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Bryan R. Simms. The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg,
1908-1923. Oxford University Press, 2000. ix, 265 pp.

Haimo, Ethan

Schoenberg's decision, around 1908, to begin writing compositions that had no tonal center and few, if any, traditional harmonies, remains an event of surpassing historical importance, one that has had an incalculable influence on the subsequent history of music. Given the central significance of this repertoire, it is surprising that-before now-no one had undertaken the challenge of writing a book devoted to Schoenberg's atonal compositions. Bryan Simms has responded to this curious lacuna with a book entitled The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg. However, the scope of his book is even wider than is implied by its title: the second chapter discusses Schoenberg's evolution toward atonality and the last chapter addresses the early serial period. Thus, in some important ways, Simms' book discusses at least parts of all three of Schoenberg's principal compositional approaches: tonal, atonal, and serial.



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Columbia University
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April 24, 2015