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Arnold Schoenberg on the effects of radio

May 22nd, 2009 · 2 Comments · 20th Century Composers, Quotations

Schoenberg“Quite certainly the radio is a foe!–and so are the gramophone and sound-film. An inexorable foe, irresistibly on the advance; opposition is a hopeless prospect.

Here are the most damaging things it does:

1. It accustoms the ear to an unspeakable coarse tone…[A]s they become more familiar, one will adopt them as the criterion for beauty of sound, and find inferior the sound of instruments used in art.

2. The boundless surfeit of music. Here, perhaps the frightful expression ‘consumption of music’ really does apply after all. For perhaps this continuous tinkle, regardless of whether anyone wants to hear it or not…will lead to a state where all music has been consumed, worn out. In [Wilhelm] Busch’s time, music was still often (at least, not always!) ‘found disturbing’, but some day it may no longer disturb; people will be as hardened to this noise as any other.

…But one may hope that even the surfeit of music could have one good result: every human being might, after all, some time, somehow, be moved, touched, taken hold of, gripped, by music…And when I reflect that the discovery of book-printing has resulted in virtual extinction of illiteracy, my optimism returns. On the other hand, when I reflect on the power and influence of many who have just about managed, painfully, to master the alphabet, then indeed my pessimism starts coming back again.”

Arnold Schoenberg
July 31, 1930
(from Style and Idea p. 147)

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