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Unnatural Atonality Scam Turns Music into Hard, Painful Work for the Listener

One corner of the hipster-dilettante avant-garde music scene is a genre called “atonality,” or the 12-tone technique, also known as dodecaphony. It’s a method of musical composition devised by Austrian-Jewish composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) and associated with “Second Viennese School” composers.

The hacks promoting this noise refer to it as “classical-modern music.” The hipsters who still defend it will become highly offended if you react negatively to it, hate it or simply don’t get it. By all means, weigh in, dear readers.

While traditional classical music follows strict patterns and a formula that allows the brain to make sense of the sound, modern symphonies by composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern simply confuse listeners’ brains. Polish composer Igor Stravinsky adopted a bit more tolerable aspects of atonality. Decide for yourself, but I find his music only slightly less annoying than Schoenberg, Berg and Webern.

This ditty by Webern seems like it would fit with the 3 a.m. crowd, doing ritual animal sacrifices in an old cemetery. It plays off-kilter chords interspersed with silence that sounds “wrong.”

Watschenkonzert, caricature in Die Zeit, April 6, 1913

In the 1920s and 1930s, Webern’s music and that of his ilk was denounced as “cultural Bolshevism” and “degenerate art” by National Socialists in Germany and Austria. It was called a Jewish-leveling conspiracy.

Here at Winter Watch, we never back down from or skirt the J.Q. and, accordingly, we try to verify and let the chips fall honestly where they may. In actuality, and to be fair, most of the composers were gentiles, not Jews. There must have been something in the water of Vienna. Cognitive-destabilizing heavy metals perhaps? Mercury or lead poisoning maybe?

That said, this music was promoted by Jewish Frankfurt School cultural Marxists. The “new music” — which flowed out of the Second Viennese School — and its founder would be the subjects of countless essays and books by Theodor Adorno, author of the quack book “The Authoritarian Personality.” During the 1930s, Adorno considered Arnold Schoenberg the most “progressive” person in modern music.

Certainly, in the U.K. and U.S., most universities are perfectly happy to produce students who write atonal music for the hipster crowd. But such so-called “music” has been badly received by audiences and critics who have found it difficult to follow.

In “Origins of Negative Dialetics,” Susan Buck-Morss makes the atonality Frankfurt School critical-theory connection. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was all from the same playbook. Whodathunk? [See “Flower Power Sowed Seeds of 50 Years of Weaponized Degeneracy“]

Schoenberg’s revolution in music provided the inspiration for Adorno’s own efforts in philosophy, the model for his major work on Husserl during the 1930s. For just as Schoenberg had overthrown tonality, the decaying form of bourgeois music, so Adorno’s Husserl study attempted to overthrow idealism, the decaying form of bourgeois philosophy.

The great composer Richard Strauss described Schoenberg as being in need of a psychiatrist. He said that “he’d do better to shovel snow instead of scribbling on music-paper.” But let’s just compare Schoenberg with Strauss and see where the rubber meets the road, shall we? I don’t think you have to be a musical expert to understand.

Schoenberg’s revolting and twisted ditty “A Survivor from Warsaw” (1947). Yes, call me a hater.

Richard Strauss – Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 – Hard to beat!

Let’s endure just one more 12-tone composer before dispensing of this.

Here we have Berg’s opera “Wozzeck.” This is awful “music” (noises actually) for the inane and insane. If you watch a few minutes you will see the doctor vexing the police official with a stroke.

Is this music aesthetic or psychic violence against the human spirit? In principle, yes, except most reject it or don’t like it, and thus can apply their own hygiene to discard it.

The brain is a pattern-seeking organ, so it looks for patterns in music to make sense of what we hear. The music of Bach, for example, embodies a lot of the pattern-forming process.

Professor David Huron, an expert on music cognition at Ohio State University, has studied some of the underlying reasons why listeners are repelled by such modern classical pieces. Here’s what he had to say:

Much of what the brain does is to anticipate the future. Predicting what happens next has obvious survival value, and brains are remarkably adept at anticipating events.

We measured the predictability of tone sequences in music by Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern and found the successive pitches were less predictable than random tone sequences.

For listeners, this means that, every time you try to predict what happens next, you fail. The result is an overwhelming feeling of confusion, and the constant failures to anticipate what will happen next means that there is no pleasure from accurate prediction.”

Some of the things that were done by those composers such as Schoenberg undermined this cognitive aid for making music easier to understand and follow. Schoenberg’s music became fragmented which makes it harder for the brain to find structure.

The music is, however, good for something. A train station in Berlin has unveiled a plan to use atonal music to “scare off” drug users. The basic premise of the experiment assumes that atonal music is uncomfortable to listen to, and people won’t want to spend extended periods of time listening to it, especially when under the influence.

Winter Watch Takeaway:  Atonal music is a dead-end impasse. It does not correspond to the natural way of hearing. It constitutes a “musical terrorism” that has nothing to do with the profound nature of music.

Fortunately, the movie and gaming industry has utilized a genre called “epic music.” It’s not easy listening; but in short doses, its profound. Instead of being sadistic, it gives the listener rewards throughout. For sure it incorporates new, more modern instrumentation, and electronica, but in an inspiring and aspiring way. Listen to the naturally uplifting vocal reward at minute 00:01:15 in Per Kiilstofte’s “Battle Of Kings.” The second video is “Battle of Titans.” Fighting the forces of darkness!!

1 Comment on Unnatural Atonality Scam Turns Music into Hard, Painful Work for the Listener

  1. Excellent post, Russ. I did not know that Adorno and the Frankfurt School types had promoted this garbage, but of course it makes perfect sense. BTW, Stravinsky was Russian, not Polish.

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