11 January 2009

The Continuing Adventures in Schoenberg

. . . Krenek says the design of an opera must be
like that of a potpourri.

If music is frozen architecture, then the potpourri is frozen coffee-table gossip, instability caught in the act, a parody of all logical thinking. It is justified, to any degree at all, only as a harmless travesty; it behaves as people behave when they get together socially — jumping from one thing to another, so that an egg-recipe suggests Columbus, a match a risqué story, and the decline of the world a boxing match — all involuntary associations against which primitive brains are defenceless, to which they succumb, being able to link them only by the word 'and': A and X. Potpourri is the art of adding apples to pears; its law applies ithout being able to divide, and it multiplies through non-repetition. It is an accumulation, a mass of things adding up to nothing.

From "Glosses on the Theories of Others" (1929)


  1. Interesting: Krenek has a tone poem entitled "Potpourri" !

    Did he rethink his ideas and decide a tone-poem would be better than an opera as a "potpourri" ?

    A recording is available with the Third Symphony:


  2. Thanks for the head's-up, Cato; I must check that out (Krenek is still just a name to me).

    I find Schoenberg's rants entertaining as well as worth reflecting on. Then, too, I like quite a bit of Feldman, so I probably have a broader notion of musical connection than Arnold may well have approved of . . . perhaps not quite A and X, but probably A and G -ish.