Schoenberg’s pictures fall into two categories: on the one hand the portraits and landscapes painted directly from nature; on the other hand, heads imagined intuitively, which he calls “visions.” The former Schoenberg designates as finger exercises, which he feels he needs, but which he does not particularly value, and which he does not like to exhibit. The other he paints (just as rarely as the first sort) to express emotions that find no musical form. These two categories are extremely different. Internally they stem from one and the same soul, caused to vibrate in one case by external nature and in the other by nature within.
(Kandinsky, commenting on paintings exhibited by Schoenberg in 1910.)
Schoenberg and Kandinsky followed remarkably similar paths in their moves away from representation to abstraction and from the single focuses of perspective and tonality in painting and music to the subsequent afocal attributes of both. Both artists had received the initial impulses in these directions as early as the last years of the nineteenth century, and neither one achieved the full realization of his purpose until many years later.
(Both passages from Joan Peyser, To Boulez and Beyond.)
The representational in Art will always be with us, and it were probably something of an affectation, to despise representational Art for being itself.
Entirely unprofessionally, I’ll hypothesize that perhaps everyone has enjoyed abstract art of some type. Still, it has a much less clear, less reliable “lure” for the non-artist audience. I think it sensible to rely on a smaller audience for abstract art. I think it probably asinine to denigrate an artist for creating abstract art.
In the Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth file, we have a meeting, a past meeting though not the deep past; a meeting where I was supposedly among friends, in which some actively railed at me for the Crime Against the People, of writing—nay, more: of performing for an audience—abstract music. And others present just sat and watched, while I was pilloried. None spoke in my defense.
I don’t say that I hold against them, forever, the moral injury. But I know to rely upon them to only a certain extent. I remember the silence.
Separately (or, is it?) I made something of a point, when I composed my First Symphony, of a. writing it as abstract music, in three movements; and b. forbearing to christen it with any sexy, marketable subtitle. It’s “just” a Symphony, and it will either be performed, or will continue to sit on the shelf, because it is “no more” than well written music.