnold Schoenberg, just as Karl Kraus and Charles Ives, knew and ex-
pressed how passionately dedicated he was to the society which, as he
understood it, he could not stand, and which, as it understood him, could
not stand him. His life and letters and prose and poetry and theory and
composition demonstrate how he tried to distinguish himself in and from
this society. Both. To draw both distinctions at once was his theme and
subject matter, even though this meant courting blatant contradiction
while dealing, apparently, with mere conflicts.

To the understandable horror of all believers in consistency, coherence,
communication, perfect models, and other such comfort providing, dis-
tinction removing paradigms, he successfully drew this distinction; is suc-
cessfully drawing it. 


Not many people know how passionately dedicated they are to the society
which they can not stand. Unaware of their living in contradiction they
live in conflict.

Not many people know how passionately dedicated they are to the society
which can not stand them. Unaware of their living in conflict they live in

Nobody can stand not being stood.

Nobody wishes to admit that.

Everybody, therefore, searching for an admissible degree of relative com-
fort resorts to proper English and falsifies the issue, thus: It is difficult to
understand why one is not understood.

This proper English falsification underlies the prose and poetry written
about Arnold Schoenberg by those of his friends and followers who, once
his apologetic avowers, today, equally apologetically, disavow him. It is an
underlie, because it is not at all difficult to understand why one is not un-
derstood, and that one is not stood because one is understood, and that one
can not stand that which one understands precisely because one does.

Not many people know that a discovered contradiction needs to be pro-
tected against apologetic explanations reducing it to mere conflict.

Even fewer people know that conflicts can be resolved within the system
in which they are said to be conflicts, and that contradictions can not.

To turn contradictions into conflicts is the concern of the reformer who
criticizes the flaws in a desired system.

To turn conflicts into contradictions is the concern of the revolutionary
who criticizes the flawlessness of an undesired system


Anticommunication is an attempt, not a refusal.

    The object is its name when called upon to manifest nothing but its
    mere existence.
        Monologues are lonely dialogues.
        Response prevents monologues.

      The Listencr is called upon to manifest more than his mere existence.
      The Composer is called upon to manifest more than his mere existence.
      Nor is music in performance an object

        Anyone can call that, to which he refuses to respond, a monologue.
        Anyone can respond to that which he refuses to call a monologue.

    Nobody can call upon anything to manifest nothing but his mere
    Anyone can call upon anything to manifest nothing but its mere

      Just name it and call it its name.

        It is just a matter of disposition.

      So disposed, and disposed of, it will leave you alone.
      Alone? You do not want to be left alone?

        That, then, is a matter of composition.

    Our subject is our name when called upon to manifest anything but our
    mere existence.

Anticommunication is the attempt at protecting a message
of contemporary relevance and significance from the
unconditional surrender to the addressed receiver. 

    Every desire can be transformed into a statement which wants to be-
    come "true."

    Whenever the maintenance of a system is rated more important than the
    maintenance of its elements, then the system will solve the problems
    which assail it and perpetuate the problems which maintain it.

    Perpetuated problems generate the desire for a change of system. The
    opposition to change calls these problems unsolvable in order to reject
    the fulfillment of desires.

    The Composer's Music solves the problems which maintain it, and per-
    petuates the problems that assail it.

    To learn how to compose is to learn how to construct systems wherein
    deliberately stipulated premises, statements of desires, become 'true.

      Given a thesis or statement which intends to condemn present day reality and

      Could you argue for this thesis without using present day reality and

        If used as an argument, present day reality and facts will condemn
        any thesis which condemns them.

        Furthermore, an argument which supports a thesis will in turn
        appear supported by the thesis.

        Thus it may happen that you support that which you intend to

      How could you, without using present day reality and facts as an
      argument, argue for this thesis without becoming a composer? 

    In the system which perpetuates it, an unsolvable problem is just that. 

Communication uses the order and the law that is meant
to be found by the receiver as his own; anticommunication
creates the order and the law that the receiver is to find
for the first time

    The music you hear is, among other things, also the music composed by
    the composer. While yon hear what you want to hear, you also hear
    what the composer wants you to hear, provided your listening neither
    starts too late nor stops too early. Otherwise you will hear what is, at
    least according to the composition, the wrong piece. If it matters to a
    composer that you listen to the right piece he will side with his com-
    position and not permit his listeners to think that it does not matter. 

      The living organism needs food. When we want to eat, this want fol-
      lows the instruction of a need. Nobody, however, needs to be either a
      composer or a listener unless he wants to. Here the want generates the
      need and the need for music follows the instruction of a want. Want
      is the meaningful relation between needs and music. In the one case,
      want is a consequence, in the other the cause. To disregard and to be-
      little want in either case is to gloat over the needy, is to pride oneself
      on needing nothing. 

    Spontaneity, at its very best. generates intuitive responses to instructions
    received. Even the most brilliant improvisation only embellishes obedi-
    ence to what is wanted from, not by, the musician. 

    The composer, on the other hand, articulates what he wants. Not the
    mere fact that he wants something, but that he artictilates it as an in-
    struction, gives music its function in society and, sometimes, renders
    music immune to the insidious flatteries of commercial absorption. 

    Nobody will be free from want by just hiding it.

Anticommunication offers more or less decorative garbage
to the receiver who wants to understand. but it explodes
or condenses into intended messages to the receiver who
wants to understand.

    The composer brings about that which without him cannot happen.

        The present brings about that which can happen without the

        The future leaves no traces. 

        The past is traces left. 

        The present is traced in passing aud left.

      The environment is traces left in passing and left. 

      The environment is past present. 

      It can happen without the composer. 

      The environment happens within but without the composer. 

    The composer happens within but without the environment.

    The composer brings about that which cannot happen without him.

    He composes the future so that his composition leave the traces of the
    future which the future won't leave.

        The future cannot happen. 

        Left to the future it would never happen, not with and not without
        the composer. 

    Therefore the composer brings about that which with and without him
    cannot happen. 

        Music for instants and, for instance, poetry. 

Communication appeals to the individual owners of personal
properties, like taste, repertory, language, a past,
privileges. beliefs, etc., and problems. Anticommunication
is the problem inviting the attack of all who are intelligently
tired of the unconditional surrender of long since conditioned
messages to ultimately adjusted receivers.

      Music wants listeners whether listeners want music or not; 

      if listeners want music. listeners will react to and interact with what-
      ever listeners think listeners have heard;

      if listeners do not want music, listeners cease being listeners and will
      react to and interact with whatever listeners neither think nor hear.

    As soon as the reader has conveyed to each word in this statement the
    meaning which will allow the statement to appear as a true' statement,
    he has understood the content of the statement.

    The reader who, without thus understanding it, rejects the statement as
    being 'false,' fails, in fact, to reject the written statement. He rejects
    only the reader's reading.

    The reader who understands the content of the statement by discover-
    ing the conditions under which it becomes 'true' and, then, rejects the
    statement as being false,' fails to reject only the written statement. He
    also rejects the discovered conditions. 

      The listener never acceptsts or rejects the music. 'I'lie listener some-
      times accepts only, and sometimes rejects only, what he thinks he has
      heard and, if he knows and understands what he has heard, also the
      composition by which and in which the music has been and, now, is
      being generated.

      Where listeners consume music, both disappear. Where both appear,
      the listener is consumed by the music. Ready to further either and
      both, appearances and disappearances, almost all music almost always
      has been experimental. So have almost all listeners.

If the organization of a system in disorder is attempted
with the aim to know all about the system and to render
this information communicable, then it may he considered
a scientific" project. Here the system does not only
offer the means, but also the contents of communication.
It speaks for and about itself.

            With a slyly embarrassed, but utterly unapologetic wink of
            complicity in the general direction of the sciences: 

        Uncertainty and ambivalence in a communication system betray
        more than anything else, the presence of its only justification of ex-
        istence, namely the presence of information. To lose this is the goal
        of the system under the inhriman and ruthless dictates of nature. 
        Man can but retard this process or gleefully promote it. 

    The gleeful promoter is the conservative who reads realitv bv the flick-
    ering light emanating from putrid communication systems that have
    grown sadly safe and certain, hiding nothing, not the slightest bit of in-
    formation, and who hopes to bask delightedly and soon among the life-
    less residuals of todays unanswered questions. 

    It is the retarder, on the other hand, who regrets that life abandons
    passing things and configurations, who eagerly learns and studies nature's
    laws so that he may protect all and himself against these laws as long as
    possible, so that information may live a little longer before the com-
    municative pit swallows it, before the digestive system of learned under-
    standing will mutilate meaning for the production of meanings. 

                            All adjectives and adverbs may be removed. 

        Not removable is the distinction between the conservative who con-
        spires with nature, and the composer who resists its seduction to

If the organization of a system in disorder is attempted
with the aim of mobilizing the means for the communication
of thoughts which transcend the definition of the system,
then it may be considered a "creative" project. Here the
system offers the means but not the contents of communication.
It speaks for but not about itself.

        Whenever I am wanted, I am defined.
        Whenever a connection I want wants establishing,
        I am wanted.
        Thence: rather "whither the statements?" than "whence?".

Not one of these statemets is thought to be true.
If these statements were thought to be true, the
consequences of such thinking would be desirable.
Thus these statements need to be thought of as
becoming true.
A program.


The composer wishes to bring about that which without him and without
human intent would not happen. In particular, he wishes to construct sys-
tems, contents, stipulated universes, wherein selected objects and state-
ments manifest not only more than their mere existence but have a func-
tion or value or sense or meaning which without his construction they
would not have.

Occasionally a composer brings about that which without him and with-
out human intent could not have happened.

It was certainly not Schoenberg's wish to bring about that, which without
"those who applauded his wish" and without "their intentions" would not
happen. As soon as the applause had subsided, as soon as the difference
between his intentions and "theirs" became clear, "their voices rose pro-
testing that not one of them would have committed Schoenberg's error by
fulfilling Schoenberg's wish and his intentions as Schoenberg had done.
This obvious truism has been used ever since as if it were some kind of
contemporary criticism, but has never yet been recognized for the supreme
expression of respect that it is, by confirming that indeed Schoenberg had
brought about that which without him, and with them, and without his
intentions, and with theirs, could not have happened.

Many successful works of art reflect present day reality and facts. Affirma-
tive output of our society. They are successful in that they allow us to see
our society, as it is embellished and affirmed by the artists and composers
whom it favors.

Some successful works of art reflect the problems which maintain the sys-
tem wherein they are conflicts. Indignantly contrite output of our society.
They are successful in that they allow us to see our society, as it is heavily
armed against change, under a thin coat of free thought accorded the
artists and composers whom it favors.

A few successful works of art reflect the problems which assail the system
wherein they are contradictions. Affront as input to our society. They are
successful in that they allow us to see our society as if it were also another,
different, society and, rather than its future, that of the artists and com-
posers who favor it.

Even fewer successful works of art reflect the desire for, and the rejection
of, our society as tomorrow's reality and facts. Utopia as input to our soci-
ety. They are successful in that they allow us to see our society as it pre-
vents itself from becoming what it wants to be, to see another society which
helps itself to what it wants to be, and its future rather than that of the
artists and composers who favor it. 

No work of art necessarily fits only one of these descriptions. Every work
of art, however, tells the composer and his audience, whether they admit
it or not, to which combination of descriptions it best fits. 

No description of a work of art necessarily heeds all of the composer's in-
tentions. Most of the composer's intentions, however, may be quite irrele-
vant for any description of his composition. 

No composer necessarily plans to have his composition fit any particular
combination of descriptions. Every composer does, however, have a share
in the responsibility for that combination of descriptions which fits his

Thus, Arnold Schoenberg is responsible for what he did and said and
claimed in his own name, as well as for what was done, said, claimed in
his name by others. This does not, however, allow us to confuse him with
others. If the claims that were made in his name are now being withdrawn
by those who either initially had, or even had not, made them, then I wish
to redraw the distinction between the statement, musical or otherwise,
made by a composer, and all statements made about this statement by his
audience. And if the others remind me of the evidence which shows that
the accurate meaning of every statement is powerless against its once en-
thusiastic, now disavowing, and in many cases inaccurate, interpretations,
then I shall change the evidence rather than live in that mental universe
in which others, according to their evidence, are right. 

I can not and will not remember Arnold Schoenberg in anyone's name but

Perspectives of New Music, Fall-Winter 1973, Spring-Summer 1974 Special Double Issue,
Ed. B. Boretz, Co-Ed. E. Barkin, pp. 29 - 39

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