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Alban Berg

Music as Autobiography- Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

The central point of this book is the realization that the creative work of Alban Berg, which in recent years has moved to the forefront of scholarly interest, is largely rooted in autobiography, so that therefore one can gain access to the music by studying the inner biography of its creator. Accordingly, the first of the three parts of this volume outlines a character portrait of this great composer. Part two considers the conditions relevant to a deeper understanding of Berg and of the Second Viennese School generally. In part three, then, Berg’s key works will be analyzed and semantically deciphered in terms of his inner biography. The study is based not only on the sources in print but also on the rich unpublished material. Alban Berg was incapable of composing without a program. He needed an extra-musical stimulus. With him, personal experience was the indispensable condition of the creative process: the autobiographic reference was all-important for composing.
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2 Part Two: Theoretical Presuppositions

Extract

2Part Two: Theoretical Presuppositions

2.1Questions Regarding the Psychology of Creation

2.1.1Inspiration as Gift from On High

“What is usually called invention, that is, a real idea, is, so to speak, a gift from on high, inspiration, i.e., it is not my doing.” Johannes Brahms195

“One does not compose, one gets composed.” Gustav Mahler196

“The artist’s creative activity is instinctive. Consciousness has little influence on it. He feels as if what he does is being dictated to him.” Arnold Schönberg197

The question as to the relative weighting between life and creation, and specifically the question as to the priorities the artist himself sets down in his life’s plan, opens central perspectives for a deeper understanding of the psychology of the creative individual. Theodor W. Adorno made some statements about this question that bear thinking about.

In the eleven years in which I knew him [he writes about his teacher Berg] I always sensed more or less clearly that as an empirical person he was not quite with it, did not fully play along; at times that came through in moments of mental absence, which exactly tallied with the expressionless expression in his eyes. He was not identical with himself in the way that is idolized by the existential ideal, but had something oddly unassailable, even something indifferent, spectator-like, such as Kierkegaard, merely from his Puritanism, has decried it about the aesthetic. Passion itself became, while he...

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