Webern in the Footsteps of Goethe

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The artist tries to prove that he is in this world, even if he isolates himself from the world. It is the intention to tell; the purpose of being understood. His only concern is with the world. The world transforms into different forms with the artist, with the art. Making life livable is possible with art, on the contrary, it is wild.

When we look at a painting, we can reach a higher point in understanding the work with elements such as the historical features of the period in which the painting was made, the movement traced by the artist, let alone the artistic values, which are more than just seeing the world around us. For example, a violinist painted by a 17th-century painter was very different from another portrayed in the 18th century. Of course, inferences about the period of time can be made from the way the instrument is held, its position on the chin, the angle in which the spring is positioned or the tension level of the spring.

For this reason, it is necessary not to examine music and other arts separately with the understanding of art that is advancing and changing. Although they represent different views when we consider them one by one, they have been highly influenced by each other as it has been going on for centuries. While the masterpieces of the leading composers of the period undoubtedly inspired paintings, poems and thoughts, on the other hand, the projections of the paintings and the ideas of the authors played an important role in the progress of music on its own.

So much so that Anton von Webern, one of the leading figures of modernism, was inspired by other branches of art and artists while creating his own art and artistic view. Webern, as a follower of the dodecaphonic music idea of ​​his student Schonberg, also supported the principle that the twelve voices can be used equally and freely. He moved away from emotions and fell on the mathematics and clarity of music. By developing the concept of tone melody, he brought the pointillism (pointillism or punctualism) style to music. This style is representative of the music composed of notes played not as a whole or as a group, but by dividing them into different instruments, just like the pointillism technique, which was used by the impressionist painters at the same time. While Webern's pointillism expresses the transformation of different tones of different instruments into completely different colors, that of the new impressionist painters is that different primary colors appear as different colors to the human eye when they come together as a point. Webern was able to create timeless music with the colors he diversified.

This is why long and tiring pieces of one or two minutes at the most and his short and concise music have been an important source of inspiration for future musicians. Schonberg did not hesitate to describe this special student as "who writes a novel on a page".

One of the building blocks of Webern's cumulative thoughts is Goethe, who has blended his life with art, literature and science. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, one of the most important names in German literature, received a wide range of education from his early ages. His personality, devoted to science and art, formed a whole with the foreign language, drawing, piano and cello, religion and science lessons he took. From now on, he will be referred to by many titles: Writer, painter, naturalist, politician and many others.

Many of Goethe's works have been examples of interaction between arts. Franz Schubert revived a ballad of Goethe with the liedine "Erlkönig", and Charles Gounod revived Goethe's "Faust" with opera. Beethoven said the following about Goethe and his literature:

 “…Not only in their content, but also in their rhythm. This language, which was formed after the noblest design, arouses me like an ostentatious structure made by the hands of the human spirit, it pushes me to write music. The secret of harmonies (harmonies) is instilled in him.”


Goethe, who almost combines music and poetry and finally produces works full of art, has dreamed of creating epic and dramatic works by working with a musician throughout his life.

Although he could not realize this dream concretely, he succeeded in reaching many musicians. In addition to his works, his thoughts and theories were undoubtedly guiding, of Goethe, who defended the idea that an artist should also be a good craftsman.

Goethe's philosophical and technical theories about nature and botany had a great influence on Webern, who was obsessed with nature and was also passionate about mountain climbing, hiking, gardening, rather than just a hobby. So much so that while developing his ideas about twelve sound music, Goethe's "Mother Plant" (which is based on nature theism)urpflanze) used the concept. He argued that nature has a structure that takes different forms over time, and therefore all plant diversity comes from the "Mother Plant". Using this philosophy, Webern made the following inference: Just as different parts of a plant are under the definition of belonging to that plant, all twelve sounds must be equally perceptible to the listener. Equal rights should be given to each voice. With dodecaphony, the distinction between natural and unnatural sounds from the Baroque period until that time disappeared.

Webern, who frequently quotes Goethe in his diary, also made use of Goethe's Color Theory. This theory says that color is the natural law of sight. Webern also made the following remarks on this idea:

“Since the difference between colors and music is not a difference of quality but a degree of difference, we can say that music is the natural law of the sense of hearing. This is basically the same thing I said for color. But it's totally true, so I'm saying that if we're going to argue about music here, we can only do it by recognizing that music is the natural law of hearing.”

For these valuable thinkers and artists, art existed according to natural laws and rules of regularity. Man, by nature, wants to express himself; the way to do this is to understand the laws in which their own arts follow. The random ones cannot ensure their permanence. Webern and Goethe, on the other hand, still managed to maintain their permanence.



references

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Griffiths, P., 2010, A Brief History of Western Music, Türkiye İş Bankası Cultural Publications, p. 221-222, 231.

Heller, M., Goethe and Music, The German Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 4, Goethe Bicentennial Number (November, 1949), p. 205-208, website: https://www.jstor.org/stable/402099?seq=3#metadata_info_tab_contents

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