I watch the US news show Democracy Now every single day. It is the best US daily news program, in my view, and I have turned watching it into a quotidian ritual.
In between segments of the show, producers usually play folk music, hip hop, or music from around the world—or, every once in a while, jazz.
On the morning of 27 May, however, Democracy Now played Schoenberg! I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard it.
You can hear it from 21:55 – 22:52 in the following video.
The program plays Schoenberg’s String Quartet, No. 1, a masterpiece that revolutionized the genre. In the piece, all four movements are played as one, without interruption for almost 50 minutes.
The work was written in 1905 (over a century ago!), and it stands as one of Schoenberg’s earlier works (Op. 7). It is not nearly as experimental as the material from his later periods, but, in its historical context, it was truly revolutionary.
When legendary composer and conductor Gustav Mahler, a friend of Schoenberg’s, saw the score, he infamously remarked “I have conducted the most difficult scores of Wagner; I have written complicated music myself in scores of up to thirty staves and more; yet here is a score of not more than four staves, and I am unable to read them.”
The rest of the composition can be heard here:
(I am not a big fan of this recording, but there aren’t any better ones on YouTube that are not divided into separate videos for each movement.)
Schoenberg’s String Quartet, No. 1 was written almost two decades before his first 12-tone works. His String Quartet No. 3, composed in 1927, is his first string quartet composed using the 12-tone technique. Schoenberg’s serialist music (post-1923) is what inspires me the most, but it is all remarkable.
Leading progressive news show Democracy Now playing Schoenberg is even more amazing than the already exceedingly amazing Schoenberg “ice cream truck” that roams the campus of the University of Southern California.