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Arnold Schoenberg and Haiku


Arnold Schoenberg, Digital ID th-49541, New York Public LibraryI play the piano a little bit and am working on AS's Six Little Pieces, op. 19. Little they are — all six take less than five minutes to play. Easy they are not — the slightest error in nuance ruins them. Written in 1911, they are among his 'atonal' works, a vague term but basically describing those works in which the usual major/minor tonalities were avoided. I don't quite know why so many people have an aversion to this music, and its successor, serial music. So what if it is a bit like hearing a foreign language you don't speak — after a few hearings it begins to get coherent. And if it takes longer than that, so what: just lie back, close your eyes and think of Germany. This stuff is really very beautiful.

But back to topic: In one of the few readable critical essays on the pieces (if you think Lit Crit is formidible, try what music theorists have to say) from one of those now probably-defunct popular keyboard magazines (either Clavier or Keyboard). Dika Newlin recommends that the student compose haiku on these critters, which I did, below.

Haiku, as you probably know, is among the least obnoxious of the poetic forms (down with the Triolet). Just 3 lines of five, seven and five syllables, and with a point. I'd be interested to read what you came up with vis-à-vis a musical piece.


Black and white etching —
quick, dry, shimmering vision,


Empty and stillborn,
your quiet movement for naught.
Pulse below heartbeat.


The hand fights against,
and losing to it always,
the Weight of Being.


Scherzo but in name,
finally fortissimo,
your jolly sounds laughs.


Dance, twirl, turnabout.
Synapses brightly explode.
Concrete dreaminess.


Written for the grave.
Eternity beckons me
or thee, as you choose.



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On June 8, 2013 the Open Music Ensemble,, will present Music as Muse at the summer meeting of the Northeast Metro chapter of the Haiku Society of America,, from 3 -4:30PM, at the Tenri Institute in New York City, Members of the Ensemble will play improvised music and the audience will respond with haiku poems, next the chapter members will read prepared poems and the musicians will improvise based on them, and finally one of the musicians will present her interpretation of poems by Kerouac and Basho. The public is cordially invited. Philip Foster

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