Music and Jugendstil

Frisch, Walter M.

There is at present a large body of writings specifically about the relationship between music and Jugendstil and/or art nouveau. It is here that some of the most ambitiously interdisciplinary musical criticism and analysis have been focused -- interdisciplinary in spirit, but often undisciplined in practice. Even in the most suggestive of this work, music tends to remain undernourished -- sometimes abused -- perhaps because its basic language and "meaning" are notoriously difficult to decipher, let alone relate convincingly to some broader zeitgeist. And yet the essential enterprise seems worthwhile: most historians and critics of the arts would agree that music does, or should, partake of the artistic climate of its time in ways that are demonstrable and meaningful. The years around 1900, which saw many sustained contacts and associations between artists working in different media, seem a logical place to look. But to be convincing, parallels involving music must rise above (or get below) the feuilletonish level encountered in so many writings. They should also take account of more than the purely literary dimension of the music (opera librettos, song texts, programmatic commentaries, and so forth) and be made at a fundamental level of technique and expression that does justice to musical processes. The present article is conceived in that spirit, suggesting how deeper connections might be drawn between the phenomenon of Jugendstil, which was itself largely inspired by the idea of music, and some of the best Austro-German lieder of the Jahrhundertwende, especially those of Arnold Schoenberg.



Also Published In

Critical Inquiry

More About This Work

Academic Units
The University of Chicago Press
Published Here
July 29, 2015