'Heart and Brain': Structure and Emotional Content in Schoenberg's Film

Begleitungsmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene, Op. 34

Hidetoshi Fukuchi, University of North Texas


Because Arnold Schoenberg wrote Begleitungsmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene, Op. 34, to accompany an imaginary film scene, the work is understood as an autonomous symphonic poem with the descriptive subtitle 'threatening danger, fear, and catastrophe.'  While current scholars regard the form of the work as episodic or a free variation as suggested by the title 'Szene,' this paper proposes a more holistic outlook toward the structure of Op. 34.  This approach is based on Schoenberg's aesthetics and his compositional process, in which musikalische Gedanke (tonal relation) is presented in the work through the unifying concepts of Grundgestalt and developing variation. 

Although the piece is dodecaphonic, the contextually emphasized dyads Eb-Gb and C#-E generate a dialectical opposition, functioning as the source of the tonal force.  These dyads are stressed through registral placement and linear voice-leading, and they project the long-range tonal structure of the work.  

The paper concludes by suggesting the connection between the musical structure and expressive content of the piece.  The emotional trajectory described by the subtitle coincides with the structural divisions, which characterize the three-part form with some features of sonata form, especially in the first two sections.