My Dear Igor (An Imaginary Dialogue) (1957)
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My Dear Igor (An Imaginary Dialogue) Schoenberg: Ach, my dear Igor, so now you are one of us ... Stravinsky: If you mean, Herr Schoenberg, that I have embraced the serial technique , that is so; but you are undoubtedly aware that I apply it in a completely personal way, therefore there can be no logical basis for claiming that I have also accepted the expressionistic aesthetic of the Vienna School. Subjectivismhas alwaysbeenforeign to my view. My concern with the objective values of music is well known and remains totally unchanged. If Inow find that for purely compositional purposes I can no longer do without the row, that does not in any way conflict with or contradict my own well-established aesthetic position. Schoen: Undeniable, my dear Igor, undeniable ... Nevertheless, the impression , let us call it, you have given the public by the adoption of the row technique in your most recent works is that you have become, so to speak, "one of us." The irony of the situation is difficult to ignore . Naturlich, the fact that the public at large is incapable of sensing the irony and is not given to making subtle distinctions, seeing only the surface of things, does not speak well for it at all. And you are right not to try to educate the people to the aesthetic differences between us. It would be a waste, sheer waste without question. Those who are intelligent see things for themselves; the others, such matters are above their capacities. Still it is, you will agree I'm sure, a curious phenomenon that you, who set the pace for many of our generation-excluding, of course, myself, Alban Berg, Webern, Bartok, and Hindemith, perhaps a few others-and set the pace for the next, should have in the third generation, the one following WorldWar II, comefully within themagnetic field of the twelve-tone idea I discovered. Most curious, my dear Igor, most curious, indeed. Strav: Why should you consider it "curious" that I should take up the possibilities of the serial technique? All my life I have interested myself in everything that seemed fruitful for my own work. This searching out of values is part of my creative process. Schoen: Just so, incontestable, my dear Igor ... Strav: Actually it was through Webern's music, Webern the cutter of diamonds , rather than your own, Herr Schoenberg, that I came to real29 30 THE AESTHETICS OF SURVIVAL ize that there was something for me also in the serial order. It has opened to me a whole world of new possibilities. I grant you fully the remarkable achievement of discovering the row technique. Musicians will remain in your debt for generations to come. Schoen: This is very kind ofyou, my dear Igor,but, unless I am mistaken, you are simply saying in another way what I have heard all my life: that I am merely a theorist, a great musical thinker, but alas! not a composer , not a creative artist. Total nonsense! Only a true creator could have discovered out of his own need the necessary way in which to express what hewished to say. Whenwhat is to besaid is so new that there exists no way to say it, then that way must be discovered. This can only happen to the one to whom the need comes, to no one else. In my case, my need was also the need of our time. That is why it was I, rather than you, for instance, who made the great discovery. Strav: You have misunderstood me entirely, Herr Schoenberg. I did not mean to imply at all that you have not produced valid works of art. It is quite unfair to impute to me views expounded by musical journalists . I count among the basic contributions to twentieth-century music your PierrotLunaire, for example, and the Variationsfor Orchestra ... Schoen: Forgive me, my dear Igor ... You see that on this score I am very touchy. And rightly so. There is always too little genuine understanding of our art-and the hidden currents that keep it alive. People make itseem as though I deliberately set out, like Columbus, to find the New World. No, it was not like that at all. It happened slowly, imperceptibly, the way a tree happens; it simply grew in me until it was suddenly there-full-grown, vital, undeniable-life itself . And I paid the price for it too! Who could have believed that people are so vindictive, so malevolent, so cruel. Did...