Christine Dysers

A Cellular Approach to Schoenberg: Bernhard Lang’s Monadologie VII: … for Arnold … (2009)

The musical output of Austrian composer Bernhard Lang (°1957) is a curious melting-pot of different influences, such as techno music, visual arts, neo-Marxist philosophy and improvisation. His music is built around the concept of repetition, which not only functions as a Deleuzian attempt to question identity, but also as a means of criticizing the non-repetition dogma of the Second Viennese School and its heirs.

While shifting his philosophical basis from the post-structuralism of Deleuze to the rationalism of Leibniz, Lang continues to push the central idea of repetition to an extreme in his newer Monadologie series. In these pieces, Lang takes samples of pre-existing music from throughout history as a starting point for a wide variety of algorithmically generated looping- and transformation processes. After selecting a melodic, motivic or harmonic cell from a pre-existing score, he lets its texture explode by manipulating and mutating the cell both time- and spectrum-wise. In Monadologie VII … for Arnold … (2009), Lang not only refers to the films of Martin Arnold, which have inspired his looping aesthetic since 1995, but also to Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 2, Opus 38 (1906-1939), which symbolizes Schönberg’s problematic relationship towards tonality. In this paper I will demonstrate the different compositional strategies by which Bernhard Lang decontextualizes Schoenberg’s Opus 38 in his Monadologie VII and interpret the musical implications which arise from that. More specifically, I will analyse and discuss the musical techniques and underlying motives by which Lang reinterprets Schoenberg’s work within a postmodern setting. Through this synthesis between historical source-study and music analysis, I will reach well-founded conclusions which will allow me to interpret the many musical layers of Lang’s score in as rich a context as possible.