The important teacher is always effective through his example. Even if he does not demonstrate the skill to be learned, but only explains it, he influences by the example of his whole essence. A good textbook presupposes a certain suggestive personality who stands tangibly before his pupils in every sentence. Therefore Arnold Schönberg had an absolute calling to write the musical textbook. For he possesses that true multifacetedness based on one homogenous spirit that permeates his whole essence. All his utterances become avowals and reveal a deeper unity that of itself serves as a model. That pheno¬menon is so extensive, that one could learn more composition from hearing him speak about the most remote things than from thick¬bodied theoretical books. And, on the other hand, this textbook of harmony instruction has meaning not only for the musician but also anyone who considers artistic problems to be life’s problems. For the creator of this book possesses a brilliant creative power combined with the insatiable craving for knowledge characteristic of the true philoso¬pher, to whom it is granted to see problems everywhere. For him there is nothing that is extrinsic, ever the most insignificant things are given a perspective, because at no point does he ever lose sight of the life of art and ultimately of life itself: It is precisely for this reason that the pupil acquires a disproportionately greater respect for artistic material than precepts or inhibitions could ever instill; because he learns to be conscious of the relationship between the most insignificant detail and the deepest essence of artistic things, and by way of that is trained to achieve the highest goal of education, honesty.

From this it is self-evident that strictest objectivity is the earmark of Schönberg’s style. There are no decorative words of secondary importance here, there are only primary words. You have the feeling that were you to omit just one sentence, the balance of this book so laden with deep thoughts would be upset. Style is produced as the direct result of point of view, verbal richness from the virtually tremendous profusion of ideas. And for all his severity he is so per¬sonal that were you acquainted with Schönberg you would think that while reading you heard his voice. You can never grow tired of this work whose verbal purity seems miraculous in journalistic times, and you repeatedly find passages which will remain unforgettable because of the immortal way they are expressed.

What differentiates this book on harmony in its purely musical content from all contemporary textbooks is the circumstance that it was written by someone who understands music from his innermost being and not merely at second hand like the “theoreticians.” Only someone whose knowledge stems directly from his experience could succeed in transforming the false presupposition from which music education has proceeded up to now and give it a natural basis. It shows, namely, that so-called music theory can never really be that which it claims to be: a system of explanations able to establish eternal rules and aesthetic principles, but rather at best a system of representation, which distinctly orders artistic phenomena. Schönberg has the courage to designate and comprehend the instruction of composition as what it can only be, an “instruction of handicraft.” That premise is never abandoned in this work: the pupil is never given just rules, but instead receives directions for the appropriate use of artistic tools that are put into his hand in a careful, pedagogically systematic and reflective manner. The pupil is not about to be permitted to write down everything; quite the contrary, he is bound to follow formulae that are stricter by far than those of the ordinary theory teachers. But the pupil knows he must avoid certain things because he is not mature enough to use them yet, and not, as it were, because they are bad or not beautiful. Of course Schönberg also gives explanations for his instructions, and even to a fa greater degree than is usually the case. The essential difference is that he does not give aesthetic but instead gives physical and psychological proof, and does not search for rules in order to find inflexible artistic norms, for searching becomes an end in itself. Because he continually finds relationships, the subject comes to life as never before. The entire process of harmony no longer appears to be the result of dead formulae; rather a psychology of harmony is created. Therefore precisely the talented person, who barely understood before what that boring system had to do with music, now will find what is uniquely important for him.

The physical basis to which Schönberg attempts to trace back all phenomena is for him as well as for science the theory of overtones. And even in this he succeeds in exhibiting entirely new relationships. Schönberg points out, first of all, that not only the basic: major triad, but also the major scale is given in the overtone series. He thus explains the origin of the most primitive musical tools, scale and triad, as an imitation of a model found in nature: the tone as a result of its overtones, in its horizontal as well as vertical manifestation. This principle of imitating a model is communicated throughout the entire book as the psychological foundation for the development of musical technique. In accordance with the theory of the triad, Schönberg also casts aside the second false premise of “music theory”: the distinction between consonance and dissonance, which we might be inclined to call the grand delusion of harmonic theory. He proves unequivocally that there is no essential difference, but rather a gradual one, between consonance and dissonance. That means that there are only nearer and more distant composite sounds, all of which exist in nature and are therefore of equal value for the artist, and their applicability depends solely upon the training of the ear. The proof is so convincing that the result seems immediately obvious, as obvious as brilliant discoveries which never presume anything but the ability to see with our own eyes what we had picked up by way of the senses from our ancestors. Just like the prejudice against dissonance, the generally accepted view of forbidden parallels is also dismissed. Schönberg demonstrates that this prohibition like many others, can have only historical meaning, that originally “octaves and fifths were not in themselves bad, but on the contrary, were in themselves good; that they had merely come to be considered outdated, primitive, relatively art-less; that there was no physical nor aesthetic reason, however, why they should not on occasion still be used.” Thus Schönberg points out the emptiness of all those formulae to which theory holds fast, because it would be able to find no standpoint in the eternal flow of artistic development. That is how the breach in the old system of harmonic instruction, pointed out in the chapter on nonharmonic tones, comes to light. For the chords resulting from those notes that are nonharmonic:, as Schönberg points out in a brilliant polemic, are harmonies like any other. They are not random, because in masterworks nothing can be viewed as random; their legitimacy just hasn’t been acknowledged as yet. The difference between random chord structures and those acknowledged as independent is only a historical one, because the dominant seventh chord was only possible, originally, as a passing sonority. “There are, then, no nonharmonic tones, no tones foreign to harmony, but merely tones foreign to the harmonic system.” There is no reason, therefore, why every chord arising originally from voice-leading cannot be used independently. This means: any chord is possible. Ultimately the staunchest prejudice, the belief in the necessity of tonal boundaries for a piece of music, must give way. Schönberg doesn’t consider harmony “to be a natural law nor a constraint exerted by the substance of music, but rather an artistic device that makes it possible for us to lend musical thoughts the aura of completeness.” And he shows that even those contemporary compositions that still officially acknowledge tonality carry within themselves the seeds of its death; that their harmonic design no longer consistently expresses the relationship to key, that all that is needed, therefore, for the total disintegration of tonality is a small step. For the artist, as Schönberg explains – and this is the most valuable consequence of this work – there are absolutely no aesthetic prerequisites: “Beauty exists only from that moment on when the unproductive begin to miss it. Before that it does not exist, for the artist does not need it. To him integrity is enough. To him it is enough to have expressed himself. To have said what had to be said; according to the laws of his nature.” Thus this textbook turns unintentionally into one of the most brilliant vindications of modern music, because Schönberg’s interest lies primarily in showing the pupil that art need not concern itself with rules, that the latter have only a limited validity with regard to a certain style and are of value to us only pedagogically. This is stressed repeatedly, of course, and in a very forceful manner. He says so himself: “After I have shown the pupil to what extent these rules are absolutely not mandatory, I place a check on his desire to unleash his disdain for them, by developing his sense of form so profoundly according to the old rules, that he will be able to tell in time just how far he may go, and what state a composition must be in, in order for rules to be disregarded.”

The way Schönberg develops a pupil’s feeling for form is fundamentally different from the way it is usually Bone today, in that, in the first place, he specifies precisely the function of the theory of harmony. He differentiates much more sharply than is customary between the subject areas of harmony and counterpoint, and puts major emphasis on the exercise in working with harmonics, that is, on fundamentals, on purely harmonic structure. This is again selfevident, but demonstrates precisely why it is not customary with present-day teachers. As in other instances, Schönberg harkens back to the method used by order theoreticians, because they are closer to fulfilling his need for objectivity. Therefore he provides the pupil no figured basses but instead, from the first day on, has him compose little pieces with the simplest means given him. The pupil himself has to Sketch the voice that determines harmonic structure, the bass, thereby paving the way in advance for the development of his specifically harmonic sense of form. Just as Schönberg proceeds from no other hypotheses but these that are revealed within himself, he presupposes nothing on the part of the pupil. He hands him the tools that will be used gradually, in sequence, and with increasing difficulty, so that the pupil is hardly conscious of them. Nothing is regarded as a matter of course, because nothing is trifling, nothing is too insignificant for the person for whom the material of his art is sacred. On account of the unusual thoroughness with which everything is treated here, the precepts that the pupil never has to accept blindly take on far greater importance for him. He knows why he has to keep very precisely to all the old rules, whose limited validity he is reminded of time and again. He knows that he should try first to strive for one goal: to bring clearly to expression the simplest possible style. If the means accessible to the pupil are somewhat richer, then the standard fundamental steps are given an exhaustive investigation. At this point, which has to be the true center of harmony instruction, Schönberg once again takes up and develops independently an idea alluded to by older theoreticians and long forgotten today – one, of course, obligatory for the pupil – that of giving considerable value to the fundamental steps as they result from the harmonic structure of classical works. The division of the fundamental steps that results serves as groundwork for the entire remainder of the instruction. It can only be touched upon cursorily here that in the chapters on inversions, origins of the minor mode, and the treatment of dissonances, entirely new psychological perspectives are opened up, and the pupil learns to handle these in an unusually conscientious manner. The extraordinary objectivity and rigor with which Schönberg leads the pupil from step to step features prominently in the chapters that treat cadence and modulation. The pupil is not shown the usual practicable maneuvers by which he can modulate anywhere without hesitation, rather he is obliged to apply a modulation methodically. Thus a very rigorous system is developed, based upon the simplest tonal relationships, whereby the pupil learns to work out modulations in which every chord has meaning and which demonstrate a well-thought-out construction. Step by step broader relationships are made accessible, without losing sight of the goal-oriented design. As an enriching element, the chords designated by Schönberg as secondary dominants are inserted into the system, then the altered ones harkening back to the accidentals of the church modes, and finally the “vagrant” chords. The diminished seventh chord, formerly handed the pupil so that he could skip from key to key without a second thought, obtains its clear position in the tonal system by being classified as a ninth chord with its root omitted, and is treated exactly like tonal chords in the narrower sense. The kindred relationships that the modulation had opened up are then used for the enrichment of the cadence. These now shift into the foreground, systematically providing greater possibilities for their expansion, so that die ultimate result is a plastic image of the infinite wealth of relationships within the scope of tonality. Eventually all known harmonic means are included in the system, even the ninth chords usually treated as stepchildren and finally even the whole-tone chords and the fourth chords whose derivation and systematic treatment are offered here for the first time.

These are only a few of the most obvious characteristics of the book. To cite each special feature would be impossible, because everything is special. There would be no page we could skip over; in the end we would rather copy down the book from A to Z. For this textbook has the richness and the expressive power of a work of art, and who could possibly conceptualize such a thing for a person unacquainted with it? If only our era, which likes to lie dormant during great events, could be made aware of this work. Especially the young, the really young musicians, for whom this book will be an artistic gospel. And the nonspecialists, who already place some trust in the name Schönberg but who shrink away in fear from the title Harmonielehre, because they do not understand that this work is a confession that speaks to everyone. Ultimately also those who are perhaps looking for a theory of harmony, but who shy away from the name Schönberg because they believe all those who shape public opinion negatively, who, knowing that several of Schönberg’s pupils have written dissonances, have drawn the faulty conclusion that their teacher had forced them to do so. It is quite obvious that those who expressly wanted to study with Schönberg didn’t become his pupils by chance, but rather because, even before they began to study with him, they had felt an affinity to those forbidden sounds within themselves. There are people who would opt more easily for a slanderous statement than for such a simple reflection. But this book will prove in black and white to all those who do not wish to understand that Schönberg is the best teacher because he is the sternest. Only there is an essential difference between his severity and that of the accredited theoreticians: the latter fear “that which abideth not by their rules”; Schönberg shuns all artistic dishonesty and wants to bring the pupil to the point of understanding that everything he does must stem from an inner necessity.

Arnold Schönberg. Mit Beiträgen von Alban Berg et al. München 1912, p. 49–58