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  • Musical Functionalism: The Musical Thoughts of Arnold Schoenberg and Paul Hindemith by Magnar Breivik
  • Michael J. Duffy IV
Musical Functionalism: The Musical Thoughts of Arnold Schoenberg and Paul Hindemith. By Magnar Breivik. (Interplay: Music in Interdisciplinary Dialogue, no. 8.) Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2011. [xviii, 417 p. ISBN 9781576471708. $42.] Music examples, illustrations, bibliography, index.

At first glance, it may seem that Arnold Schoenberg and Paul Hindemith would make an odd couple for a shared study. They represented widely divergent schools of thought within twentieth-century music in terms of their compositional techniques and theoretical writings. Schoenberg today enjoys a lasting legacy through the continued work of serialist composers, while Hindemith’s legacy is mainly historical. Magnar Breivik skillfully links these two composers within the school of musical functionalism in the study presented in this volume. For the first time in English, Breivik builds on work he presented in the article “Arnold Schönberg og Paul Hindemith: Individualister på funksjonalistisk grunn” (Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning 78 [1996]: 11–24), and his dissertation, “Musikalsk funksjonalisme: En studie i Arnold Schönbergs og Paul Hindemiths musikktenkning” (Ph.D. diss., Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet, 1998). Though Breivik’s application of musical functionalism to Schoenberg and Hindemith together is novel, his study is not the first to treat the two composers: another important study is found in David Neumeyer and Giselher Schubert’s article, “Arnold Schoenberg and Paul Hindemith” (Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 13, no. 1 [June 1990]: 3–46), which Breivik cites in his discussion of the relationship between the two. [End Page 475]

Breivik begins the first part of his study, “Musical Functionalism: Perspectives in Early 20th-Century Art” (pp. 1–72) by introducing the reader to “the concept of functionalism” (p. 1), through the examination of architectural trends in the German-speaking world in the first decades of the twentieth century. In the introduction and throughout the book, Breivik links function to form, in music as well as architecture.

Breivik identifies another central aspect of functionalism in the choice and use of material: “Any artistic material is defined by certain possibilities and limitations, a fact that has led to speculations that materials may have an inherent ‘will’ unique to each substance, with which an artist’s will has to co-operate” (p. 12). According to Breivik, artists of all sorts must work within the limitations of their chosen materials. He asserts that Schoenberg and Hindemith both understood the boundaries of their chosen materials (p. 22). Other important aspects of functionalist thought, according to Breivik, are that art works are created by craftsmen and not mass-produced (p. 23), functionalism eschews ornamentation (pp. 32–41), and that the Neue Sachlichkeit movement stressed objectivism in design (pp. 58–65).

Breivik discusses functionalism as a backdrop for his study in “The Concept of Musical Functionalism,” beginning on page 65. His opening paragraphs tie art to function, and stress that while the goal is to produce art serving a function, functionalism is not synonymous with style. On page 66, Breivik attributes the phrase “musical functionalism” to Carl Dahlhaus (see “Musikalischer Funktionalismus,” in Schönberg und Andere: Gesammelte Aufsätze zur neuen Musik [Mainz: Schott, 1978], 63). Breivik ties musical functionalism with the older concept of functional music, which “covered a musicosociological category that included music created for certain purposes, whether economic or civic” and also served as a “less negatively loaded synonym for Gebrauchsmusik” (p. 68). Breivik closes the first part of the book with his three-part definition of musical functionalism, which outlines the structure for the rest of the study:

  1. 1. Functional treatment of the chosen material

  2. 2. Functional design

  3. 3. Focus on the work’s intended function (p. 72)

The second part of the study, “The Musical Material,” (pp. 73–191) begins with a discussion of the breakdown of traditional tonality. He identifies sound as “the basic ingredient in musical material” (p. 73). Breivik discusses Theodor Adorno’s role in twentieth-century music scholarship extensively. On pages 89–93, Breivik considers Adorno’s series of essays on Hinde mith, “Ad vocem Hindemith: Eine Doku mentation,” (Theodor Adorno, “Impromptus,” in Musikalische Schriften IV (His Gesammelte Schriften, bd. 17...


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