Jean-Paul Olive

Arnold Schoenberg: Musical Prose and Formal Analysis

When he defines his concept of ‘free musical prose’, Arnold Schoenberg occupies a polemic and fruitful position for a reflexion about continuity, discontinuity and the question of formal division. Schoenberg defended a music in which all the elements had to be close to the centre, in which all the elements had to present all the same importance, even if they have different functions in the musical sentences, in the articulation of the musical discourse. Such a position led him to compose a music in which density, articulation and presentation require – for the listener, but also for the analyst – a new position about traditional practice in listening and analysis. The matter of relations between musical elements becomes a fundamental point and, in one sense, it becomes more important than the question of strict division of the form. It is the reason why this music is at once a continuation and a critique of traditional music, and why it makes the analyst look at the music of the past with other eyes. In my paper, I will speak about some fragments of Pierrot lunaire, a work that with great subtlety mixes innovative elements with elements of the past, in the detail of the sentences as well as in the construction of form.