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Michael Parrizzi, MUS303: Music History 2
Faculty Mentor(s): Professor Carolyn Guzski, Music, Professor Evan Drummond, Music

Anton Friedrich Wilhelm von Webern (1883-1945), the son of a mining engineer, studied the cello and piano from childhood and continued with a musical life, pursuing musicology and compositional at the University of Vienna. Webern and Alban Berg became regarded as the most significant pupils of Arnold Schoenberg, joining him as Second Vienna School innovators--following the First Viennese School of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven--in the use of 12-tone technique during the early decades of the 20th century. The technique, known as serialism, avoids tonal centers and traditional harmony in favor of composing equally with all twelve notes available within the Western musical octave. I focus on Webern's compositional technique--stricter than even Schoenberg's--in his Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 10, a product of the composer's early “aphoristic” period (1908-1914). Aphorisms were brief and concise, and Webern took the aesthetic to the extreme with one movement comprised of only six measures. His op. 10 orchestration is rather avant-garde, including instruments not typically heard in a symphonic context, such as mandolin, guitar, and celesta. I discuss the organology of these instrumental families and analyze op. 10 from the unusual perspective of the mandolin's history. My goal is to illuminate Webern's sense of timbral experimentation within a strict musical process.

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Making Weird Music: Atonality and a Mandolin
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