Schoenberg's Theoretical Writings after the Harmonielehre: A Study of the Published and Unpublished Manuscripts

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Contemporary critics have described Schoenberg the theorist by focusing on his analytic concerns with surface motives.l It is my contention that hitherto unpublished manuscripts such as Der musikalische Gedanke und die Logik, Technik und Kunst seiner Darstellung [The Musical Idea and the Logic, Technique, and Art of Its Presentation]and Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre [Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form], help redefine the nature and breadth of Schoenberg's theoretical activities.2 Certainly they enrich Schoenberg's studies of phrase structures, chromatic functions, organic form, and perception; they clarify his crucial concept of the "musical idea." Moreover, the existence of numerous other unpublished manuscripts on theoretical topics creates the imperative need for a detailed bibliography—a further essential step in assessing Schoenberg's theoretical achievement.

From the publication of the Harmonielehre in 1911 to the appearance in 1942 of the first of the late pedagogical textbooks, Models for Beginners in Composition, Schoenberg published only a few articles that can be interpreted as theoretical: see Table 1.3


Table 1: The Published Theoretical Writings of Schoenberg from 1911 to 19424

1911/22 Harmonielehre
1912 "Das Verhältnis zum Text" ["The Relationship to the Text"]
1918 "Streich Quartett, Op. 7" ["String Quartet, Op. 7"]
1925 "Eine Neue Zwölfton-Schrift" ["A New Twelve-Tone Notation"]
1925 "Tonality and Form" [originally published in English]
1931 "Zur Kompositionslehre" ["On the Theory of Composition"]
1934 "Problems of Harmony" [originally published in English]
1942 Models for Beginners in Composition [originally published in English]


A consideration of Schoenberg's previously mentioned unpublished manuscripts, however, shows that between 1911 and 1942 Schoenberg attempted to write seven theoretical texts—Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form, A Theory of Harmony, Composition With Twelve Tones, Theory of Performance, and a Theory of Composition—the last of which survives in the form of the above-mentioned, 150-page manuscript entitled The Musical Idea and the Logic, Technique, and Art of Its Presentation.5

This paper shall outline Schoenberg's theoretical work after 1911. The first section defines Schoenberg's writings in relation to the seminal work for his later theoretical activity: the 75-page unfinished treatise Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form [Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre]. The crucial role of this manuscript is further substantiated in documentary sources and the bibliographic activities of the composer himself, his student Josef Rufer, and musicologists Jean and Jesper Christensen. Section two discusses how Schoenberg's projected book Theory of Composition defines the intellectual-musical core of his theoretical work from 1911 to at least 1940.6


A Definition of Schoenberg's Theoretical Manuscripts

Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre

Immediately after the publication of the Harmonielehre in 1911, Schoenberg wrote to his publisher Emil Hertzka at Universal Edition:

I would perhaps be ready to draw up a contract for my entire activities [italics mine] as a writer on music. I plan in the near future the following writings (in addition to the counterpoint [book]:7 an instrumentation text. There is nothing like this now, for all available books deal with the instruments themselves. I wish to teach the art of composing for orchestra!! This is a major distinction and something absolutely new!!

Then a Preliminary Study of Form: An Investigation into the Formal causes of the effects of modern compositions. This writing will probably be limited to the study of Mahler's works. Then, later also as a preliminary to the study of form, Formal Analysis and laws resulting from it. Finally, Theory of Form.

All of these books are texts or teaching aids. They form in their entirety an Aesthetic of Music, under which title, I wish to write a . . . comprehensive work. For all of these works I already have ideas and also notes. I can finish all of them in the course of five years!8

Six years later in April, 1917, while lecturing at Dr. Eugenie Schwarzwald's school and completing the libretto to Die Jakobsleiter,9 Schoenberg began simultaneously working on the counterpoint, instrumentation, and form books plus a newly conceived, fourth book on musical coherence rather than aesthetics, producing the 75-page, unpublished manuscript, Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre [Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form].10

Schoenberg wrote the seventy-five pages of text in Mödling, Austria over a period of twelve days: April 11-23, 1917.11 He housed the work in two notebooks described in Table 2.12


Table 2: The Notebooks of ZKIF

a.Title:Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre, 
     Heft I [Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form] 
Dates: 11, 13-18, 22-23/IV. 1917 
Classification: Schoenberg: "Unfinished Theoretical Works," Nos. 8-10 
     Rufer: A-2, p. 136  
     Arnold Schoenberg Institute: T37.17 
Size: 7 1/4" X 4 1/2" 
Number of Pages: 36 
Script: Sütterlin; interspersed Roman words and titles 
Medium: lead and lavender pencil; annotations and underlinings in lavender, red, 
blue, purple, yellow, and lead pencil 

b.Title: Notenbeispiele zu Kontrapunkt, Formenlehre, Instrumentation 
u. Zusammenhang [Examples for Counterpoint, Instruction in Form, Instrumentation, 
and Coherence] 
Dates: undated 
Classification: Schoenberg: "Unfinished Theoretical Works," No. 8
      Rufer: not mentioned in description in A-2, p. 136 Arnold Schoenberg
      Institute: T37.18 
Size: 7 1/2" X 11 1/4" 
Number of Pages: 19 
Script: Roman and Sütterlin 
Medium: lead pencil and red ink 

Title: A, D, E Instru.lehre [A, D, E Theory of Instrumentation]
     B Aufg. Instru.lehre [B Exercises, Instruction in Instrumentation]
     C Formenlehre [Instruction in Form]  
     F, G, H Zusammenhang [Coherence]
Date: 18-21/IV. 1917
Classification: Schoenberg: "Unfinished Theoretical Works," No. 8
      Rufer: A-2, p. 136 
      Arnold Schoenberg Institute: T37.19 
Size: 7 1/4" X 6" 
Number of Pages: 39 
Script: Sütterlin; interspersed Roman words and titles 
Medium: lead pencil; annotations in blue, red, lavender pencil and black crayon and ink


The text itself consists of a series of notes that Schoenberg jotted down for his own use. The most crucial topic here is Zusammenhang, unmentioned in the 1911 letter to Hertzka. Schoenberg continually referred back to Zusammenhang during the writing of ZKIF and finally ended the manuscript with further remarks on it (see Table 3).


Table 3: Chronology and Topics of ZKIF

Date Page Book

Z and K13
13/IV.17 I:7-16 Z

I: 16
15/IV.17 I:23-24 I

I:14 20-22

I:18-19, 28

19/IV.17 II:3-5 I
20/IV. 17

II:7, 9
K, I

II:12-16, 18-19
22/IV.17 I:33 Z
23/IV.17 I:33-36 Z

mus. ex.
II:35-38, 49 [sic]


Zusammenhang itself consists of lengthy sections concerning issues of perception, comprehensibility and coherence, motive and rhythm, and principles of structure such as theme and articulation. Most crucially, this text contains Schoenberg's earliest surviving written analysis, that of the transition to the second group in the first movement of Mozart's String Quartet in C Major, K. 465 (the "Dissonance").This analysis is also his first written discussion of the technique of developing variation. Instrumentation consists of sections on the capabilities and character of instruments, on transposing instruments, and on pedagogical exercises in orchestration. Kontrapunkt contains several species exercises and some hexachordal sketches,15 and Formenlehre consists of a book outline and some statements of purpose: clearly both these projects are much less developed than Zusammenhang or Instrumentation.

Schoenberg abandoned the prose text of ZKIF in 1917; however, certain sections of the text appear literally continued in later works. The analysis of Mozart's quartet in Zusammenhang is extended in the comment on "Liquidation" in The Musical Idea and the Logic, Technique, and Art of Its Presentation.16 Moreover, the texts of the essay, Verstehen=Erkennen der Ähnlichkeit [Understanding=Recognition of Similarity] are bound with Der musikalische Gedanke und seine Darstellung [The Musical Idea and Its Presentation], a precursor of The Musical Idea and the Logic, Technique, and Art of Its Presentation. The species counterpoint approach to counterpoint implied in Kontrapunkt ultimately culminates decades later in Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint. The outline for Formenlehre adheres quite closely to topics addressed in Fundamentals of Musical Composition. Such parallels demonstrate that ZKIF is seminal for Schoenberg's later theoretical works, not only published but unpublished. Indeed, as we shall see, it allows us to classify the numerous unpublished essays as contributions to several distinct projects.


ZKIF and Schoenberg's Other Theoretical Manuscripts

Four classification systems exist for Schoenberg's extant literary manuscripts: those of Schoenberg himself, his student Josef Rufer, musicologists Jean and Jesper Christensen, and present Archivist of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, R. Wayne Shoaf.17 Shoaf and former Archivist Jerry McBride made the decision to abandon the first ordering of the Institute's materials, an inventory compiled by the original Archivist Clara Steuermann and her assistants. As Archivist, Shoaf then imposed Schoenberg's original orderings on the manuscripts and subsequently assigned catalogue numbers to them.18 Schoenberg himself made two master lists and three topical lists of his manuscripts. Fearing that his imminent flight from Germany would result in a loss of his literary manuscripts, on June 2, 1932, he began a list of his prose works; it was completed after 1940.19 His usual manner of classification was to place the sheets in chronological order, stamp them with a number, and give them a subject category. Certain manuscripts, on this list, however, remain undated; certain others are cross-referenced. As he listed, Schoenberg added short commentaries, stylistic revisions, titles, and subject headings.

The subject categories assigned to the manuscripts in this list succinctly illustrate Schoenberg's intellectual concerns. The following chart summarizes Schoenberg's categories and his abbreviations of them:


"Meine Theorien,"
("My Theories"),


"Musikalisches" is the largest category; "Anekdoten" and "Natur" hardly materialized. In 1933 Schoenberg considered adding the category "Jude" [Jew] for his writings on Jewish concerns. Schoenberg's complete description of his categories with extended subtitles appears in Christensen and Christensen, Appendix 1; a complete transcription of the initial catalogue appears in Christensen and Christensen, Appendix II.20

After 1940 Schoenberg continued his bibliographic work with a second inventory entitled List of the Manuscripts, mostly handwritten, of Articles, Essays, Outlines, Sketches, Notes, Critical Remarks and Fragments, which contains entries in typescript, in Schoenberg's hand, and in another unknown hand. A transcription of the entire list appears in Christensen and Christensen, Appendix III.21 Here Schoenberg describes each work according to number, title, and possible date. Two titles are actually group subject headings: "Kleine Manuscripte I and II" whose contents are shown in two addenda to the main list of manuscripts.

In addition to these two master lists, Schoenberg stated three topical lists. The first is a typed list of "Unfinished Theoretical Works" (see Appendix Ia), whose typescript indicates a post-1940 dating.22 This list entitled "Unfinished Theoretical Works" is Schoenberg's only attempt to list separately his theoretical works.23 A second list entitled "Manuscripts, Mostly (Real Manuscripts) Handwritten, Some Perhaps Unpublished, Some Fragments," contains several other theoretical manuscripts. A transcription of the sheet appears in Appendix Ib.The typescript of the manuscript suggests a post-1940 date.24 A third and final list entitled Gedruckte Aufsätze ["Published Essays"] includes Schoenberg's analysis of his first string quartet, Op.7.25

In 1957 Schoenberg's student, the composer Josef Rufer, compiled his catalogue of Schoenberg's musical and literary works. Rufer's groupings of manuscripts are in part compilations of discrete subject categories in Schoenberg's 1932-40 list. For example, Rufer's section, "Music," includes all of Schoenberg's entries labelled "Musikalisches" or [Mus.]26 Also, "Aesthetics" corresponds to "Aesthetic" or [Ku], "My Theories" to "Meine Theorien" or [Deut], "Monuments" to "Denkmäler" or [Denk], "Miscellaneous" in part to "Vermischtes" or [Verm], "Language" to "Sprachliches" or [Spr], "Ethics" to "Moral" or [Mor]. The list "Gedruckte Aufsätze" corresponds to "Published Articles."

In his catalogue of literary works, Rufer altered Schoenberg's system in several ways. Moreover, his lists are incomplete. For example, Schoenberg's earliest Gedanke manuscript, mentioned in the 1932-40 list as "Mus 56," does not appear anywhere. Rufer also omits the entire contents of "Biographisches," "Anekdoten," and "Natur, Physik, Tiere," and virtually all of "Aphorismen."

Rufer's section "Articles, Essays" corresponds to nos. 1-141 in Schoenberg's second list.27 The remainder of the section includes late manuscripts in English which Schoenberg himself failed to catalogue, as well as entries numbered 1, 6, 7, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 on Schoenberg's sheet entitled "Unfinished Theoretical Works." The remainder of the entries on this sheet, including the manuscript ZKIF, appear in Rufer's chapter entitled "Theoretical Works."28 The entries on Schoenberg's sheet "Manuscripts, Mostly (Real Manuscripts) Handwritten, etc." appear in Rufer's section, "Miscellaneous." The chart in Appendix II is a comparative summary of Schoenberg's list and Rufer's catalog.

In a few cases only Rufer's catalogue contains readily accessible information concerning the physical grouping of manuscripts by Schoenberg himself. This information is particularly significant with respect to ZKIF. For example, Rufer describes two carbon copies of the essay, Verstehen=Erkennen der Ähnlichkeit [Understanding=Recognition of Similarity] from Zusammenhang, as bound with the earlier outline for the counterpoint book and a later manuscript on the musical idea.29 The pages for the copy attached to both the 1911 counterpoint book30 and the manuscript on the musical idea are apparently lost.31 In this light, Rufer's catalogue is the only source for showing such interconnections between ZKIF and other works.

The 1988 catalogue of Jean and Jesper Christensen, From Schoenberg's Literary Legacy: A Catalog of Neglected Items, is a major contribution to Schoenberg bibliography. It gives detailed descriptions for each entry under Schoenberg's subject categories, descriptions which are omitted either entirely or in part by Rufer: for example, "Biographisches," "Anekdoten," and "Aphorismen." The Christensens also give detailed descriptions of the categories which they call "Fragmente IV and VI," "Jenseitiger Querkopf," "Notebooks," "Orchestration," and "Miscellaneous," most of which remained unlisted by Schoenberg and uncatalogued by Rufer.32

This work, along with that of R. Wayne Shoaf of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, make possible for the first time the creation of a chronology of all the published and unpublished theoretical manuscripts. Moreover, Schoenberg's classifications of his manuscripts allow for groupings according to the nature of their subject matter. Schoenberg's classifications of the majority of his theoretical works appear under the descriptive category, "musical," mentioned above. Others, like ZKIF, appear on a sheet entitled "Unfinished Theoretical Works."33 When grouped according to their specific subject matter, a few theoretical manuscripts clearly fall into the topics of three late projects: the texts on performance, harmony, and the twelve-tone method. Most crucially, however, the overwhelming majority of theoretical manuscripts fall into the four major topics of ZKIF: coherence, counterpoint, orchestration, and form. These groupings thus demonstrate the significance of ZKIF as a seed of Schoenberg's theoretical works.


The Significance of the Book Project, Theory of Composition

In his 1911 letter to Hertzka, Schoenberg wrote that he wished to view counterpoint, instrumentation, and form not the separate disciplines but as a unified whole: a concept he planned to discuss in a work entitled Aesthetic of Music. Schoenberg never mentioned the book again in his theoretical writings. In the foreword to ZKIF, however, Schoenberg explained that he intended to present Zusammenhang as a general theory34 through which the reader could understand Formenlehre, the study of given formal structures, Kontrapunkt, the study of the organization of lines, and Instrumentation, the study of voice leading as it relates to tone color.35 It is crucial to realize that in ZKIF Schoenberg's plans for a unified theory remain unfulfilled: he never consciously relates the ideas proposed in Zusammenhang to those of Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, or Formenlehre.36 Zusammenhang consists merely of Schoenberg's suggestive notes concerning a theory of coherence.

Book Project I in Table 4 constitutes the list of works associated with Zusammenhang. Note that Zusammenhang became the topic of the planned text Lehre vom musikalischen Zusammenhang [Theory of Musical Coherence] of 1922. At the same time Schoenberg was planning a book entitled Kompositionslehre [Theory of Composition].37 In 1924, however, he wrote, "more recently I have made some discoveries which compelled me to revise the small work entitled Theory of Musical Coherence into the more ambitious Die Gesetze der musikalischen Komposition [The Laws of Musical Composition].38 The book on coherence and the book on compositional theory thus had become identified as a single project on composition. In 1925 Schoenberg began the essay Der musikalische Gedanke, seine Darstellung und Durchführung [The Musical Idea, Its Presentation and Development] on whose binding is the title Kompositionslehre [Theory of Composition].


Table 4: Chronology of Theoretical Works Dealing With the Four Topics in ZKIF

[Schoenberg's manuscript classification appear in brackets after each title for which he provided one. Proposed texts are followed by the symbol [P] and appropriate reference. Published manuscripts have the following abbreviated references: SI = Style and Idea; L = Letters; PEC = Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint.]

On Musical Coherence:

1917 Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre (Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form), section on "Coherence," ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 8]
1922 Lehre vom musikalischen Zusammenhang (Theory of Musical Coherence), [P], [L, 71]
1923 "Gelehrsamkeit" (Erudition)* [Mus 28]

*Schoenberg indicates that this manuscript is part of Lehre vom musikalischen Zusammenhang.


On Theory of Composition:

1923 "Zu Darstellung des Gedankens" (On the Presentation of the Idea) [Mus 56]
1924 Die Gesetze der musikalischen Komposition (The Laws of Musical Composition), [P], [SI, 23-24]
1925 Kompositionslehre (Theory of Composition): "Der musikalische Gedanke, seine Darstellung und Durchführung" (The Musical Idea, Its Presentation and Elaboration) Short title: "Gedanke und Darstellung" (Idea and Presentation) ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 3, Ba]
1928-33 "Der Gedanke und die Zange" (The Idea and Pliers) [Verm 341]
undated Kompositionslehre: (Theory of Composition)
1929, 1940 "Der musikalische Gedanke und seine Darstellung"
(The Musical Idea and Its Presentation) ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 3, Bb]
1930? "Zur Kompositionslehre" (On the Theory of Composition) [SI, 264-268]
c.1930 "Neue Musik, Meine Musik " (New Music: My Music) [SI, 99-106]
1931 "Zu: Darstellung des musikalischen Gedankens" (On: Presentation of the Musical Idea) [Mus 275a/b]
1931 "Entwurf zum Vorwort des Kompositionslehre" (Sketch for a Preface to the Theory of Composition) [Mus 276]
1932 "Zu: Darstellung des Gedankens" (On the Presentation of the Idea) [Rufer, Works, 140]
1934 "The Musical Idea" [Manuscripts, Mostly (Real Manuscripts, Handwritten, etc.), no. 9]
1934-36 Der musikalische Gedanke und die Logik, Technik und Kunst seiner Darstellung (The Musical Idea and the Logic, Technique, and Art of Its Presentation) [no. A-3c in Rufer, Works, 137-38]
1930/46 "New Music, Outmoded Music, Style and Idea" [SI, 113-124]
c. 1948 "Connection of Musical Ideas" [SI, 287-88]
1940s "Fragmente" (Fragments) [Christensen and Christensen, Literary Legacy, Fragmente III-1-A, 5-D, 41-42]
undated "Der musikalische Gedanke; seine Darstellung und Durchfuehrung" (The Musical Idea; Its Presentation and Elaboration) ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 3, Aa]
undated "Gedanke" (Idea) ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," Ab]


Counterpoint Text:

1912 Komposition mit selbständigen Stimmen (Composition with Independent Voices) also catalogued by Schoenberg as "Outlines of Theories: Counterpoint, Instrumentation" ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 2]
1917 Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre (Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form) Section on Counterpoint ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 8]
1924 Theorie der mehrstimmigen (kontrapuntischen) Komposition (Theory of Polyphonic {Contrapuntal} Composition), [P], [SI, 23-24]
1926 Kontrapunkt (Counterpoint) ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 4]
1929 Disposition eines Lehrbuchs des Kontrapunkts (Layout of a Textbook on Counterpoint), [P], [Mus 165]*
1934 "Preface and Introduction to the Counterpoint Textbook" ["Manuscripts, Mostly (Real Manuscripts), Handwritten, etc.," no. 8]
1936 Counterpoint, a textbook ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no.5] [PEC, 121-122]
1942-3 "Untitled"** [no. I-d in Rufer, Works, 136]
1964 Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint, Leonard Stein, ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964

*Josef Rufer mistakenly dates this manuscript as 1931: see no. D-67 in Rufer, Works, 166.

**This entry consisting of extensive notes and drafts is the main source of the posthumously published text Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint (1964).


Addenda: The following articles address issues in the above attempts at writing a counterpoint text. Their specific relation to any book, however, remains unclear.

1923 "Mißverständnis des Kontrapunkts" (Misunderstandings of Counterpoint) [Mus 46b]
"Polyphonie-Heute" (Polyphony Today) [Mus 40]
1924 "Gratulation an Bach" (Congratulations to Bach) [Mus 147]
"Fuga-Flucht" (Fugue-Flight) [Mus 78a/Spr 78b]
1926? "Durchführung" (Elaboration) [Mor 177a/Mus 177b]
1927 "Kontrapunkt" (Counterpoint) [Aph 228]
1928 "Zu Werkers Bach-Studien" (On Werker's Study of Bach)*
"Alter und neuer Kontrapunkt" (Old and New Counterpoint) [SI, 288-89]
1928? "Linearer Kontrapunkt, Lineare Polyphonie" (Linear Counterpoint: Linear Polyphony) [SI, 295-97]
1928/1929 "Herr Urban (Berliner Zeitung)" (Mr. Urban {Berlin Newspaper}) [Denk 346]
1931 "Der lineare Kontrapunkt" (Linear Counterpoint) [SI, 289-95]
1932 "Bach und die 12 Töne" (Bach and the Twelve Tones) [Mus 214]
"Zwei sehr wichtige Definitionen (a) RHYTHMUS (b) KONTRAPUNKT" (Two Very Important Definitions (a) RHYTHM (b) COUNTERPOINT) [Mus 394]
1936 "Der Fuge ist . . ." (The Fugue is . . . ) [SI, 297-98]
1950 "Bach" [SI, 393-97]
Post-1945 "Bach's Counterpoint" [no. C-191 in Rufer, Works, 162]
"Something about Bach" [no. C-229b in Rufer, Works, 164]
undated "Counterpoint in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries" [no. D-112 in Rufer, Works, 108]

*Leonard Stein, "Schoenberg: Five Statements," Perspectives of New Music 14/1 (1975): 168-71.


On Orchestration:

1911 "Outline of Theories: Counterpoint, Instrumentation" ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 2]
1917 Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre (Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form) Section on "Instrumentation" ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," nos. 8-11]
1923 Transposition (Transposition) [SI, 343-45]
1923 "Über Klavierauszug" (On the Piano Reduction) [SI, 348-50]
1924 "Jens Quer über: Das Orchester der Zukunft" (Jens Quer on the Orchestra of the Future) [SI, 322-25]
1926 "Mechanische Musikinstrumente" (Mechanical Musical Instruments) [SI, 326-30]
1931 "Instrumentation" (Instrumentation) [Mus 171]
1949 "Various Titled and Untitled Works" [Christensen, Literary Legacy, "Orchestration," 101-07]



1917 Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre (Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form), section on "Form" ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 8]
1917 "Mahlers IX. Symphonie" (Mahler's Ninth Symphony) [P] "Unfinished Theoretical Works, no. 12)
1923 "Zur Terminologie der Formenlehre" (On the Terminology for the Instruction in Form) [Mus 66a-c]
1924 "Formenlehre" (Instruction in Form) [SI, 253-55]
1925 "Tonalität und Gliederung" (Tonality and Articulation) [SI, 255-57]
1928 "Die alten Formen in neuen Musik" (Old Forms in New Music) [Mus 159]
1938 "The Concept of Form" [Mus 352]
c. 1938 "Symphonische Form" (Symphonic Form) [Mus 373]
undated "Zur Formenlehre" (On Instruction in Form) [Mus 335]
1942 Models for Beginners in Composition, New York: G. Schirmer, 1942
1947 "Notebook with notes on Form" [no. C-185 in Rufer, Works, 162]
post-1945 "Form" [no. C-180 in Rufer, Works, 162]
"Tonality" [no. C-179 in Rufer, Works, 161]
undated "Zu Formenlehre" ["On Instruction in Form"] [no. 21, Schoenberg's post-1940 catalogue]
"The term scherzo . . . " [Christensen and Christensen, Literary Legacy, "Notebooks", 1-7, 96]
1937-48 Fundamentals of Musical Composition, ed. Gerald Strang, intro. by Leonard Stein, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1967


Table 5: Chronology of the Performance, Harmony and Twelve-Tone Projects

Performance Book:

1923 "Vortragszeichen" (Performance Indications) [SI, 340]
1923 "Bogen" (Slurs) [Mus 47]
1923 "Ich sehe mit Schrecken . . . " (I note with alarm . . . ") [Christensen and Christensen, Literary Legacy, Kleine Manuskripte II-15, 55]
1923 "Noten-Bilder-Schrift " (Pictorial Notation) [SI, 351-52]
1923? "Zur Vortragslehre" (For the Treatise on Performance) [SI, 319-20]
1924 "Eine Neue Zwöfton-Schrift" (A New Twelve-Tone Notation) [SI, 354-362]
1926 "Zur Metronomisierung" (On Metronome Markings) [SI, 342]
1926 "Zur Metronomisierung" (On Metronome Markings) [Mus 138]
1926 "Zur Metronomisierung" (On Metronome Markings) [Mus 139]
1929 "Musikalische Dynamik" (Musical Dynamics) [SI, 341]
1930? "Splitter" (Aphorisms on Opera) [SI, 337-39]
1931 "Raumton, Vibrato, Radio, etc." (Tone-space, Vibrato, Radio, etc.) [Mus 173a-c]
1931 "Phrasierung" (Phrasing) [SI, 347-48]
1934 "Triolen und Quartolen bei Brahms und Bach" (Triplets and Quadruplets in Brahms and Bach) [Christensen and Christensen, Literary Legacy, Kleine Manuscripte, III-E, 56]
1934 "Vortrag und Gestalt" in Der musikalische Gedanke und die Logik, Technique und Kunst seiner Darstellung ("Performance and Gestalt" in The Musical Idea and the Logic, Technique, and Art of Its Presentation) [no. A3c in Rufer, Works, 137-38]
1940? "Das Vibrato hat man in meiner Jugend..." (In my youth, vibrato . . .) [Christensen and Christensen, Literary Legacy, "Dichtungen," 4i, 62; SI, 345-46]
Post-1945 "Theory of Performance" [no. A-5 in Rufer, Works, 139]
? "Zur Vortragslehre" (For the Manual of Performance) [Mus 299a]
? "Theory of Performance" [Christensen, Literary Legacy, Fragmente, V-5]
? "Musical Notation is done in rebusses..." [Christensen and Christensen, Literary Legacy, Fragmente, V-8, 45]
? "Today's Manner of Performing Classical Music" [SI, 320-22]


Harmony Text:

1927/34 "Problems of Harmony" [SI, 268-87]
1936-38? "Resolution of 6-, 7-, 8-, and 9-voiced chords" [Mus 375]
1937 "Revised Version of the Harmonielehre ["Unfinished Theoretical Works," no. 13]
1946 Structural Functions of Harmony, London: Williams and Norgate, 1946; 2nd ed., New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1948


On the Twelve-Tone Method:

1923 Gesetze der Komposition mit zwölf Tonen (Laws of Composition With Twelve Tones) [P] [L, 104]
1924 "Komposition mit zwölf Tonen" (Composition With Twelve Tones) [P] [SI, 214-249]
1925 "Zu Darstellung des Gedankens" (On Presentation of the Idea) [Mus 104a/b]
1934 "Vortrag/12TK/Princeton" Claudio Spies, "Vortrag/12TK/Princeton," Perspectives of New Music 13/1 (1974): 58-136
1941/48 "Composition With Twelve Tones" [SI, 214-249]


The "discoveries" to which Schoenberg referred almost certainly concerned the twelve-tone method. In the same year he proposed the book entitled Composition With Twelve Tones, but a year later he decided that an article with this title was sufficient.39 The first manuscript entitled der musikalische Gedanke ["the musical idea"] also dates from 1923.40 This chronology suggests that Schoenberg's work on the twelve-tone method confirmed his belief that the coherence in any piece of music (tonal or atonal, twelve-tone or not) is the expression of a single musical idea.

In the ensuing manuscript Der musikalische Gedanke, seine Darstellung und Durchführung [The Musical Idea, Its Presentation and Development] written between 1925 and 1929, Schoenberg again brings up the idea of a unified theory of composition:

At present the theory of harmony, counterpoint, and the theory of form mainly serve pedagogical purposes. With the possible exception of the theory of harmony, the individual disciplines completely lack even a truly theoretical basis emanating from other external criteria. On the whole, the consequence is that three different disciplines, that together should constitute the theory of composition, in reality fall apart because they lack a common point of view.41

By 1929 Schoenberg sees his concept of musical idea as grounds for such a unified theory of composition: "Composition . . . is above all the art of inventing a musical idea and the fitting way to present it."42 The concept of the musical idea43 thus supersedes the earlier general theory of coherence proposed in ZKIF as the core of Schoenberg's theory of composition.

As shown in Table 4, Book Project 1, there are a series of manuscripts dealing with the "musical idea," of which Der musikalische Gedanke und die Logik, Technik und Kunst seiner Darstellung (1934-36), is the longest and most detailed. This text focuses on the presentation of a musical idea as a comprehensible musical form. Its content is not only allied to the earlier Gedanke manuscripts but also to several early manuscripts on the theory of form and to the later Structural Functions of Harmony and Fundamentals of Musical Composition. In many aspects the manuscript is a unique statement of Schoenberg's thought. It represents Schoenberg's most detailed studies of Brahms's music, his most precise ideas on organicism and the dynamic of the living artwork, his understanding of the tonal composition as an extended cadence, his detailed descriptions of Gestalt, Grundgestalt, phrase, and monotonality. The breadth of its topical material indeed suggests a broader aim for the book: the "unified" theory always lurking in the mind of Schoenberg the theorist, but in reality never worked out in his theoretical writings.



This essay has defined Schoenberg's theoretical projects as the outgrowth of topics defined in ZKIF. Schoenberg conceived these topics, along with three later book projects concerning performance, harmony, and twelve-tone composition, as part of a unified theory of composition understood in 1917 in light of a comprehensive theory of musical coherence, and after 1923, in light of the concept of the musical idea. Schoenberg had every intention of completing his work on the musical idea and the unified theory of composition. As late as 1944, when applying for a Guggenheim Fellowship, Schoenberg mentions that he would not only like to do work on his unfinished oratorio Die Jakobsleiter and the opera Moses und Aron, but also on "unfinished theoretical projects."44 Schoenberg never received the fellowship, and after 1944 health problems curtailed his activities. For contemporary criticism only the study of the manuscripts cited in this paper can be decisive in a valid assessment of Schoenberg's theoretical achievement.


Appendix Ia: A Transcription of Schoenberg's Catalogue of Unfinished Theoretical Works

(also including polemics and short remarks)

1)   A "Theory" of Fourths (fragment, to Tovey) 				1939?? 
2)   Outlines of theories: counterpoint 11 sheets, instrumentation (1) 
      Gesetze, Regeln, Lehresätze, Definitionen (4) 
3)   Four independent fragments attempting:
      Aa Der musikalische Gedanke and seine Darstellung, 9 sheets, 
           9 copies   
      Ab Gedanke (2) 
      Ba Ged. u. Darst. (9 pages) 
      Bb Zusammenhang (9 pages, 9 copies) 
4)   Kontrapunkt 19 Seiten handschr und 3 Seiten Noten 
      Fragment, begonnen 						29/9.1926 
5)   Counterpoint, a textbook, fragment 
      begun November 						1936 
6)   Ueber Verzierungen, Neger-, Zigeuner- und 
      andere primitive Rhythmen und Vogelgesang 				1922  
      Durchschlag (carbon copy) siehe: 
7)   Kleine Manuscripte 
8)   ein Buch, enthaltend Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, 
      Formenlehre, 35 Seiten 						1917 
      und zahlreiche Notenbeispiele 
11) Aufgaben zur Instrumentation (Seite 1-23) 
      Gebrauchsanweisung: p. 30; 
      Vorwort, p. 31-35 						1917 
12) Mahler's IX. Symphonie (3 Seiten) 					1917 
13) Neufassung der Harmonielehre A (1-6) B (1-3) 				about 1937 
14) 4 Fragments: 
      A) Manners of Constructing a Phrase (7) 
      B) Criterions [sic] of Value (B: 3; B2: 1) 
      C) Competition of musical knowledge (4) 
      D) Musical Examples to A) 
15) A Plan, B) and C) Exposes: Ein Musikinstitut 				1934 
16) Fragments: 
      A) The Conserver 						1934 
      B) AS: Why no great American Music 
      C) The same by Mr. Henderson
      D) Notes to A) 
17) A) A Fragment: Casella, A Polemic (8) 
      B) Rigoletto and Kammersymphony, an Analysis 			??1936?? 

Appendix Ib: A Transcription of Schoenberg's Catalogue of His Own Manuscripts, Post-1940



Ms  1    Concert Gebouw Jubilaum 					1928 
       2    Schreker's 50ter Geb.tag 					1928 
Ms  3a  Entwurf, 3b Reinscrift of "Vorwort zur 
             Suite fur Str. Orch (unveröffentlich) 				1935 
"      4   Auskunft Über das Streich-Quartett- 
             Konzert 							??1936?? 
Ms  5    Dankschreiben z/60ten-handschr 					1934 
Ms  6    Dr. D. J. Bach 
"      7   Akademie der Kunste 
Ms  8    Preface and Introd of a counterp. textb. 				1934 
"      9   Musical idea (1st time in English) 					1934 
"     10  Outline to Verzierungen (see Theoretical 6) 				1922 
Ms 11   Manuscr of an address in Chicago 				1934 
"     12   "       "  "  "       " New York (machine) 				1933 
								 the same
"     13   "_ _    "  "  "_ _    " " _ " (hand) 
"     14   manuscr, address "Driven into the Paradise" 			1934 
"     15   " lecture USC What have people 					?1935?36? 
"     16   " Some objective reasons 					XII, 1934 
Ms 17a  Mechanische Musikinstrumente (Pult und Tst) 			1926 
"     17b Walter Herbert Seligmans's Artikel 
      18a  Ueber Klavierauszug: Entwurf, hand, 
      18b: article, masch 						1923 
      19a, b, Entwurf und Ausführung: 
             Classes at USC 						1935 
Ms 20  Die heutige Situation der Musik 					1929 
Ms 21  Meine Meinung über Zeitgenossische 				1923 
Ms 22  Interview mit mir selbst a) Reinschrift b) Konzept 			1928 
Ms 23a Boheme (manuskript hand) 					6.5.1928
"     23b "   Rehnschrift (masch)						"  "   "


lSee, for example, Ian Bent, Analysis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), 54; Nicholas Cook, An Introduction to Music Analysis (London and New York: George Brazilier, 1987), 90; Joseph N. Straus, Remaking the Past: Musical Modernism and the Influence of the Tonal Tradition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), 29-30.

2Arnold Schoenberg, The Musical Idea and the Logic, Technique, and Art of Its Presentation, eds. and trans. Patricia Carpenter and Severine Neff (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995); Arnold Schoenberg, Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form, ed. Severine Neff, trans. Charlotte M. Cross and Severine Neff (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994).
The only article specifically addressing Schoenberg's theoretical works is Alexander Goehr, "The Theoretical Writings of Arnold Schoenberg," Perspectives of New Music 14/1 (1975): 3-16.

3I define Schoenberg's theoretical writings as essays, comments, or technical examples, complete or incomplete, concerning four topics: the nature and principles of his own musical theories and analytic methods, the intellectual status—philosophical, theological, or otherwise—of his musical constructs, his critiques of the theories and aesthetics of others, and his views on pedagogy.

4This list is based on complete list of published works in this period in Josef Rufer, The Works of Arnold Schoenberg, trans. Dika Newlin (London: Faber, 1962), 176-77.

5The texts on counterpoint, instrumentation, and form appear in the unpublished manuscript, Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre. The Theory of Composition was proposed in a letter to Kandinsky dated February 20, 1922: see Arnold Schoenberg, Arnold Schoenberg Letters, ed. Erwin Stein, trans. Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965), 71. In 1923 Schoenberg proposed a book entitled Composition With Twelve Tones, but in 1924 he decided that an article with this title was sufficient [see Arnold Schoenberg, Letters, 104; Arnold Schoenberg, Style and Idea, ed. Leonard Stein (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975), 23-24]. In 1923 he also proposed a performance text, and in 1929 a new text on harmony: see Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 319-20; undated manuscript Der musikalische Gedanke und seine Darstellung [The Musical Idea and Its Presentation], catalogued as T37.4, 7-8 by the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, paragraph no. 7, page 5.

6This project appears in earliest form in 1911 but basically stems from the Zusammenhang section of Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre.

7Schoenberg is referring to the text Komposition mit selbständigen Stimmen [Composition With Independent Voices] that he began outlining in 1911. For a description of the manuscript, see Josef Rufer, Works, 135. For an edition of Composition With Independent Voices, see Rudolf Stephan, "Schönbergs Entwurf über Das Komposition mit selbständigen Stimmen," Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 29 (1972): 239-56.

8Letter quoted and translated in Bryan R. Simms, "Arnold Schoenberg, Theory of Harmony, translated by Roy E. Carter," Music Theory Spectrum 4 (1982): 156-57.

9See letter to Albertine Zehme dated May 5, 1917: Arnold Schoenberg, Letters, 53. For information on the Schwarzwald lectures, see H. H. Stuckenschmidt, Schoenberg:His Life, World and Work, trans. Humphrey Searle (New York: Schirmer Books, 1977), 245. Schwarzwald was a renowned reformer of educational practice. Stuckenschmidt sees the sudden interest in writing theoretical works as possibly motivated by these lectures.

10Henceforth called ZKIF: the manuscript is housed in two notebooks at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, Los Angeles. For a description of the manuscript see Rufer, Works, 136-37. In a foreword housed in notebook II, Schoenberg specifically refers to the four topics of the title as projected books: see notebook II, 9.

11These dates conform to those on the manuscript. It is possible that some of the undated portions were actually written in early May. In his letter to Zehme (see footnote 9) dated the fifth of May, Schoenberg says he is at work on ZKIF.

12Compare Schoenberg, Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form, 27-28.

13Parts of the manuscript Schoenberg catalogued as belonging both to Zusammenhang and Kontrapunkt.

14"I" refers to notebook I, "II" to notebook II.

15The sketches are either unidentifiable or part of the material for the Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31.

16See Schoenberg, Der musikalische Gedanke und die Logik, Technik, und Kunst seiner Darstellung, 33-34a.

17See Jean and Jesper Christensen, From Schoenberg's Literary Legacy: A Catalog of Neglected Items (Warren, Michigan: Harmonie Park Press, 1988). Schoenberg's major catalogues appear in Christensen and Christensen, 109-38.

18Letter from R. Wayne Shoaf, February 2, 1989.

19For a documented description of these events, see Christensen and Christensen, 4.

20Ibid., 6, 109-29. DENK 202 and 301 also have the secondary category "Pranger" or "Pillory." Perhaps Schoenberg wished to punish the persons mentioned in his commentary.

21Ibid., 131-38.

22The sheet, "Unfinished Theoretical Works" is now catalogued at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute under number T37.1. Rufer used this sheet to compile his chapter "Theoretical Works" and certain papers under "Articles, Essays," Works, 156-64. The Christensens seem unaware of its existence: see Christensen and Christensen, asterisked footnote, 137.

23Note that ZKIF is catalogued here.

24This sheet is catalogued at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute under number T20.1. The typescript is the same as the second master list and "Unfinished Theoretical Manuscripts."

25For a facsimile of the list entitled "Gedruckte Artikel," see Walter Bailey, "Schoenberg's Published Articles," Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 4/2: 158-59.

26See Rufer, Works, 164-69. The next three citations also refer to this work.

27Ibid., 156-60.

28Ibid., 133-51.

29Ibid., 136-37.

30See footnote 8.

3lShoaf confirms this in his letter of February 2, 1989.

32Christensen and Christensen, 12.

33See footnote 22.

34Schoenberg explicitly titles the first section of Notebook 1, "Theory of Coherence": see Schoenberg, Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form, 63, 72. Note that I translate "Lehre" as "theory."

35Schoenberg, Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form, 57.

36The unified theory is mentioned again in Der musikalische Gedanke, seine Darstellung und Durchführung, 4, and in Der musikalische Gedanke und sein Darstellung, 1: see Rufer, Works, 137.

37Schoenberg mentions both the book on coherence and that on composition in a letter to Wassily Kandinsky dated July 20, 1922: see Arnold Schoenberg, Letters, 71.

38Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 23-24.

39Schoenberg, Letters, 104; Style and Idea, 23-24.

40See manuscript catalogued as Mus 56 by Schoenberg.

41Schoenberg, Der musikalische Gedanke, seine Darstellung und Durchführung, 4. (Translation by Charlotte M. Cross).

42Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 374.

43For discussions of the musical idea, see Patricia Carpenter, "Musical Form and Musical Idea: Reflections on a Theme of Schoenberg, Hanslick, and Kant," Music and Civilization: Essays in Honor of Paul Henry Lang, ed. Edmond Strainchamps and Maria Maniates, with Christopher Hatch (New York: W. W. Norton and Co, 1984), 394-427; Charlotte M. Cross, "Three Levels of 'Idea' in Schoenberg's Thought and Writings," Current Musicology 30 (1980): 24-36; John R. Covach, "Schoenberg and the Occult: Some Reflections on the 'Musical Idea'," Theory and Practice 17 (1992): 103-18; Severine Neff, "Zusammenhang, Kontrapunkt, Instrumentation, Formenlehre: The Seed of Schoenberg's Theoretical Work" (Paper delivered at the meeting of the American Musicological Society/Society for Music Theory, Oakland, California, November 2, 1990); Schoenberg, The Musical Idea, introduction.

44Arnold Schoenberg, Letters, 232. Here he specifically states that outlines for his text on orchestration derive from ZKIF.

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Severine Neff

Severine Neff is the Eugene Falk Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received a Bachelor of Arts in music magna cum laude from Columbia University (1971), a Master of Arts in music theory from Yale University (1972) and a Master of Fine Arts (1974) and Doctor of Philosophy from Princeton University (1979). She has taught at Bates College, Barnard College of Columbia University, and the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. Neff has been a Fellow and Teaching Fellow at the Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory (2004, 2005, 2007), a J. William Fulbright Senior Scholar (1998-99) at Moscow State Conservatory, Moscow, Russia, a Teaching Fellow at the Summer Akademie of the Arnold Schönberg Center, Vienna, Austria (2009, 2012), and has received research awards from The Korea Foundation (2006), The Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna (2003, 2009, 2012), the Institute of Arts and Humanities, UNC-Chapel Hill (2002), the National Endowment for the Humanities (1993), Newberry Library (1985), and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (1981-83, 2011). Her research interests include twentieth-century music, particularly the works of Arnold Schoenberg and his students. She is working an edition of and commentary on Schoenberg’s writings about counterpoint, part of a nine-volume set Schoenberg in Words that she is co-editing with Sabine Feisst for Oxford University Press. In 2012 she completed her tenure as Editor-in-Chief of Music Theory Spectrum. From 2002–4 she was the National Representative for Theory for The College Music Society.

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