1. MK Were you involved with Schoenberg at that time?

    LS Yes. I had taken some of his classes at USC in 1935 and 1936, so by the time he came to UCLA I was well prepared with his methods of teaching and had also assisted him in various ways. In December 1935 he conducted the LA Philharmonic in a special concert at USC. The program included his orchestra version of the First Chamber Symphony—originally composed for fifteen solo instruments, and I was asked to proofread the orchestral parts. Best of all, however, was that I had the opportunity to attend all the rehearsals, thus becoming more intimately acquainted with some of Schoenberg’s music. After the summer of 1936, I followed Schoenberg over to UCLA.

  2. [In his first year, he] taught two classes in counterpoint, one a beginning class, the other, more advanced, including some students who had studied counterpoint with him at USC. When I say, "beginning counterpoint," I mean that he really started from scratch with the most elementary exercises in first species counterpoint. Some of these examples were prepared in advance and passed out to the students, but most of the work was done in class with first Schoenberg showing how one must proceed systematically (a favorite word of his), trying out every possible combination of intervals, and then having students do the work on the blackboard. These examples eventually found their way into Schoenberg’s text, Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint, which I helped him put together.

  3. The other two classes Schoenberg taught were "Form and Analysis" and "Beginning Composition." The emphasis in the former class was on analysis—Schoenberg hated the use of the word "form" in this context, because there are so many different "forms." The main text in this class was Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. Beethoven was chosen over other composers because of the regularity of his phrases (at least in the early sonatas) and as a model for the kinds of structures a beginning student could understand and imitate. The emphasis was placed on the opening phrases of movements, usually eight-measure segments that could be explained as either sentences or periods. These structures can be found in abundance as the beginning themes in many of Beethoven’s works. Although there are many other types of themes that deviate from these models, sentences and periods served as the basic formulation for thematic construction in Schoenberg’s lexicon. Later, when I worked with Schoenberg on books on harmony or composition there were always numerous examples of sentences and periods culled either from the masters or made up by Schoenberg himself, in the beginning chapters.

    Two Composition Examples by Schoenberg

  4. The class in composition started then with imitations of the forms found in Beethoven and the other masters and gradually being enlarged into three-part forms (ABA), Menuets and Scherzos, and finally, into complete Rondo forms. All based, of course, on strict application of tonal harmony.

  5. MK Were you assisting Schoenberg in his classes at this time?

    LS Not entirely. I was essentially the "house" pianist, so to speak. I played all the Beethoven examples—an excellent training for me and a good way to learn the music. Schoenberg’s assistant at this time was Gerald Strang, a composer who had received his degree in Philosophy at Stanford, was active in the Henry Cowell New Music Society in San Francisco, had received a scholarship to study with Schoenberg at USC, and then followed him to UCLA, while teaching, at the same time, in Long Beach.

  6. As a matter of fact there were too many students in his classes, a fact Schoenberg complained about in a letter to the president of the university, Robert Gordon Sproul. This letter was written one year after Schoenberg began to teach at UCLA. I quote from this letter, dated 2 October, 1937:
  7. At the present time we have twenty-five students in composition, and forty-five in analysis, both of which classes are far too large. But in counterpoint, we have 60 students, which I find very embarrassing. We have figured that if we wish to correct the assignments not very carefully, but only superficially, twenty hours of work a week would be necessary, which is far too much, even without the papers from the other classes. Furthermore, we have no opportunity to work with these students at the blackboard, to help them and to find out what they know … Allow me to make this following proposal: If you should find it possible to offer Mr. Strang, my present assistant, a contract as instructor for next year, we should be able to make some such adjustment as this: the counterpoint class could be divided into two or three sections of reasonable size, to be taught by Mr. Strang, or possibly one group of more talented students could be taken by me [and the same for the other classes] […] I would be free to announce a second year of composition and a second year of analysis, for which there are now a considerable number of prepared students. (Letters 202)

  8. But, apparently, although Schoenberg was able in succeeding years to add advanced classes, he was still confronted by ever-larger beginning classes, most of which he taught, although (I think) Strang may have taught some of these classes, at least until 1939, when I became Schoenberg’s assistant and handled one or two of these classes, as well as beginning harmony for the music department. I have evidence in hand that as late as 1939 or 1940 Schoenberg had as many as thirty-seven students in an analysis class. I recall, in any case, that I had to correct their exams and report back to Schoenberg for the determination of their grades
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Volume 2 Issue 2


Susan McClary:
Temporality and Ideology

Fink, Garofalo, Gebhardt,
and Partovi:

Music as Object?
A Napster Roundtable



Magical Urbanism

The Art of Piano

Review Essays

Experience Music Project

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