What if Schoenberg had been an American Civil Rights leader?….

This semester, while teaching the Second Viennese School, a student asked a question about the word “emancipation” that made me think of this. With sincere apologies to Dr. Martin Luther King, I offer this post:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our art.

Five score years ago, a great Austrian, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the “Emancipation of the Dissonance.” This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of pitches who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. “The single tone” no longer held “the priviledge of supremacy.” It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Pitch still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Pitch is still sadly crippled by the manacles of tonality and the chains of function. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the musical dream. Some might say, an Impossible Dream.

I have a dream that one day this music will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all pitches are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of serialists and the sons of neo-classicists will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little pitches will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their sharps and flats but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, little C sharps and F sharps will be able to join hands with little B flats and E flats as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream “that twelve-tone music in the near future will no longer be rejected because of “dischords””  “That today’s ear will become as tolerant to these dissonances as musicians were to Mozart’s dissonances.”

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

Let freedom ring from the conservatories of New York.

Let freedom ring from concert halls in the Heartland.

Let freedom ring from every studio on the coast of California.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every motif and every theme, from every choir and every orchestra, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, sharps and flats, pentatonic and whole tone, quartal and quintal, atonal and pantonal, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Content largely borrowed from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm and the words of Arnold Schoenberg (in quotations)

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25 Responses to “What if Schoenberg had been an American Civil Rights leader?….”

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