‘Ordo ab Chao’: The Fugue as Chaos in the Early Twentieth Century

‘Ordo ab Chao’: The Fugue as Chaos in the Early Twentieth Century Abstract Fugal composition has traditionally been taken as ‘a sign of order and tradition’ (Chapin, 2014). In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, it was normally associated with cosmic order, in keeping with the concept of the harmony of the spheres, and it later came to represent social order (Chua, 1999). In this article I argue that in a variety of early twentieth-century manifestations, fugue came to represent chaos rather than order, maintaining both cosmic and social interpretations. Drawing from music by Milhaud, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Toch, and paintings and writings by Kandinsky, Ball, and Huxley, I demonstrate how the early twentieth-century fugue frequently served as a metaphor for chaos as a redemptive or generating force. In later commentaries, many of these manifestations were later misinterpreted or misrepresented in terms of the metaphor fugue-as-order. Musically speaking, Babel is a blessing.           Igor Stravinsky introduction ‘A barbaric fugue … is a contradiction in terms’, wrote Daniel Chua.1 Perhaps so, yet fugues have always had the potential to contain a range of contradictions. Behind a rigorous façade, fugue involves a plethora of paradoxical pairs: its voices all clamour for independence and individuality, yet all have the same thing to say; voices interrupt and intrude upon each other incessantly, and yet they do this while sounding within a system of fugal rules; harmonic and contrapuntal rules are frequently overridden by fugal logic, yet it is harmony and counterpoint that justify that logic in the first place. Even the nature of fugue as a form or a process has been fertile fodder for debate, as has its etymological origin, deriving either from Middle High German vuoge = ‘joint’, or, with the meaning of fugue = ‘flight’, from the Latin fuga.2 Writing on the topical significance of the learned style in the late eighteenth century, Keith Chapin judiciously points out the numerous pitfalls awaiting those who attempt to capture the meaning of the fugal type, nevertheless suggesting a number of intertwining themes that ‘point toward the fundamental cultural value of counterpoint, as a sign of order and tradition’.3 Values of order (design, mathematical rigour, carefully acquired technique, painstaking preplanning, and universality) and tradition (dignity, majesty, or authority) are indeed among the characteristics we most normally and perhaps even casually associate with fugue.4 In this article I wish to focus on an unexpected countersubject to the history of the meaning of fugue that came to full fruition as an episode in its own right in the first decades of the twentieth century. Although this period still saw many fugues within a traditional context—the second movement of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms is a familiar example—in a surprising number of different sources, including musical works by Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Milhaud, and Toch, as well as artistic and literary works by Wassily Kandinsky, Hugo Ball, and Aldous Huxley, the fugue came to represent not unity and order, but rather chaos and disarray, which were nevertheless strongly bound to the previous interpretative contexts of fugue. order and disorder in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fugues There can be little doubt that the predominant value in eighteenth-century writings about fugue was order, or order-related. A successful fugue had the appearance of a kind of musical magic square, in which all the parts miraculously cooperated with one another in perfect agreement and symmetry. Yet unlike magic squares, fugue frequently fostered subversive interpretations by those who identified a chaotic potential within it. Each of these was motivated by contemporary aesthetic trends, but fugue was not an innocent victim of these criticisms. They were responding to inherent qualities of fugal technique, merely painting them in fashionable tints. Perhaps the best-known eighteenth-century example is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s quip: ‘In general, fugues make music more noisy than agreeable.’5 Although Chapin rightly associates Rousseau’s evaluation with the typical late eighteenth-century dismissal of the emotional power of fugue, it is nevertheless worth considering for its use of the term ‘noise’.6 If music is ordered, or organized sound, then noise (and, for Rousseau, by implication, fugue), is chaotic. Rousseau’s may be the best-known but it is by no means the sole example of such chaotic descriptions. Charles Burney, conjecturing, in a charming flight of imagination, on how the conservative musical taste of the fifteenth-century archbishop of Florence, St Antoninus, might have come to terms with ‘Fugues, Inversions, Points, Imitations, and Divisions, … carried on by a great number of dissimilar parts, all singing different words’, concluded that ‘no more sense could be extracted [from them] than from a pack of hounds in full cry’.7 Like Rousseau, Burney was reiterating a commonly stated contemporary criticism about the unintelligibility of words in contrapuntal settings, but the animalistic, and hence chaotic, imagery is again significant. The ever-imaginative Johann Mattheson, in Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739), likens the Dux and Comes entries of voices in fugue to combatants in a battle, although he immediately qualifies the imagery, emphasizing that the battle is friendly, and ultimately preferring to speak of leaders and followers instead.8 Each of these eighteenth-century writers picks up on the temporal and tonal differences between voices in fugue, as well as their insistence on lack of vertical co-ordination, as a basis for his chaotic imagery. A century later, irregularity of phrases, relaxed treatment of dissonances, and the virtual lack of cadences led Johann Ernst Wagner (1769–1812) to comment on the importance of the sense of beat in giving us reassurance ‘in fugues, in certain kinds of dissonances, and wherever tensions arise that cannot easily be followed’.9 This chaotic potential of fugal techniques also occasionally manifested itself in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century (mainly texted) music, in what Chapin identified as ‘the disruptive potential of learned styles’,10 and Julian Johnson as ‘the tension between the promise of coherent order and the aesthetic sleight of hand by which it is constructed … the tendency of the form to proliferate into chaos’,11 although this is more characteristic of fugato than of the learned styles as a whole or fugue in particular. Two particularly familiar examples occur in outbreaks of the turba choir in Bach’s St Matthew Passion. The first is the frenetic fugato that breaks out on the words ‘Sind Blitze, sind Donner’, characterized by John Butt as ‘the actual sound of an uproar’, and produced by Ruth HaCohen as an example of Lärm, i.e. noise associated with the Jewish aural world.12 The second example occurs when the Jews call for crucifixion on the words ‘Laß ihn kreuzigen’. In both cases, the music forgoes the typical and regular fugal tonic–dominant oscillations in favour of a tonally unstable ‘gravitation towards a fathomless abyss’:13 a rising cycle of fifths in the first, and a descending one in the second. Nearly 150 years later, realizing Mattheson’s imagery of fugal voices as combatants, Wagner turned to similar techniques in the quarrel scene at the end of the second act of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Each fugal entry of the ‘cudgel theme’ introduces a new group of participants into this unruly brawl, with the tonal organization of the fugue again forgone in favour of the unstable progression D minor→G minor→E minor→A minor (Ex. 1). In Wagner, as in Bach, neutralizing the tonal regularity and logic of the fugue rendered it a suitable vehicle for expressing situations of disorder.14 Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works directly representing the chaos and darkness (and their respective progressions to order and light) were not normally strictly fugal, but many of them nevertheless employed a degree of imitative writing, mitigated by irregular tonal and temporal relations between the entries. Particularly well-known examples include the description of ‘thick darkness’ in Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Mozart’s introduction to the Quartet in C, K. 465 (‘Dissonance’), which, as Jacques Chailley suggested, would have represented the masonic principle of Ordo ab Chao, and finally the classic example of depictions of chaos, Haydn’s representation of the Chaos in Die Schöpfung, in which the vaguely imitative entries formed the basis of its analysis by A. Peter Brown as a reference to the ricercar tradition.15 Ex. 1 View largeDownload slide Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act II, Scene 7, ‘Cudgel Fugue’, bb. 5–23 of the scene (piano reduction by R. Kleinmichel (Mainz, Schott, 1867)) Ex. 1 View largeDownload slide Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act II, Scene 7, ‘Cudgel Fugue’, bb. 5–23 of the scene (piano reduction by R. Kleinmichel (Mainz, Schott, 1867)) unity in diversity If, within the horizon of significances that could be attached to fugue in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, chaos was a viable, even if uncommon, option, it appears that the ostensibly monolithic conception of fugue-as-unity or fugue-as-order deserves reassessment. Yet this conception of fugue is only as monolithic as the terms upon which it relies. Unity, for eighteenth-century writers on aesthetics and music, did not imply complete uniformity, but rather the Neoplatonic ideal of beauty as ‘Unity in Diversity’ or ‘Uniformity amidst Variety’, which had been espoused in the theories of aesthetics of Frances Hutcheson (1694–1746), Lord Kames (1696–1792), and Alexander Gerard (1728–95).16 The idea of unity in diversity was soon applied to music, becoming one of the most commonly used yardsticks to judge any musical composition, but particularly fugue and counterpoint. Christoph Wolff has shown how both music in general and Bach’s music specifically was praised for its unity in variety by contemporaries, including Johann Abraham Birnbaum (presumably advised by Bach himself), and Georg Venzky, a co-member with Bach in Lorenz Christoph Mizler’s Society of Musical Science. Venzky nested the principle of unity in variety within the age-old view of the Harmony of the Spheres, whereby human creation is an imitation of the cosmic creation: ‘God is a harmonic being. All harmony originates from his wise order and organization. … Where there is no conformity, there is also no order, no beauty, and no perfection. For beauty and perfection consists in the conformity of diversity.’17 As Julian Johnson observed, the origin of the Baroque fugue lay in ‘a mastery of time in aesthetic form, a tightly controlled ordering of time and, implicitly, an image of the divine ordering of the temporal universe’, creating a ‘musical experience that promised the coherent order of each individual part’.18 Of course, ‘Unity in Diversity’ was, at that time, but one of a handful of catchphrases applied to any kind of music, but it had an especially enduring hold on Bach’s music, most of all in contrapuntal and fugal contexts.19 As Matthew Dirst has shown, the principle of unity through diversity continued to be applied to Bach’s counterpoint well after his death by writers such as Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg (1752), Johann Nichelmann (1755), Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1782), Christian Friedrich Michaelis (1801), Friedrich Rochlitz (1803), and Ernst Ludwig Gerber (1812).20 Perhaps the most famous reference to fugue in terms of unity in diversity is Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s description, which replaced Birnbaum and Venzky’s cosmic framework with a social one: Let us imagine a people which through the narration of a great event is deeply moved; and imagine at first that a single member of this group, perhaps through the intensity of his emotions, is driven to make a short powerful statement as the expression of his feeling. Will not this outburst of emotion gradually grip the collective members of this people, and will he not be followed first by one, then several, and then most of them, each singing the same song with him … modifying it according to his own way of feeling, but on the whole in sympathy with him as to the basic emotion: And if such a scene … is to be represented musically, do not first the dux, then the comes, then the repercussio arise in the most natural way in the world—in short the whole outer and inner form of the fugue?21 As Chapin has suggested, there is, perhaps, something forced in Forkel’s attribution of cultural significance to fugue, but it is only all the more interesting for being forced. Furthermore, Forkel’s account resonates perfectly with contemporary references to fugue in music both in writings about music and in literature. The fugal outburst at the end of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which had received its first performances only a few months before Forkel’s text was published, is a case in point. With Don Giovanni dead, Da Ponte runs the full gamut of his diverse characters, one after the other: Don Ottavio repeats his unwavering mantra—asking for Donna Anna’s hand; Donna Anna refuses for the umpteenth time; Donna Elvira, unshakably obsessed with the Don, announces her retirement to a convent; Masetto dreams again of domestic bliss with Zerlina; and the incorrigible Leporello is off to the tavern. Their diversity could not be more perfectly underscored. Yet when they join forces for the final refrain called for by the libretto, expressing the single sentiment that brings them together after the culminating event of the opera (‘This is the end which befalls evildoers’), Mozart unites them through fugue.22 It is unlikely that there was any direct influence from Mozart’s opera to Forkel’s description: the former was completed in October 1787, a few months prior to the publication of the latter; and Forkel seems to have been unfamiliar with Mozart’s masterpiece when writing his Almanach of 1789.23 Instead, they seem to have shared a characteristic contemporary social understanding of unity in diversity in fugue. Also from the same period, and in similar spirit, is Goethe’s entertaining description, in his 13 May 1787 entry in his Italian Journey, of the multi-language interchange between two parties: in one group two Germans, Goethe’s friend, the artist Christoph Heinrich Kniep (1755–1825) and the local Consul; in the other two Italians, a verger and a chaplain. The two pairs engaged in what Goethe described as a ‘strange … Italian-German fugue’ in which ‘the chaplain and verger [were] psalmodizing in the first tongue, Kniep and the consul in the second’, with ‘each party engrossed in its subject and ignoring its rival’.24 Goethe’s description is comic, and his fugue is recognized as a ‘strange’ one, yet it reflects the potential for a Forkelian interpretation of fugue within a social context. It also illustrates the fragility of the equilibrium between unity and diversity within the fugue, with chaos ensuing as soon as things get out of hand, or ‘strange’. The multinational aspect of Goethe’s spoken fugue also resonates with another important idée fixe in references to fugues, that of internationality, arising probably as the social counterpart to the pan-cosmic significance in the earlier, Bachian understanding. Marpurg, in his Abhandlung von der Fuge, had associated internationality with counterpoint as early as 1753, stating that ‘at the present time there is neither a German, nor a French, nor an Italian counterpoint, while at the same time all nations agree that counterpoint is truth in music’.25 Marpurg’s nations agree on fugue (and not through fugue, as in Forkel), reflecting a conception of fugue-as-truth. This derives from Mizler’s concept of music as ‘sounding mathematics’ and is thus related to the cosmic view.26 Yet from this cosmic view, Marpurg derived a view of international consent in which different national styles come to agreement, like so many voices in a fugue, through the agency of counterpoint. Marpurg thus provides an important link between Birnbaum/Bach’s cosmic to Forkel’s social description thirty years later. Daniel Chua has argued that by the end of the eighteenth century, the meaning of fugue had shifted from consisting of ‘the very symbol of cosmic order for Bach’ to becoming, for Forkel, a symbol of social cohesion, ‘harmonization of the individual within the political will of moral sentiment’.27 Although undoubtedly broadly true, the cosmic interpretation never entirely disappeared and the two strands of meaning continued to coexist throughout the nineteenth century, as evidenced, for instance, by the final, extended fugue of Weber’s Der erste Ton (1808, rev. 1810), an accompanied declamation to a text by Johann Friedrich Rochlitz, celebrating man’s first aural experience after the creation from chaos. Thus from Bach to Forkel, from Mattheson to Wagner, from Mozart to Verdi, and from Handel and Haydn to Weber, fugue, interpreted either in a cosmic or social vein and frequently with distinctly internationalist undertones, was the perfect expression not of unity alone, but of unity in diversity. creative cosmic cataclysms in the art of fugue These ideas did not disappear in the twentieth century. As noted by David Yearsley, Nazi musicologists in the 1930s and 1940s extended the idea of unity in diversity to accommodate interpretations related to military discipline, with collective will ‘extinguishing individual freedom’.28 On the other side of the political map, William Walton’s Spitfire Fugue accompanied the assembly of the new Spitfire in Leslie Howard’s film The First of the Few (1942). Walton, who had already made use of the unifying power of fugue in the finale of his First Symphony (1935), uses the Spitfire Fugue to similar effect, perfectly complementing Georges Périnal’s cinematography, which shifts back and forth from shots of the separate parts of the Spitfire to its assembly as a unified whole. In the spirit of the overture to Die Zauberflöte, the Spitfire Fugue, like Puccini’s fugue at the opening of Madama Butterfly, accompanying Pinkerton’s inspection of a new house, or Arthur Honegger’s fugue from Amphion accompanying the raising of the walls of Thebes, evokes a tradition of fugue identified by Jacques Chailley as associated with ‘the building of an edifice’.29 These examples show that fugue continued to signify the unification of diversity in a variety of contexts, old and new, well into the mid-twentieth century. In the interim, however, shortly before the First World War, Wassily Kandinsky’s Fugue (1914) introduced a challenging representation, or perhaps just interpretation, of fugue (see Pl. 1).30 A kaleidoscopic explosion of colours, with vague suggestions of curves, fragmented geometric shapes, interspersed among sporadically placed sets of short parallel or criss-crossed lines, Kandinsky’s painting has become a symbol of the marriage between music and painting. The consequent challenge for art scholars has been to explain why this painting is the artistic parallel of a fugue, and their explanations tend to follow traditional approaches such as those reviewed above by attempting to uncover the order that underlies the painting. A representative example is Donald Kuspit’s analysis in A Critical History of 20th-Century Art: The counterpoint in Fugue is visual rather than aural. … The hatches are one kind of visual motif, the curves another, the atmospheric squiggles yet another, the little triangles and circular fragments still other ‘melodic lines’. Their polyphonic interplay is transparent: Parallel hatches of different colors form curves, there is a white crosshatching near the center of the painting, and a crosshatching of the complementary colors red and green in the upper right corner. It seems a pale ghost of the counterpoint of the more prominent red and green curves seemingly far below it.31 Kuspit acknowledges that the painting does not have quite the lucidity one would expect from a fugue: ‘All seems molten—highly malleable and indeterminate. Every motif seems to be in the process of metamorphosizing into some other motif.’ Yet he ultimately concludes: ‘What makes Kandinsky’s painterly Fugue different from the usual musical fugue is that the motifs appear all at once rather than successively.’32 Pl. 1 View largeDownload slide Wassily Kandinsky, Fuga (Fugue), 1914. Oil on canvas, 129.5 × 129.5 cm. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Collection Beyeler. Photo: Robert Bayer Pl. 1 View largeDownload slide Wassily Kandinsky, Fuga (Fugue), 1914. Oil on canvas, 129.5 × 129.5 cm. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Collection Beyeler. Photo: Robert Bayer Kuspit’s analysis draws upon strategies adopted in textbook analyses of musical fugues. Themes (here shapes, hatches, curves, squiggles) are identified, and their recurrences are pointed out. Inversions (complementary colours), diminutions and augmentations (varying sizes) are sought out, and the whole is explained in terms of ‘polyphonic interplay’. His reading is true to the spirit of many contemporary views about the connection between painting and music, both in its understanding of musical rules (epitomized by fugue) as representatives of order, and in its emphasis on the aural vs. spatial elements. Important exponents of this approach in the early twentieth century were the ‘Orphists’ Robert and Sonia Delaunay and František Kupka, as well as their contemporaries such as Hans Richter, Heinrich Neugeboren, Josef Albers, and Paul Klee, who in 1917 observed that in Robert Delaunay’s ‘Windows’ series, the artist ‘tried to transfer artistic emphasis to the temporal aspect, on the model of the fugue’.33 Delauney, in turn, believed that ‘colors express performances, modulations, rhythms, counterbalances, fugues, depths, oscillations, chords, monumental accords; that is order’.34 As Peter Vergo and Simon Shaw-Miller have demonstrated, ‘fugal’ paintings of these artists and others of the time sit comfortably with interpretations in this vein, yet both scholars avoid discussing Kandinsky’s Fugue within this context.35 The reason for this, I argue, is that Kandinsky’s Fugue does not lend itself readily to interpretations relying on fugue-as-order; it expresses, if anything, quite their opposite. To appreciate this, let us first briefly view how three other paintings of the same period manifest the fugue-as-order idea, after which Kandinsky’s approach will stand out in sharp relief, as an expression of something completely different. The paintings entitled Fugue by Kupka, Klee, and Albers,36 created within a span of thirteen years that includes the date of Kandinsky’s painting, are not identical in their transferral of fugal techniques from music to art. Albers (Pl. 2), focuses on the distinct number of voices (presumably two, represented by black and white), with periodic and sometimes overlapping entries, an episodic layout (the six distinct blocks in the painting), and a single governing Affekt (the colour red). The parallel horizontal lines and the alternation between black and white suggest that the painting may have been inspired not only by the aural experience of a fugue, but also by the visual appearance of a fugal score or, perhaps, by Paul Klee’s graphic representations of Bach’s fugues that accompanied his teaching notes for his first lecture course at the Weimar Bauhaus in 1921–2.37 Klee, as Peter Vergo has noted, was an accomplished musician, who played occasionally with the Berne municipal orchestra, and made numerous references in his diaries to musical performances he attended.38 His own famous fugal painting, Fugue in Red (1921, Pl. 3), also suggests periodicity through discrete groupings, distinctness of voices through colours (three voices, significantly less contrasting than those selected by Albers), and a single Affekt through choice of background colour; but he also uses shapes to signify multiplicity of themes (amphoras, triangles, and rectangles), as well as augmentation and diminution of those themes.39 Whatever the differences between the details of the approaches of Klee and Albers, they nevertheless share an overall conception of fugue as order, in line with the ‘return to order’ characteristic of European art in the 1920s.40 The suggestion of a left-to-right flow, particularly evident in Albers, but also present in Klee’s choice of the axis along which the diminutions are arranged, implies that both artists were trying to bridge the gap between the temporally unfolding musical inspiration and the spatially unfolding painting, supporting Klee’s conviction noted in his diary in 1905 that ‘both arts are temporal’.41 Pl. 2 View largeDownload slide Josef Albers, Fugue, c.1926. Sandblasted flashed glass with black paint, 24.8 × 65.7 cm. © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander, Imaging4Art Pl. 2 View largeDownload slide Josef Albers, Fugue, c.1926. Sandblasted flashed glass with black paint, 24.8 × 65.7 cm. © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander, Imaging4Art Pl. 3 View largeDownload slide Paul Klee, Fuge in Rot, 1921, 69; Fugue in Red, 1921, 69. Watercolour and pencil on paper on cardboard, 24.4 × 31.5 cm. Privatbesitz Schweiz, Depositum im Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern Pl. 3 View largeDownload slide Paul Klee, Fuge in Rot, 1921, 69; Fugue in Red, 1921, 69. Watercolour and pencil on paper on cardboard, 24.4 × 31.5 cm. Privatbesitz Schweiz, Depositum im Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern Kupka’s Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colors (1912, Pl. 4), adopts a different approach, focusing on the nature of counterpoint, with its intertwining voices and unclear limits between theme and accompaniment. Kupka, as both Peter Vergo and Simon Shaw-Miller have noted, was an enthusiastic admirer of Bach’s fugues, believing that in analogy to fugue, ‘colour must speak as forcibly as form’.42 Indeed, as the title of the painting implies, the two colours in Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colors represent two voices, and although both unite in creating what appears to be an ‘amorphous amphora’ (Kupka, Simon Shaw-Miller reminds us, studied Greek vase-painting in the Louvre),43 their roles as foreground and background interchange in a manner reminiscent of voices in a fugue.44 The differences between the fugues by Kupka, Klee, and Albers notwithstanding, all three present an ultimate visage of clarity, control, order, and unity, harnessing the traditional meaning of fugue-as-unity to these artists’ interest in questions of internal logic and procedural coherence. Pl. 4 View largeDownload slide František Kupka, Amorpha, fugue en deux couleurs (1912). Photo: National Gallery in Prague 2017. © ADAGP, Paris [2017] Pl. 4 View largeDownload slide František Kupka, Amorpha, fugue en deux couleurs (1912). Photo: National Gallery in Prague 2017. © ADAGP, Paris [2017] Within this context, Kuspit’s interpretation of Kandinsky’s Fugue seems reasonable, especially if we consider that in one of his catalogues (Handlist III), Kandinsky added to the title the handwritten parenthetical words Beherrschte Improvisation = Fuga (controlled improvisation = Fugue). The idea of a controlled improvisation seems to imply an association of fugue with control, and hence order. Yet the word Improvisation is just as important. For Kandinsky, Improvisation and its next-of-kin Impression were to be understood in contrast to Composition, a work that was the sum total of reason, consciousness, determination, and expediency, all values associated with order.45Improvisation, one instance of which was characterized by Magdalena Dabrowski as ‘a turbulent harmony of vibrant, independent voices’,46 was therefore of a class diametrically opposed to order. Within that chaotic class, fugue, for Kandinsky, was associated with a degree of control, but this is still a far cry from the traditional set of values associated with fugue, such as order and reason. Kuspit’s analysis, like others, imposes upon the painting precisely this traditional set of values, yet if such a reading were correct, Kandinsky’s energetic, frenetic, kaleidoscopic, and explosive painting would have to be considered quite unsuccessful, at least considerably less so than those by his contemporaries. Would it not make sense to conclude that Kandinsky identified something entirely different from his contemporaries in fugue—a chaotic element, rather than a unified one, or a diversity that feels no obligation to unity other than its inclusion within a single work of art? I argue that Kandinsky and many of his contemporaries, including composers and authors, indeed perceived fugue in this way, welcoming its inherent diversity into a world-view that no longer held unity as an artistic value above all others. Within the variety of approaches that the early twentieth century had to offer, order and learnedness continued to serve as the main subject of fugue, yet alongside them a meaning of fugue-as-chaos served as a countersubject, resonating with the prevailing sense of disorder of the time. Unlike his ‘Orphist’ contemporaries such as the Delaunays and Kupka, or his future Bauhaus colleagues, Klee and Albers, Kandinsky was more attracted to euphoric, centrifugal energies than to questions of internal logic and procedural coherence as sources of creative inspiration. One year prior to the painting of Fugue he laid out his view of art and the creative process: Painting is like a thundering collision of different worlds that are destined in and through conflict to create that new world called the work. Technically, every work of art comes into being in the same way as the cosmos—by means of catastrophes, which ultimately create out of the cacophony of the various instruments that symphony we call the music of the spheres, the creation of the work of art is the creation of the world.47 The early twentieth-century rhetoric notwithstanding, Kandinsky’s description continues the traditional association of music in general, and fugal writing in particular, with unity in diversity in a cosmic context. The work of art reflects the act of godly creation, bringing together ‘different worlds’ into a ‘new world’, the ‘cacophony of the various instruments’ into a unified ‘symphony’. But his imagery involves a shift of the traditional focus, dwelling not on the creation of order, but on the pre-existing chaos, and celebrating not the ultimate unity, but the primordial diversity. The fugue becomes the ultimate point of chaos, through which synthesis eventually emerges, a crucial element in the cycle of catastrophe, redemption, and spiritual renewal that held a central place in Kandinsky’s writings and art during 1913–14. Hugo Ball, who was heavily influenced by Kandinsky’s ideas at the time, likewise spoke in his poem ‘The Sun’ (1914) of ‘domes exploding with organ fugues’, and one year later he placed the fugue at the point of furthest remove (to borrow Leonard Ratner’s description of the moment preceding the retransition in sonata form), in a vignette included in his Flight out of Time: We Germans are a nation of musicians, full of an unbounded faith in the omnipotence of harmony. That may then serve us as a passport to all kinds of temptations and experiments, to all kinds of boldness and deviation. Whether we begin with major or minor and strike the most daring dissonances, we still believe that at the end, in the fugue, the darkest, most brittle discord must give way and yield. It can be said, then, that harmony is the Germans’ Messiah; it will come to deliver its people from the multiplicity of resounding contradiction.48 The fugue is, on the one hand, the most dissonant, chaotic moment, ‘the darkest, most brittle discord’, but that is what forces it to yield: deliverance arises from ‘the multiplicity of resounding contradiction’, not because diversity is unified, but rather because it has become catastrophically chaotic. In the spirit of the political and social unrest of the months leading up to the First World War, both Kandinsky’s and Ball’s diversities are of exceptional violence, involving parts that are not simply different, but conflicting, their cacophonous coexistence resulting in ‘thundering collisions’ and ‘catastrophes’. These create not the final harmony, but rather the chaotic moment that necessitates it. Their fugues are thus not an act of unification and ordering, but a paean to the creative and redemptive power in chaos.49 It is significant that Kandinsky’s chaotic interpretation of fugue came shortly after the new and radical experimentations with tonality of the Second Viennese School, Stravinsky, and others. As I have already pointed out, fugal procedures in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were able to stand for disruption and disorder particularly where they abandoned the traditional tonal layout of the fugue. After the breakdown of Western tonality, this potential became essentially available for any kind of fugue: without the unifying element of traditional harmony, it was easier to focus on the diversity in fugue, as the unruly behaviour of the various voices was no longer governed by an external, regulating system. It is well known that Kandinsky followed developments in the musical world closely, and in 1911–13 corresponded regularly with Schoenberg. As noted by J. B. M. Janssen, much of the Schoenberg–Kandinsky correspondence was centred around questions of ‘Chaos’ and ‘Construction’, with Kandinsky telling Schoenberg of his belief in ‘Dissonanz statt Konsonanz’ as the motto of the new art.50 The replacement of the nineteenth-century consonance with twentieth-century dissonance was, for Kandinsky, but a small detail in a larger aesthetic shift espoused by ‘new art’. The latter he characterized in his essay of 1910 (published only in 1912), Über das Geistige in der Kunst (On the Spiritual in Art) as ‘clashing discords, loss of equilibrium, principles overthrown … great questionings … opposites, and contradictions’, emphatically summarizing ‘this is our harmony’. In the new art, ‘external lack of cohesion is … internal harmony … haphazard arrangement of forms may be the future of artistic harmony’.51 A decade and a half later, in his essay Der Wert des theoretischen Unterrichts in der Malerei (1926), Kandinsky was even more explicit, writing that, at least from an external point of view, the ‘order’ of the nineteenth century was being replaced by what can be summarized in a single word—chaos. Kandinsky’s new cosmic interpretation of the fugue-as-chaos soon found a musical counterpart in Darius Milhaud’s ballet La Création du Monde, composed in 1922–3 to a scenario based on African myths of creation drawn from a collection compiled by the Swiss-French novelist and poet Blaise Cendrars. The ballet, which uses jazz themes inspired by music Milhaud heard on his visit to Harlem in 1922, includes six parts to be played continuously, leading from ‘The Chaos before the Creation’ through the creation of plants, animals, and culminating in man, who is unique due to a capacity for love. The second of these sections, the first to be heard after the curtain rose in the original production, describes the chaos before the creation. Earlier representations of chaos typically chose to describe their theme through abandonment of the reigning compositional order, whether in harmony, phrase construction, or form. Thus, the language of chaos in works such as Rameau’s Zaïs, Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les Elémens, or Haydn’s Schöpfung made use of fragmented musical utterances, seemingly haphazard juxtaposition of different materials, hushed amorphous sound effects, or clashing dissonances, all awaiting the arrival of a governing order. The arrival of order in Haydn’s oratorio and in Weber’s Die Erste Ton is celebrated in fugue. In the light of these precedents, Milhaud makes a surprising choice in La Création du Monde, representing chaos through a clearly articulated fugue on a jazz theme (Ex. 2). The unorthodox subject traverses an unorthodox, albeit firm, tonal sequence played by a no less unorthodox collection of instruments, introduced on D by the double bass, followed by the trombone on E and then a saxophone on A before returning to D. The sense of tonality in this section, though still clearly perceivable, is perhaps the weakest in the entire piece, manifesting itself more in the tonally common yet fugally uncharacteristic I–II–V–I overall tonal layout, but hardly at all in the seemingly haphazard vertical harmonies. Milhaud’s fugal chaos relies not only on lack of tonal equilibrium, but also on the generic clash between the ‘high’ fugal form and the ‘low’ jazz theme, in which Milhaud supposedly recognized African origins that resonated with the ostensibly African origins of Cendrars’s text. The incompatibility of form and content endows the fugue with an ironic stance towards its otherwise traditional role in the narrative of creation, bolstering its shift in position from a celebration of the triumph of creation as an act of organizing the chaos, to a carrier of the climax of a chaos, which will ultimately dissolve into order. Ex. 2 View largeDownload slide Darius Milhaud, La Création du Monde, II. Le chaos avant la création, bb. 1–21 (© With kind authorization of Editions Durand) Ex. 2 View largeDownload slide Darius Milhaud, La Création du Monde, II. Le chaos avant la création, bb. 1–21 (© With kind authorization of Editions Durand) Fugue also makes a prominent appearance in Schoenberg’s Prelude Op. 44 (1945), originally part of the Genesis suite, a collaborative setting of seven tableaux from the first book of Moses, organized in 1945 by Nathaniel Shilkret, and including a prelude by Schoenberg, a Creation by Shilkret, The Fall of Man by Alexandre Tansman, a Cain and Abel by Milhaud, The Flood by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, The Covenant by Toch, and Babel by Stravinsky ending the cycle (we shall return to Stravinsky’s work later in this article).52 Schoenberg’s prelude, which was the only untexted contribution to the cycle, dealt with the creation of the world out of chaos, ‘a universal, creative state before a directed created vision was realized’, in the words of Jennifer Shaw.53 The Prelude opens accordingly with fragmentary elements, or ‘isolated sonic particles’ that depict ‘the fragmented state of space’ in the words of Sabine Feisst:54 the first two notes of the basic note row (B♭, G♭) are presented tremolo in the double basses; the next six (D, F, E, C, B, G♯) appear in an upwards zigzagging sequence in the bass tuba, and the remaining four (C♯, D♯, A, G) are completed by the violins in a downwards zigzagging motion, leading from C♯ in their uppermost register, to an open G string in the end (Ex. 3). All in all, the presentation of the row encompasses six octaves, from D1 to C♯7, giving the impression of disconnected and unorganized matter. Ex. 3 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Genesis Prelude, Op. 44, bb. 1–7. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles Ex. 3 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Genesis Prelude, Op. 44, bb. 1–7. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles In bar 25, however, Schoenberg introduces a double fugue in inversion, which dominates the remainder of the prelude (Ex. 4). The note rows (P5+RI10) are distributed between the subject and the countersubject (with one note in the countersubject interpolated between every pair in the subject), now spanning one octave alone. In his article ‘Composition with Twelve Tones (II)’, from 1947–8, Schoenberg warned that composition of fugues should nowadays ‘only be undertaken for a special reason’, such as ‘a nostalgic longing for old-time beauty’, or the inclusion of ‘old style’ among a variety of other styles in a large work.55 Hence, attempting to explain the predominance of fugue within the prelude—which is not a large-scale work, and deals with a period much earlier than that associated with fugal ‘old-time beauty’—has elicited considerable hermeneutic acrobatics from many a writer on this work. Willi Reich suggested that it ‘was meant to give an idea of the “technical” difficulties at the creation of the world’, thus drawing a parallel between musical and cosmic acts of creation that harks back to the ancient concept of the Harmony of the Spheres.56 Yet, as Carl Dahlhaus pointed out, Reich’s explanation fails to convince because Schoenberg did not believe there was anything difficult about writing a twelve-note fugue.57 Instead, Dahlhaus resorts to a somewhat anachronistic strategy of interpreting Schoenberg in the light of Goethe’s understanding of Bach ‘as if eternal harmony were communing with itself, just as may have happened in God’s bosom before the creation’.58 Feisst likewise views this fugal episode as a reference to Bach (and the prelude on the whole as referring to Haydn’s Schöpfung), part of a process leading from initial fragmentation through fugal creation of order, continuing to ‘the impending creation of humankind’ with the entry of untexted singing and the arrival of order and the completion of creation with a final unison on C.59 But there are strong reasons to doubt such a narrative. Not only does it ignore some key moments in the music (such as the stop-and-go nature of the fugue, the massive cataclysmic crescendo and accelerando culminating in bar 81, or the fact that the concluding unison comes more as a shock than as a logical conclusion), but also its position in the piece, before Shilkret’s own contribution, which commences with the first words of Genesis, i.e. before the creation began. Schoenberg may have been unwilling to stoop to creating stylistic continuity between his dodecaphonic and Shilkret’s Hollywood-style pieces, but there was no reason for him to have done the same with the narrative continuity. Instead, I would suggest that here, as with Kandinsky and Milhaud, Schoenberg associates fugue with the reigning chaos, its multiplicity of seemingly independent voices providing the ideal framework for expressing the primordial state of the universe before the act of creation. The fugue does not serve a function of imposing order, but rather of mixing together elements that were hitherto discrete, a stirring of the ‘primordial soup’, to use J. B. S. Haldane’s enduring term from 1929 for the emergence of life on earth.60 The introduction of human voice without text maintains a sense of quasi-haphazardness, by adding a distinct previously unheard sound, and is also, due to the absence of text, disembodied. Indeed, when the fugal climax quickly subsides, ending the prelude with the lingering voices on unison C, Schoenberg could perhaps be setting the stage for the continuation of the work, the creation of the heavens and the earth in the next section by what is missing in the untexted voice: the logos. Such a reading renders Schoenberg’s fugue a counterpart to Kandinsky’s: the apparatus that both represents chaos and brings it to the climax from which creation can ensue. Ex. 4 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Genesis Prelude, Op. 44, bb. 25–36. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles Ex. 4 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Genesis Prelude, Op. 44, bb. 25–36. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles fugue as social disorder The role of fugue as a state preceding creation in the examples by Kandinsky, Schoenberg, and Milhaud is drawn from its earlier cosmic meaning. Yet in Milhaud’s case, the combination of high and low social strata, and the discrepancy between Germanophile fugue with négrophilie jazz, suggest a cosmic description driven strongly by social politics too, a wish to create a world free of former social and racial distinctions. More than a decade earlier, and then again in 1922 (the year Milhaud’s ballet was composed), Heinrich Schenker, in his introductions to the volumes of Counterpoint (1910), had prescribed the study of counterpoint as a cure for the malaise caused by the loss of social hierarchy, ‘in an era in which all values in human relationships are turned exactly upside down … [whereby] those who need to be led become leaders’.61 The disintegration of traditional hierarchies that Schenker was lamenting was in his view the reason for the decline in the basic skills in composition, and it is thus that he completes the tortuous route from the problem, which includes symptoms of what he identifies as an ‘era of asininity … inimical to art’, such as women assuming men’s roles or the exemption of children from work, to its remedy: a new tutorial in counterpoint, no less.62 As eccentric and objectionable as Schenker’s logic may be, his prescription of fugal skills as a restorative to social disintegration harks back to earlier, social interpretations of fugue. It might not be overly fanciful to refer to it as a reactionary neo-Forkelism. Forkel’s social interpretation of the fugue was indeed still very much alive, but not everyone associated it, as did Schenker, with social order. In Milhaud’s ballet, the association of fugue with the disintegration of boundaries was oblique, but Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point (1928) drives the point home explicitly and emphatically. In the second chapter of the book, the ailing painter John Bidlake, who is based on the artist Augustus John (1878–1961), listens to a performance of Bach’s Second Suite for Orchestra in a private event at his home. Huxley’s brilliantly ironic description, with its ‘multiplicity of aspects seen’, to use the term suggested by Philip Quarles, the novelist within the novel—i.e. its repeated conflations of the audible experience of Bach’s work with its physical means of production (flautist Pongileoni’s ‘vibrating air column’ played upon by his ‘snout’)—is, as observed by Morton Gurewitch, both a glorification and a comic diminishing of Bach’s music.63 At first, however, Bidlake’s description of the majestic slow introduction to the first movement (in the tradition of a French overture) resorts to terms and imagery that sound almost like a paraphrase on Schenker’s introduction: ‘In the opening largo John Sebastian had, with the help of Pongileoni’s snout and the air column, made a statement: There are grand things in the world, noble things; there are men born kingly; there are real conquerors, intrinsic lords of the earth.’64 But with the entry of the fugue, social order is not reinforced, as Schenker would have had it, but rather swept aside in favour of general havoc: But of an earth that is, oh! complex and multitudinous, he had gone on to reflect in the fugal allegro. You seem to have found the truth; clear, definite, unmistakable, it is announced by the violins; you have it, you triumphantly hold it. But it slips out of your grasp to present itself in a new aspect among the 'cellos and yet again in terms of Pongileoni’s vibrating air column. The parts live their separate lives; they touch, their paths cross, they combine for a moment to create a seemingly final and perfected harmony, only to break apart again. Each is always alone and separate and individual. ‘I am I’, asserts the violin; ‘the world revolves round me’. ‘Round me’, calls the ’cello. ‘Round me’, the flute insists. And all are equally right and equally wrong; and none of them will listen to the others. In the human fugue there are eighteen hundred million parts. The resultant noise means something perhaps to the statistician, nothing to the artist.65 Huxley draws upon numerous traditional meanings of fugue here, including unity in diversity, fugue as truth, fugue as internationality, and fugue as social order. Yet all of these have their meanings reversed. Truth is upheld by the theme in a single voice alone—the violins—but as soon as the cellos enter that same truth ‘slips out of grasp’ rather than being confirmed; social order is not brought about, but rather dispelled by the fugue; its internationality is not one of agreement (as in Marpurg), but rather of dissent, broken down beyond the level of nations to that of each and every one of the world’s eighteen hundred million parts. Huxley’s fugue (pace Bidlake) is all diversity and no unity, all noise and no art, all chaos and no order. It becomes a tower of Babel of sorts, a shattering of the unity of mankind that had hitherto brought forth conquerors, lords of the earth, and ‘grand things in the world’, reducing it to multitudinous complexity in which (as in Goethe’s ‘strange fugue’) no one will listen to the other. Although Bidlake’s interpretation of fugue should not necessarily be taken as Huxley’s own—the novel is populated by a variety of radical characters covering a broad spectrum of views on a variety of subjects—it nevertheless indicates an understanding that would have been available to the early twentieth-century listener. Huxley’s own view of fugue as stated in his essays is more sober, but the chaotic potential is evident in all. One reference appeared in his essay on Blaise Pascal, published in the collection of essays Do What You Will, of 1929, placing it contemporaneous with Point Counter Point. The ending of that essay is a paean to ‘the life-worshipper’, whose guiding principle is ‘to live intensely’, a credo as autobiographical as it is documentary: His diversity is a sign that he consistently tries to live up to his principles; for the harmony of life—of the single life that persists as a gradually changing unity through time—is a harmony built up of many elements. The unity is mutilated by the suppression of any part of the diversity. A fugue has need of all its voices. Even in the rich counterpoint of life each separate small melody plays its indispensable part.66 What stands out in Huxley’s otherwise typical reference to unity in diversity in the context of fugue is his concern about the fragility of the system as a whole, or the way the suppression of any of the parts will mutilate the overall unity. It is as if in Bidlake’s constant mutilation of each of the voices—the flute is a mere vibrating column of air attached to a snout, the string instruments are ‘scraped’, and the motions of the conductor are ‘undulations from the loins’—Bach’s fugue no longer appears as unified, and chaos ensues. A similar concern for the fragility of fugue’s ability to reveal its intricacies is expressed in Huxley’s essay Gesualdo: Variations on a Musical Theme (1956). Huxley explains the brevity of the madrigal by the absence of what he calls a ‘structural pattern’, without which lengthy counterpoint risks becoming unintelligible. Although the nature of Huxley’s ‘structural pattern’ remains obscure—it is a strange confusion between sonata form, fugue, and canon—it seems to require a clear definition of two key areas, a series of modulations, and a recapitulation: in other words, a strong tonal grounding. Huxley would probably have found a fugue without tonality largely unintelligible. He seems to have had little sympathy for atonal music, judging Berg’s Lyric Suite as an expression of self-absorbed self-pity, and comparing Schoenberg’s music to Gesualdo’s only to the detriment of the former. His analysis of what he calls ‘the most startlingly chromatic of the mad prince’s compositions’, published in The Doors of Perception (1954), provides another insight into the interplay between order and chaos in Huxley’s view of counterpoint (under the self-attested influence of mescaline, in an attempt to transcend his own self): It does not matter that he’s all in bits. The whole is disorganized. But each individual fragment is in order, is a representative of a Higher Order. The Highest Order prevails even in the disintegration. The totality is present even in the broken pieces. More clearly present, perhaps, than in a completely coherent work. At least you aren’t lulled into a sense of false security by some merely human, merely fabricated order. You have to rely on your immediate perception of the ultimate order. So in a certain sense disintegration may have its advantages. But of course it’s dangerous, horribly dangerous. Suppose you couldn’t get back, out of the chaos …67 Even in this intoxicated account the language of unity in diversity prevails, yet, as Holly Rogers has pointed out, the role of disintegration is paradoxical, offering at once ‘a bridge back to the human world’ and an inescapable and ‘horribly dangerous’ chaos.68 The unity here is not the traditional imposition of order to rein in variety, but rather a rejection of such ‘complete coherence’ in favour of a ‘Higher Order’ that can only be accessed through the disintegration. As with Kandinsky, it is necessary for chaos to push us to the brink in order to attain the ultimate order. Huxley’s attribution of worldwide significance to fugue was echoed only two years later in Ernst Toch’s Geographical Fugue. This spoken fugue, ‘Weimar rap’ in the words of the composer’s grandson, quickly became a perennial classic for amateur choirs.69 It was composed in 1930 as part of a spoken-word suite called Gesprochene Musik, for a concert featuring new works to be performed by gramophone, yet is usually performed nowadays by live choirs. The words of the fugue are a list of places from all over the world, presumably selected for the rhythmic qualities created by their distinct patterns of repeated consonants and vowels, enabling them to be recognized through augmentation and diminution. As Carmel Raz has brilliantly demonstrated in her analysis of the Geographical Fugue, Toch planned the text carefully for maximal intelligibility, a point emphasized by Toch himself in his short reference to the work at the end of an article he published in Melos. Drawing from this and, no doubt, from the traditional interpretation of fugue as a unifying framework for international diversity, Raz concludes that the Geographical Fugue ‘makes an implicitly internationalist statement on bridging cultural differences by the juxtaposition of diverse international locations by assonance and choice of syllables’.70 Although one cannot argue conclusively against such an interpretation, it does not ring true in the broader context of the work’s composition. As Raz demonstrated, Toch had to take into consideration various political sensitivities in his text, such as his exclusion of places in Africa in the light of what was then known as Die schwarze Schmach, the positioning of African soldiers along the Rhine as an occupying force. In this, as in its typically Dadaist interest in the potential of vowels and consonants to serve as auditory object independent of semantics (as Raz mentions, Kurt Schwitters’s Ursonate and Raoul Hausmann’s poster poems are obvious precedents), the Geographical Fugue is a characteristic creation of the post-First World War decade. Yet this dreadfully disillusioned generation was not prone to adopt a relaxed globalist attitude espousing the bridging of cultural differences. Many artists, writers, and musicians opted for a more aggressive approach, characterized more by biting satire than by cuddly peace-for-all messages. As I have argued in an earlier article in this journal, Erwin Schulhoff’s Alla marcia militaristica in modo europaico and the suite it was originally intended to conclude used internationalist images and anti-war rhetoric to reject notions of unification of nations through art.71 Unlike the younger Schulhoff, Toch had completed his musical education and established himself firmly in the German musical world before the outbreak of the First World War (where he served for four years on the Italian front), and his musical style was correspondingly less vitriolic in the years following the war, yet it was still likely to have maintained a critical and ironic view of global politics. Closer to Toch’s age was the Prague-born illustrator Walter Trier (1890–1951), now remembered mainly for his collaborations with Erich Kästner, including the illustrations of the first edition of Emil and the Detectives. Trier’s anthropomorphic map of Europe in 1914 (Pl. 5) satirizes the pre-war political climate by squeezing a character or an animal into each country’s border.72 A belligerent Germany has one foot on the back of a cringing France, and a bayonet in the nose of a ravenous Russia, who seems to be attempting to swallow the entire continent. The Austro-Hungarian empire likewise has a gun jammed into Russia’s mouth, as well as an elbow in Italy’s eye, and a foot on Montenegro (a termite’s nest) and Serbia (a swine). In the midst of the turmoil, as Trier’s accompanying text mockingly states, Switzerland attempts to preserve ‘good will’. Although much of this was to have changed by the end of the war, it is likely that Trier’s ridicule of good will would have only been all the more relevant. Pl. 5 View largeDownload slide Walter Trier, Map of Europe in Year 1914. © walter trier-archiv, konstanz (Germany). From Antje Neuner-Warthorst, Walter Trier: Politik, Kunst, Reklame (Hannover, 2006), 109, Pl. 126a Pl. 5 View largeDownload slide Walter Trier, Map of Europe in Year 1914. © walter trier-archiv, konstanz (Germany). From Antje Neuner-Warthorst, Walter Trier: Politik, Kunst, Reklame (Hannover, 2006), 109, Pl. 126a It appears more plausible to read the Geographical Fugue in the light of Schulhoff and Trier’s internationalist satirical creations than in terms of a naïve world peace. Furthermore, Toch’s own account of the Geographical Fugue seems to suggest a meltdown of cultures rather than their bridging-over. His insistence on intelligibility, and his careful choices of ‘well defined rhythms, vowels, consonants, syllables and words’ may have been intended to clarify the fugal manipulations but he was well aware that, at the same time, the fugal setting obfuscated the semantics, so that ‘one might almost forget that it originated from speech’.73 Toch’s instructions to accelerate the performance on the gramophone would doubtless have made the names of places even less intelligible. Any message about bringing cultures together would have been poorly delivered. If, however, the idea was precisely the lack of order and the loss of semantic intelligibility as the result of international communion (again, as with Huxley’s description of a Bach fugue, the image of the tower of Babel springs to mind), the fugue works remarkably well. The Geographical Fugue is a satirical work of tongue-in-cheek irony, rather than a pacifist manifesto. It is less a message about bridging cultural gaps than a commentary on contemporary chaotic communication.74 That Huxley and Toch invoked a Babel-like imagery in their fugal references, while Kandinsky, Milhaud, and Schoenberg invoke the creation of the world, is but another manifestation of the age-old tension between Bach’s cosmic narrative and Forkel’s social one. If the biblical story of the Creation was an attempt to explain the rise of cosmic order, the story of the Tower of Babel tried to account for social and national diversity, specifically the variety of languages and cultures. To an extent, the two stories mirror each other, reflecting prevailing perceptions of the cosmos as unified (hence the word universe) and of society as diversified: in the creation, God creates order out of a pre-existing chaos, while in the Tower of Babel, God undermines the prevailing order (‘Now the whole world had one language and a common speech’),75 and man’s attempts to maintain it (‘let us build ourselves a city … otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth’), replacing it with a chaotic state of affairs (‘let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other’), which explains the diversity we know today (‘the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth’). Two settings from the first half of the twentieth century, Babelstaarnet by the Danish composer Ludolf Nielsen (1876–1939) and the Tower of Babel scene in Gottfried Huppertz’s score to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), resort to the obvious box of tricks, including theatrical fanfares in open perfect intervals in the brass, primitivist ostinati, and recurrent restricted melodic cells.76 Against the backdrop of these pieces, Stravinsky’s seven-minute cantata Babel, the last completed part of the aforementioned collaborative Genesis suite, stands out in sharp relief, not only in its adherence to the biblical tale, preserving its trajectory from unity and order to diversity and chaos, but also in the musical means it employs. Stravinsky refused to comply with Shilkret’s explicitly populist agenda, objecting for religious reasons to having the voice of God imitated by the human voice, and for aesthetic reasons to having the music illustrate anything at all.77 Instead, as noted by Robert Craft, he modelled the work on the traditional and ostensibly abstract form of a passacaglia and fugue. As abstract as Stravinsky may have intended his choice of form to be, that the most salient formal moment—the beginning of the fugue—coincides with the moment where the narrative reaches its climax, suggests an array of at least implicit connections between Stravinsky’s choice of form and his subject matter. The climactic moment here marks the onset of confusion and diversity, where the narrator recites the final verse, ‘Because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth; and from thence did the lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth’,78 and Stravinsky’s atonal fugue, with its angular theme assigned to the horns and trumpets doubled by frenetic semiquavers in the strings, matches the text in what is probably the closest thing to word-painting that one could hope for in Stravinsky (Ex. 5). Curiously, Mikhail Druskin inaccurately described the work as a passacaglia in which the building of the tower is portrayed by a fugato, after which a Con moto meno mosso accompanies the account of its destruction.79 Whatever the reasons for Druskin’s error, it is a telling one, as it reflects a projection of the traditional meaning of work as order, and hence construction and building (and specifically its association with ‘building an edifice’ mentioned earlier), onto a place where it had been used to describe precisely the opposite. Stravinsky’s generic choice of fugue was perhaps not traditional, but it was well in line with contemporary understandings of the form as an expression of chaos and diversity. Yet as with Kandinsky, Milhaud, and Huxley, Stravinsky’s choice does not reflect a negative evaluation of the outcome of the tale of the tower of Babel, but rather an embrace of diversity (in this case of languages) as a new aesthetic. As he was later to say in his conversations with Robert Craft: ‘Musically speaking, Babel is a blessing.’80 Ex. 5 View largeDownload slide Igor Stravinsky, Babel, rehearsal 23 − 2 to 25 + 1. © 1944 Schott Music Ex. 5 View largeDownload slide Igor Stravinsky, Babel, rehearsal 23 − 2 to 25 + 1. © 1944 Schott Music Not so in the numerous fugal episodes in Schoenberg’s opera torso Moses und Aron, most of the music for which was composed between 1930 and 1932. Pierre Boulez, probably inspired by the work’s choice of a biblical text to explore philosophical ideas, its reliance on two contrasting religious leaders as soloists, and its extensive use of canon and fugue, compared the opera to Bach’s Passions.81 It is likely that Schoenberg intended such comparisons to be made, and his use of fugal techniques should be considered bearing that in mind. For instance, the episode in Act I (b. 442 ff.), in which the people question Moses and Aron anxiously about the nature of the God they herald, seems directly to invoke similar turba sections in Bach’s Passions. The Bachian reference notwithstanding, it is significant that in Schoenberg’s work fugal techniques appear not at the moments of godly revelation, but rather at moments of confusion and chaos. The most extended and thoroughly worked-out fugue—a triple fugue in six voices—appears at the moment of ultimate crisis: the Zwischenspiel that precedes the dance round the golden calf, in which the people doubt with growing confusion that Moses will ever return from Mt Sinai (Ex. 6). Ex. 6 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Moses und Aron, Zwischenspiel, 4–10, choir parts only. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles Ex. 6 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Moses und Aron, Zwischenspiel, 4–10, choir parts only. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles With the gradual thickening of fugal forces, beginning with three voices and ending with six, Schoenberg’s interlude brings to mind Forkel’s description of fugue as an emotion gradually gripping the collective members of a people. Yet for Forkel the emotion was a single, unified one, bringing together the people, presumably in a joint spirit of praise thanksgiving or, as in Don Giovanni, moral victory. The emotion of the people in Moses und Aron is one of confusion (if confusion can be considered an emotion), in its very essence an antithesis of unity and cohesion. Bearing in mind the age-old concern with the lack of intelligibility of texts in contrapuntal setting, Schoenberg’s choice of triple fugue makes lemonade out of a lemon. The confusion is present already in the very first presentation of the subject, with some parts whispered, others spoken, and still others sung, all this at once. Textually, a single fugal entry looks like this: Subject—(Whisper:) Where is Moses? (Sing) Abandoned are we! Where is his God? Where is the Eternal One? Countersubject 1—(Sing:) No, no, no! He shall not return! Where is he? Where is Moses? It’s been a long time since he was seen!! Countersubject 2—(Speak:) Moses! We shall never see him! Where is his God? Where is the Eternal One? With the three-layered subject itself projecting a sense of confusion, the addition of further fugal entries and the subsequent proliferation of voices, as well as the lack of a unifying tonal framework, turn this highly complex and organized fugue into the perfect conveyor of chaos. And whereas the first fugal entry in Mattheson or the fugal framework as a whole had traditionally been associated with leadership and design, here it becomes associated with a disintegrated people, losing both control and faith as soon as their leader, Moses, is absent. Unlike Stravinsky, Schoenberg’s fugue appears at the moment of deepest crisis, both in terms of the biblical narrative of the Exodus, and in terms of Schoenberg’s own version of it in his libretto for Moses und Aron. This is the moment in which the uncompromising Moses is rejected by the people, whereas pragmatic and communicative Aron is embraced. Upon his return, Moses will find the people deep in orgiastic worship of the golden calf, his doctrine abandoned, himself alienated. Yet this crisis was also pregnant with the potential of redemption, for out of it Schoenberg (through Moses) was able to ‘generate the power to present the wilderness as the proper metaphysical analogue and metaphoric ideal for psychological man’, in the words of Carl Schorske.82 Indeed, Schoenberg’s self-attested goal in his biblical works was that ‘the mode of speech, the mode of thought, the mode of expression should be that of modern man’.83 broader perspectives and summary Just as the biblical narratives were adapted to attain modern meaning, so were the ancient forms brought to bear on modern perceptions of society, culture, and science, in all of which a chaotic element was beginning to take hold in the first decades of the twentieth century. Schorske’s ‘rational man’ of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, whose mission it was to uncover the underlying order of the universe, was superseded by ‘psychological man’, that ‘richer but more dangerous and mercurial creature … fundamentally incompatible with the social whole’.84 Psychological man not only experienced society as ‘a chaos of conflicting value orientations’, but the universe as a whole as chaotic, irrational, and ‘ungovernable’.85 In this world, psychological chaos became ‘a meta-sensuous order’, resonating with Kandinsky and Ball’s notions of a redemptive chaos. At the same time, new discoveries and ideas in mathematics, physics, cosmology, and psychology were also leading to a thorough re-evaluation of long-held tenets of human knowledge. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity challenged the accepted distinctions between space and time; the rise of quantum mechanics undermined the hegemony of Newtonian mechanics; and Bertrand Russell’s antinomy (1901), Werner Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty (1927), and Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems (1931) heralded a new awareness of the limits of scientific inquiry, implying that achieving full understanding of the underlying order of the universe was inherently and provably impossible. Alexander Friedmann’s conjecture of an expanding universe (1924) demonstrated that not only are the known species of life in a state of flux (as Darwin had shown seventy-five years earlier), but so is the cosmos in its entirety something that ‘can expand, contract, collapse, and might even have been born in a singularity’, a finding that even Einstein initially found ‘suspicious’.86 Thus, even if an ‘underlying order of the universe’ were to exist, it was not constant. In psychology, Freud’s explorations of the unconscious and Charcot and Bernheim’s earlier advances in hypnotic technique suggested that humans are but imperfect witnesses of their own experiences and emotions. The fugue as understood by Kandinsky, Milhaud, Huxley, Schoenberg, Toch, and Stravinsky during that period, whether from a cosmic or a social perspective, was therefore as much in resonance with views of the cosmos or of social order as it was in earlier times. Yet those cosmological or sociological views now relied on instability rather than stability, chaos rather than control. Whereas traditional harmony had hitherto been the ‘ordering’ feature of fugue, that is, the unifying element that justified the diversity of independent voices, the rejection of traditional tonality in new music rendered fugal writing suitable to assume meanings in accordance with new, chaotic, conceptions of human society and modern scientific ideas. When coming to interpret these works, we must be aware that their use of seemingly traditional techniques belies their modernity, inviting not an understanding of the modern art work in terms of the traditional techniques it invokes, but rather a renewed appreciation of those techniques in the light of their newly found modern contexts. Such readings do not deny that the seeds of a new understanding may not be identified in earlier ones. Indeed, the chaotic potential of fugue had been recognized in some writings and compositions as early as the eighteenth century, yet it was either overcome by fugal rigour, or was characteristic of ‘strange’ fugues or irregular ones. To speak of these early interpretations as forward-looking would be as misleading as to interpret late fugues in the light of earlier aesthetic values. A barbaric fugue was indeed a contradiction in terms, yet one exception cannot be ignored, a fugue that loomed large in the early nineteenth century, powerfully presaging the early twentieth-century fugues discussed in this article both in its style and its reception. Beethoven’s Große Fuge seems only poorly suited to represent order of any sort, whether cosmic or social. Together with the Hammerklavier fugue, it is a work that, in the words of Julian Johnson, ‘teeters on the edge of chaos … an out of control machine … [that] comes close to allowing musical discourse to fall into raw noise’.87 It is illuminating that an early anonymous, yet by now well-known review of this forward-looking work, published in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 22 March 1826, was equally forward-looking in striking all the keys touched upon in this article: But the critic does not dare to interpret the meaning behind the fugue finale: for him it was incomprehensible, like Chinese. When the instruments in the regions of the South and North Poles have to battle with immense difficulties, when each one plays different motifs and the musical lines cross each other per transitum irregularem in a host of dissonances, when the players, mistrusting themselves, are not able to play properly in tune, I do declare the Babylon-like confusion is then complete; then there is a concert which can only be enjoyed by the Moroccans.88 This excursion from China through the North and South Poles to Babylon and Morocco reads the social chaos of the tower of Babel—its inhabitants engaged in battles, mistrust, and mutual incomprehension—into Beethoven’s irregular and dissonant fugue. Just as parts of Beethoven’s fugue anticipate the unapologetically dissonant sonorities of the early twentieth century, so does its critic anticipate the interpretative potential the fugue was to assume within that dissonant context. Indeed, Beethoven’s critic is censorious, while the twentieth-century meanings are not necessarily so, but this reflects not an error of judgement, but rather the shift in values that had occurred in the interim. If the values in the review were eventually to cross the Rubicon to become artistically desirable, then perhaps this is but another proof of Stravinsky’s famous evaluation of Beethoven’s work as ‘forever contemporary’, especially in a world where chaos is the new order, and Babel is a blessing. Footnotes 1 Daniel Chua, Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge, 1999), 270. 2 Michael Beiche, ‘Fuga/Fuge’, in Terminologie der musikalischen Komposition (Stuttgart, 1995), 103–44 at 104. Although the Italian origin is more commonly cited, Schoenberg subscribed to the German one; see Severine Neff, ‘Schoenberg’s “Kristallnacht” Fugue: Contrapuntal Exercise or Unknown Piece?’, Musical Quarterly, 86 (2002), 117–48 at 127. 3 Keith Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, in Danuta Mirka (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory (New York and Oxford, 2014), 301–29 at 323. 4 For authoritativeness see Robert S. Hatten, Musical Meaning in Beethoven: Markedness, Correlation and Interpretation (Bloomington, Ind., 1994), 87. The other values are commonplace, and most of them are mentioned in Chapin. 5 ‘Les Fugues, en general, rendent la Musique plus bruyante qu’agréable’; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Écrits sur la musique, la langue et le théâtre, ed. Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond (Oeuvres complètes, 5; Paris, 1995), 832. Translation from Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, 309. 6 Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, 309. 7 Charles Burney, A General History of Music, ed. Frank Mercer (New York, 1935), 516. 8 Ernest Charles Harriss, Johann Mattheson’s Der vollkommene Capellmeister: A Revised Translation with Critical Commentary (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1981), 694. 9 Ian Bent, Music Analysis in the Nineteenth Century, i: Fugue, Form and Style (Cambridge, 1994), 176. The quotation from Johann Ernst Wagner appears in Schumann’s essay on Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, yet Wagner’s original, given by Schumann as ‘somewhere or the other’, remains obscure. 10 Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, 320. 11 Julian Johnson, Out of Time: Music and the Making of Modernity (New York and Oxford, 2015), 54. 12 John Butt, Bach’s Dialogue with Modernity: Perspectives on the Passions (Cambridge, 2010), 162, and Ruth HaCohen, The Music Libel against the Jews (New Haven, 2011), 94. 13 HaCohen, The Music Libel, 95. 14 Another well-known example of what may be termed a ‘fugue-as-strife’ topos evident in Bach and Wagner is Berlioz’s overture to Roméo et Juliette (1839), in which the tonal sequence is B minor→F♯ minor→G major→B minor→D major→F♯ minor, the last four entries arriving in condensed tonal and temporal intervals. The overture to Charles Gounod’s opera of the same name (1867), perhaps in homage to Berlioz, incorporates a brief fugal episode, the strictness of which is undermined when it is overrun by the ominous fanfares that opened the work. I am grateful to Elisheva Rigbi-Shafrir for bringing these examples to my attention. 15 Jacques Chailley, The Magic Flute, Masonic Opera, trans. Herbert Weinstock (New York, 1971), 84–5 and 177–83, and A. Peter Brown, ‘Haydn’s Chaos: Genesis and Genre’, Musical Quarterly, 73 (1989), 18–59. 16 See e.g. Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue in Two Treatises, edited and with an introduction by Wolfgang Leidhold (Indianapolis, Ind., 2004), 28–30; Henry Home and Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, 6th edn. (1785), edited and with an introduction by Peter Jones (Indianapolis, Ind., 2005); and Alexander Gerard, An Essay on Taste together with Observations concerning the Imitative Nature of Poetry. A facsimile reproduction of the third edition (1780) with an introduction by Walter J. Hipple, Jr. (Gainsville, Fla., 1963). 17 Christoph Wolff, Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician (New York, 2001), 466. 18 Johnson, Out of Time, 54. 19 Wolff, Johann Sebastian Bach, 467. 20 Matthew Dirst, Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge, 2012), 19–32. 21 Translated in Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, 324. 22 More than a century later, Verdi was to use fugue to a similar effect in the finale of Falstaff (1893), on the words ‘The whole world is a joke’. The fugue as finale, by then a well-established tradition, probably derived from vocal works, and was famously satirized by Berlioz in the Amen Fugue in The Damnation of Faust (1846). 23 Ian Woodfield, Performing Operas for Mozart: Impresarios, Singers and Troupes (Cambridge and New York, 2012), 30–1. 24 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey, 1786–1788, trans. W. H. Auden (Harmondsworth, 1970), 298–9. 25 Translated in David Yearsley, Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint (Cambridge, 2002), 228. 26 Malcolm Boyd, Bach (New York and Oxford, 2006), 206. 27 Chua, Absolute Music, 117, 270. 28 Yearsley, Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint, 232. 29 Chailley, The Magic Flute, 178. 30 Colour versions of the plates are available in the online version of this article. 31 Donald Kuspit, ‘Spiritualism and Nihilism: The Second Decade’, in A Critical History of 20th-Century Art, at www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit3-8-06.asp. 32 Ibid. 33 Paul Klee, Tagebücher 1898–1918, ed. F. Klee (Cologne, 1957), 383. Trans. according to Jörg Jewanski, ‘Colour and Music’, in Grove Music Online. 34 Anne Ganteführer-Trier, Cubism (Los Angeles, 2004), 54. 35 See ch. 4, ‘Quasi una Musica’, in Simon Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of Music: Art and Music from Wagner to Cage (New Haven and London, 2004), 121–62; and ch. 5, ‘The Art of Fugue’, in Peter Vergo, The Music of Painting: Music, Modernism and the Visual Arts from the Romantics to John Cage (London, 2010), 203–53. 36 These are but a small selection of visual fugues from this period. Other notable examples include Adolf Hölzel’s Fugue on a Resurrection Theme (1916), which draws on the religious connotations of fugue, and Hans Richter’s Fugue (1920), or Fugue 23 (1923), which brings together influences from Bach and Chinese scrolls in a work that presents transformations of interlocking themes from left to right. Severine Neff has devoted attention to Richter and Eggeling’s Fugue in Red and Green, in ‘Schoenberg’s “Kristallnacht” Fugue’. Peter Vergo has devoted an entire chapter to The Art of Fugue, including references to Bach and/or to fugue in the works of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Georges Braque, Lyonel Feininger, and Henrik Neugeboren, in addition to Kupka and Klee (Kandinsky is given short shrift in this context). A particularly early visual and non-abstract fugue is the disturbing painting Fugue by George Frederic Watts (1900–4), depicting the ascension of cherubs to heaven, their bodies intertwined like themes in a fugue. 37 See Vergo, The Music of Painting, 230–1, esp. Fig. 52. 38 Ibid. 241. 39 An excellent and more detailed analysis of the fugal ideas in Klee’s painting can be found in Vergo, The Music of Painting, 243–5. Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of Music, 152 also provides an interesting analysis, although I am unconvinced by his conjecture that the black background in Klee’s painting (and in the one by Kupka discussed below) acts as a pedal point. Klee and Kupka, both trained musicians with excellent knowledge of fugues, would have known that a pedal point is only relevant towards the end of a fugue, and certainly not in an exposition, which Klee’s painting clearly includes. 40 See Vergo, The Music of Painting, 209. 41 Paul and Felix Klee, The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898–1918 (Berkeley, 1964), no. 640, 177 (cited in Vergo, The Music of Painting, 241). 42 See Vergo, The Music of Painting, 223–6, and Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of Music, 128–44. The quotation is from Vergo (p. 224). 43 Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of Music, 123. 44 Vergo, The Music of Painting, 246, has pointed out that Klee’s later ‘polyphonic’ works make similar use of the interchanging roles of voices characteristic of fugue. Shaw-Miller gives excellent background to and an insightful analysis of the fugal aspects of Kupka’s Amorpha in Visible Deeds of Music, 128–36. 45 Hans K. Röthel and Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky (Oxford, 1979), 106. 46 Magdalena Dabrowski, ‘Kandinsky and Schoenberg: Abstraction as a Visual Metaphor of Emancipated Dissonance’, in Esther da Costa Meyer, Fred Wasserman, and Magdalena Dabrowski, Schoenberg, Kandinsky, and the Blue Rider (New York, 2003), 79–93 at 86. 47 Wassily Kandinsky, Complete Writings on Art (1901–1921), ed. Kenneth Clement Lindsay and Peter Vergo (London, 1982), 373. 48 Hugo Ball, The Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary, ed. John Elderfield, trans. Ann Raimes (1915; repr. Berkeley, 1995), 22.X (p. 37). 49 It is worth noting that Kandinsky’s paintings of 1913–14 are his most chaotic creations: they abound in blurry boundaries, energetic abstractions, and a colourful exuberance to which he was never to return. It is significant that it was one of these works that he entitled Fugue. 50 J. B. M. Janssen, ‘The Construction of Painting with White Form’, in Konrad Boehmer (ed.), Schönberg and Kandinsky: An Historic Encounter (Amsterdam, 1997), 1–8 at 2. Similar issues were raised in James Leggio, ‘Kandinsky, Schoenberg and the Music of the Spheres’, in idem (ed.), Music and Modern Art (New York, 2014), 97–128; Dabrowski, ‘Kandinsky and Schoenberg’; and the chapter ‘Convergences: Music and the Visual Arts’ in Walter Frisch, German Modernism and the Arts (Berkeley, 2005), 88–137, esp. 115–37. 51 Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In the first passage I used the English translation of the second edition in Kandinsky, Complete Writings on Art, ed. Kenneth C. Lindsay and Peter Vergo, i: 1901–1921 (London, 1982), 114–220 at 193. The second passage was not stated as tightly in the second edition, so I have used the translation of the first 1911 edition by Michael T. H. Sadler (Auckland, 2011), 108. 52 The scenario of the Flood would have suggested another potential locus for chaos, but although Castelnuovo-Tedesco employs fugato in his Hollywood-style saccharine setting, it accompanies the words ‘and thou shalt alight the ark’, thus connecting to traditional views of fugue-as-redemption rather than to the more modern meaning as diversity discussed here. His setting of the flood itself resorts to theatrical means akin to those used by Nielsen and Huppertz in their depictions of the confusion of Babel. 53 Jennifer Shaw, ‘Music and the Intertextualities of Listening, Performing and Teaching’, in Sally Macarthur, Judy Lochhead, and Jennifer Shaw (eds.), Music’s Immanent Future: The Deleuzian Turn in Music Studies (New York, 2016), 36–45 at 40. 54 Sabine Feisst, Schoenberg’s New World: The American Years (New York and Oxford, 2011), 103. 55 Arnold Schoenberg, Style and Idea, ed. Leonard Stein, trans. Leo Black (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1984), 248–9. 56 Willi Reich, Schoenberg: A Critical Biography (London, 1971), 215. 57 Carl Dahlhaus, ‘The Fugue as Prelude: Schoenberg’s Genesis Composition, Op. 44’, in Schoenberg and the New Music: Essays by Carl Dahlhaus, trans. Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton (Cambridge, 1987), 169–77 at 169–70. 58 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Carl Friedrich Zelter, Briefwechsel zwischen Goethe und Zelter, ed. Ludwig Geiger (Leipzig, 1902), 495. 59 Sabine Feisst, Schoenberg’s New World: The American Years (New York and Oxford, 2011). 60 J. B. S. Haldane, ‘The Origin of Life’, Rationalist Annual, 148 (1929), 3–10. 61 Heinrich Schenker, Counterpoint: A Translation of Kontrapunkt, Book I, ed. John Rothgeb, trans. John Rothgeb and Jürgen Thym (Ann Arbor, 2001 [orig. 1910]), i, p. xix. 62 Heinrich Schenker, Counterpoint: A Translation of Kontrapunkt, Book II, ed. John Rothgeb, trans. John Rothgeb and Jürgen Thym (Ann Arbor, 2001 [orig. 1922]), p. xvi. 63 Morton Gurewitch, The Ironic Temper and the Comic Imagination (Detroit, 1994), 121. 64 Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point (1928; repr. Urbana-Champaign, Ill., 2009), 23. 65 Ibid. 66 Aldous Huxley, ‘Pascal’, in Do What You Will (Garden City, NY, 1929), 251–331 at 331. 67 Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (London, 1972), 50–1. 68 Holly Rogers, ‘Death for Five Voices: Gesualdo’s “Poetic Truth”’, in Brad Prager (ed.), A Companion to Werner Herzog (Chichester, 2012), 187–207 at 190. 69 Lawrence Weschler, ‘Popocatepetl: A Noodling Reminiscence’, Threepenny Review, 92 (2003), 6. 70 Carmel Raz, ‘From Trinidad to Cyberspace: Reconsidering Ernst Toch’s “Geographical Fugue”’, ZGMTH-Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie, 9 (2012), 227–43 at 230. 71 Yoel Greenberg, ‘Parables of the Old Men and the Young: The Multifarious Modernisms of Erwin Schulhoff’s String Quartet’, Music & Letters, 95 (2014), 213–50 at 232. 72 The tradition of anthropomorphic maps is many centuries old, but it appears to have enjoyed a huge proliferation during and immediately after the First World War. For a collection of such maps see http://flashbak.com/12-satirical-maps- of-world-war-one-41903/. See also Roderick M. Barron, ‘Bringing the Map to Life: European Satirical Maps 1845–1945’, Belgeo,3–4 (2008), 445–64. 73 Ernst Toch, ‘Uber meine Kantate “Das Wasser” und meine Grammophonmusik’, Melos, 19 (Sept. 1930), 221–2 at 222. 74 The women’s chorus of Dallas perform an amusing illustration of the chaotic potential of the Geographical Fugue. See https://youtube/1bnM09XGy-U. 75 All the following biblical quotations are from Genesis 11: 1–9 (trans. New International Version) 76 The story itself has not had many musical reworkings, and curiously, the few that exist impose order upon the ultimate diversity. Anton Rubinstein’s Thurm zu Babel, Op. 80 (1870, the only 19th-c. setting of the story I have found, uses a heavily dramatized version of the story ending in a promise of renewal (‘We praise thou maker of all, thee, who world hath destroyed and new worlds dost create’). Ludolf Nielsen’s setting is a work of indifferent quality composed between 1912 and 1914, roughly following the biblical narrative during its first half, but then concluding with a ‘happy end’, in a second half dedicated to man’s ultimate reconciliation with God. Doubtless, Nielsen’s composition is to be understood in the light of his initiation in Freemasonry, which held the construction of the tower of Babel to be an inaugural moment. The Tower of Babel scene in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a free, socially aware retelling of the story by Maria, entirely altering the original biblical emphasis: the tower fails because there is no shared interest between the hands that built the tower and the brain that conceived it. Moreover, in the end of Lang’s Babel, people still speak the same language but nonetheless cannot understand each other. 77 Eric Walter White, Stravinsky, the Composer and his Works (Berkeley, 1979), 417. 78 Genesis 11: 9, King James Bible translation. 79 Mikhail Druskin, Igor Stravinsky, his Life, Works and Views, trans. Martin Cooper (Cambridge, 1983), 110. 80 Robert Craft, Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (Garden City, NY, 1959), 36. 81 Hermann Danuser (ed.), Die klassizistische Moderne in der Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts (Mainz, 1997), 331. 82 Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York, 1981), 364. 83 Arnold Schoenberg, ‘3 December 1912’, in Arnold Schoenberg, Ausgewählte Briefe (Mainz, 1958), 31. 84 Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna, 4. 85 Ibid. 362. 86 Friedmann’s ideas laid the foundations for the Big Bang theory, premonitions of which can be identified in Kandinsky’s ‘catastrophic collisions’. Ari Belenkiy, ‘Alexander Friedmann and the Origins of Modern Cosmology’, Physics Today, 65/10 (2012), 38–43 at 38. 87 Johnson, Out of Time, 54–5. Johnson provides an interesting contextualization of Beethoven’s chaotic fugues that complements my own one of the 20th-c. fugue. 88 Translation taken from Beethoven-Haus Bonn digital archives, www.beethoven-haus-bonn.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=15288&template=dokseite_digitales_archiv_en&_dokid=wm252&_seite=1-1. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Music and Letters Oxford University Press

‘Ordo ab Chao’: The Fugue as Chaos in the Early Twentieth Century

Music and Letters , Volume Advance Article (1) – Apr 2, 2018

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Abstract

Abstract Fugal composition has traditionally been taken as ‘a sign of order and tradition’ (Chapin, 2014). In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, it was normally associated with cosmic order, in keeping with the concept of the harmony of the spheres, and it later came to represent social order (Chua, 1999). In this article I argue that in a variety of early twentieth-century manifestations, fugue came to represent chaos rather than order, maintaining both cosmic and social interpretations. Drawing from music by Milhaud, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Toch, and paintings and writings by Kandinsky, Ball, and Huxley, I demonstrate how the early twentieth-century fugue frequently served as a metaphor for chaos as a redemptive or generating force. In later commentaries, many of these manifestations were later misinterpreted or misrepresented in terms of the metaphor fugue-as-order. Musically speaking, Babel is a blessing.           Igor Stravinsky introduction ‘A barbaric fugue … is a contradiction in terms’, wrote Daniel Chua.1 Perhaps so, yet fugues have always had the potential to contain a range of contradictions. Behind a rigorous façade, fugue involves a plethora of paradoxical pairs: its voices all clamour for independence and individuality, yet all have the same thing to say; voices interrupt and intrude upon each other incessantly, and yet they do this while sounding within a system of fugal rules; harmonic and contrapuntal rules are frequently overridden by fugal logic, yet it is harmony and counterpoint that justify that logic in the first place. Even the nature of fugue as a form or a process has been fertile fodder for debate, as has its etymological origin, deriving either from Middle High German vuoge = ‘joint’, or, with the meaning of fugue = ‘flight’, from the Latin fuga.2 Writing on the topical significance of the learned style in the late eighteenth century, Keith Chapin judiciously points out the numerous pitfalls awaiting those who attempt to capture the meaning of the fugal type, nevertheless suggesting a number of intertwining themes that ‘point toward the fundamental cultural value of counterpoint, as a sign of order and tradition’.3 Values of order (design, mathematical rigour, carefully acquired technique, painstaking preplanning, and universality) and tradition (dignity, majesty, or authority) are indeed among the characteristics we most normally and perhaps even casually associate with fugue.4 In this article I wish to focus on an unexpected countersubject to the history of the meaning of fugue that came to full fruition as an episode in its own right in the first decades of the twentieth century. Although this period still saw many fugues within a traditional context—the second movement of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms is a familiar example—in a surprising number of different sources, including musical works by Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Milhaud, and Toch, as well as artistic and literary works by Wassily Kandinsky, Hugo Ball, and Aldous Huxley, the fugue came to represent not unity and order, but rather chaos and disarray, which were nevertheless strongly bound to the previous interpretative contexts of fugue. order and disorder in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fugues There can be little doubt that the predominant value in eighteenth-century writings about fugue was order, or order-related. A successful fugue had the appearance of a kind of musical magic square, in which all the parts miraculously cooperated with one another in perfect agreement and symmetry. Yet unlike magic squares, fugue frequently fostered subversive interpretations by those who identified a chaotic potential within it. Each of these was motivated by contemporary aesthetic trends, but fugue was not an innocent victim of these criticisms. They were responding to inherent qualities of fugal technique, merely painting them in fashionable tints. Perhaps the best-known eighteenth-century example is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s quip: ‘In general, fugues make music more noisy than agreeable.’5 Although Chapin rightly associates Rousseau’s evaluation with the typical late eighteenth-century dismissal of the emotional power of fugue, it is nevertheless worth considering for its use of the term ‘noise’.6 If music is ordered, or organized sound, then noise (and, for Rousseau, by implication, fugue), is chaotic. Rousseau’s may be the best-known but it is by no means the sole example of such chaotic descriptions. Charles Burney, conjecturing, in a charming flight of imagination, on how the conservative musical taste of the fifteenth-century archbishop of Florence, St Antoninus, might have come to terms with ‘Fugues, Inversions, Points, Imitations, and Divisions, … carried on by a great number of dissimilar parts, all singing different words’, concluded that ‘no more sense could be extracted [from them] than from a pack of hounds in full cry’.7 Like Rousseau, Burney was reiterating a commonly stated contemporary criticism about the unintelligibility of words in contrapuntal settings, but the animalistic, and hence chaotic, imagery is again significant. The ever-imaginative Johann Mattheson, in Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739), likens the Dux and Comes entries of voices in fugue to combatants in a battle, although he immediately qualifies the imagery, emphasizing that the battle is friendly, and ultimately preferring to speak of leaders and followers instead.8 Each of these eighteenth-century writers picks up on the temporal and tonal differences between voices in fugue, as well as their insistence on lack of vertical co-ordination, as a basis for his chaotic imagery. A century later, irregularity of phrases, relaxed treatment of dissonances, and the virtual lack of cadences led Johann Ernst Wagner (1769–1812) to comment on the importance of the sense of beat in giving us reassurance ‘in fugues, in certain kinds of dissonances, and wherever tensions arise that cannot easily be followed’.9 This chaotic potential of fugal techniques also occasionally manifested itself in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century (mainly texted) music, in what Chapin identified as ‘the disruptive potential of learned styles’,10 and Julian Johnson as ‘the tension between the promise of coherent order and the aesthetic sleight of hand by which it is constructed … the tendency of the form to proliferate into chaos’,11 although this is more characteristic of fugato than of the learned styles as a whole or fugue in particular. Two particularly familiar examples occur in outbreaks of the turba choir in Bach’s St Matthew Passion. The first is the frenetic fugato that breaks out on the words ‘Sind Blitze, sind Donner’, characterized by John Butt as ‘the actual sound of an uproar’, and produced by Ruth HaCohen as an example of Lärm, i.e. noise associated with the Jewish aural world.12 The second example occurs when the Jews call for crucifixion on the words ‘Laß ihn kreuzigen’. In both cases, the music forgoes the typical and regular fugal tonic–dominant oscillations in favour of a tonally unstable ‘gravitation towards a fathomless abyss’:13 a rising cycle of fifths in the first, and a descending one in the second. Nearly 150 years later, realizing Mattheson’s imagery of fugal voices as combatants, Wagner turned to similar techniques in the quarrel scene at the end of the second act of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Each fugal entry of the ‘cudgel theme’ introduces a new group of participants into this unruly brawl, with the tonal organization of the fugue again forgone in favour of the unstable progression D minor→G minor→E minor→A minor (Ex. 1). In Wagner, as in Bach, neutralizing the tonal regularity and logic of the fugue rendered it a suitable vehicle for expressing situations of disorder.14 Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works directly representing the chaos and darkness (and their respective progressions to order and light) were not normally strictly fugal, but many of them nevertheless employed a degree of imitative writing, mitigated by irregular tonal and temporal relations between the entries. Particularly well-known examples include the description of ‘thick darkness’ in Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Mozart’s introduction to the Quartet in C, K. 465 (‘Dissonance’), which, as Jacques Chailley suggested, would have represented the masonic principle of Ordo ab Chao, and finally the classic example of depictions of chaos, Haydn’s representation of the Chaos in Die Schöpfung, in which the vaguely imitative entries formed the basis of its analysis by A. Peter Brown as a reference to the ricercar tradition.15 Ex. 1 View largeDownload slide Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act II, Scene 7, ‘Cudgel Fugue’, bb. 5–23 of the scene (piano reduction by R. Kleinmichel (Mainz, Schott, 1867)) Ex. 1 View largeDownload slide Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act II, Scene 7, ‘Cudgel Fugue’, bb. 5–23 of the scene (piano reduction by R. Kleinmichel (Mainz, Schott, 1867)) unity in diversity If, within the horizon of significances that could be attached to fugue in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, chaos was a viable, even if uncommon, option, it appears that the ostensibly monolithic conception of fugue-as-unity or fugue-as-order deserves reassessment. Yet this conception of fugue is only as monolithic as the terms upon which it relies. Unity, for eighteenth-century writers on aesthetics and music, did not imply complete uniformity, but rather the Neoplatonic ideal of beauty as ‘Unity in Diversity’ or ‘Uniformity amidst Variety’, which had been espoused in the theories of aesthetics of Frances Hutcheson (1694–1746), Lord Kames (1696–1792), and Alexander Gerard (1728–95).16 The idea of unity in diversity was soon applied to music, becoming one of the most commonly used yardsticks to judge any musical composition, but particularly fugue and counterpoint. Christoph Wolff has shown how both music in general and Bach’s music specifically was praised for its unity in variety by contemporaries, including Johann Abraham Birnbaum (presumably advised by Bach himself), and Georg Venzky, a co-member with Bach in Lorenz Christoph Mizler’s Society of Musical Science. Venzky nested the principle of unity in variety within the age-old view of the Harmony of the Spheres, whereby human creation is an imitation of the cosmic creation: ‘God is a harmonic being. All harmony originates from his wise order and organization. … Where there is no conformity, there is also no order, no beauty, and no perfection. For beauty and perfection consists in the conformity of diversity.’17 As Julian Johnson observed, the origin of the Baroque fugue lay in ‘a mastery of time in aesthetic form, a tightly controlled ordering of time and, implicitly, an image of the divine ordering of the temporal universe’, creating a ‘musical experience that promised the coherent order of each individual part’.18 Of course, ‘Unity in Diversity’ was, at that time, but one of a handful of catchphrases applied to any kind of music, but it had an especially enduring hold on Bach’s music, most of all in contrapuntal and fugal contexts.19 As Matthew Dirst has shown, the principle of unity through diversity continued to be applied to Bach’s counterpoint well after his death by writers such as Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg (1752), Johann Nichelmann (1755), Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1782), Christian Friedrich Michaelis (1801), Friedrich Rochlitz (1803), and Ernst Ludwig Gerber (1812).20 Perhaps the most famous reference to fugue in terms of unity in diversity is Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s description, which replaced Birnbaum and Venzky’s cosmic framework with a social one: Let us imagine a people which through the narration of a great event is deeply moved; and imagine at first that a single member of this group, perhaps through the intensity of his emotions, is driven to make a short powerful statement as the expression of his feeling. Will not this outburst of emotion gradually grip the collective members of this people, and will he not be followed first by one, then several, and then most of them, each singing the same song with him … modifying it according to his own way of feeling, but on the whole in sympathy with him as to the basic emotion: And if such a scene … is to be represented musically, do not first the dux, then the comes, then the repercussio arise in the most natural way in the world—in short the whole outer and inner form of the fugue?21 As Chapin has suggested, there is, perhaps, something forced in Forkel’s attribution of cultural significance to fugue, but it is only all the more interesting for being forced. Furthermore, Forkel’s account resonates perfectly with contemporary references to fugue in music both in writings about music and in literature. The fugal outburst at the end of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which had received its first performances only a few months before Forkel’s text was published, is a case in point. With Don Giovanni dead, Da Ponte runs the full gamut of his diverse characters, one after the other: Don Ottavio repeats his unwavering mantra—asking for Donna Anna’s hand; Donna Anna refuses for the umpteenth time; Donna Elvira, unshakably obsessed with the Don, announces her retirement to a convent; Masetto dreams again of domestic bliss with Zerlina; and the incorrigible Leporello is off to the tavern. Their diversity could not be more perfectly underscored. Yet when they join forces for the final refrain called for by the libretto, expressing the single sentiment that brings them together after the culminating event of the opera (‘This is the end which befalls evildoers’), Mozart unites them through fugue.22 It is unlikely that there was any direct influence from Mozart’s opera to Forkel’s description: the former was completed in October 1787, a few months prior to the publication of the latter; and Forkel seems to have been unfamiliar with Mozart’s masterpiece when writing his Almanach of 1789.23 Instead, they seem to have shared a characteristic contemporary social understanding of unity in diversity in fugue. Also from the same period, and in similar spirit, is Goethe’s entertaining description, in his 13 May 1787 entry in his Italian Journey, of the multi-language interchange between two parties: in one group two Germans, Goethe’s friend, the artist Christoph Heinrich Kniep (1755–1825) and the local Consul; in the other two Italians, a verger and a chaplain. The two pairs engaged in what Goethe described as a ‘strange … Italian-German fugue’ in which ‘the chaplain and verger [were] psalmodizing in the first tongue, Kniep and the consul in the second’, with ‘each party engrossed in its subject and ignoring its rival’.24 Goethe’s description is comic, and his fugue is recognized as a ‘strange’ one, yet it reflects the potential for a Forkelian interpretation of fugue within a social context. It also illustrates the fragility of the equilibrium between unity and diversity within the fugue, with chaos ensuing as soon as things get out of hand, or ‘strange’. The multinational aspect of Goethe’s spoken fugue also resonates with another important idée fixe in references to fugues, that of internationality, arising probably as the social counterpart to the pan-cosmic significance in the earlier, Bachian understanding. Marpurg, in his Abhandlung von der Fuge, had associated internationality with counterpoint as early as 1753, stating that ‘at the present time there is neither a German, nor a French, nor an Italian counterpoint, while at the same time all nations agree that counterpoint is truth in music’.25 Marpurg’s nations agree on fugue (and not through fugue, as in Forkel), reflecting a conception of fugue-as-truth. This derives from Mizler’s concept of music as ‘sounding mathematics’ and is thus related to the cosmic view.26 Yet from this cosmic view, Marpurg derived a view of international consent in which different national styles come to agreement, like so many voices in a fugue, through the agency of counterpoint. Marpurg thus provides an important link between Birnbaum/Bach’s cosmic to Forkel’s social description thirty years later. Daniel Chua has argued that by the end of the eighteenth century, the meaning of fugue had shifted from consisting of ‘the very symbol of cosmic order for Bach’ to becoming, for Forkel, a symbol of social cohesion, ‘harmonization of the individual within the political will of moral sentiment’.27 Although undoubtedly broadly true, the cosmic interpretation never entirely disappeared and the two strands of meaning continued to coexist throughout the nineteenth century, as evidenced, for instance, by the final, extended fugue of Weber’s Der erste Ton (1808, rev. 1810), an accompanied declamation to a text by Johann Friedrich Rochlitz, celebrating man’s first aural experience after the creation from chaos. Thus from Bach to Forkel, from Mattheson to Wagner, from Mozart to Verdi, and from Handel and Haydn to Weber, fugue, interpreted either in a cosmic or social vein and frequently with distinctly internationalist undertones, was the perfect expression not of unity alone, but of unity in diversity. creative cosmic cataclysms in the art of fugue These ideas did not disappear in the twentieth century. As noted by David Yearsley, Nazi musicologists in the 1930s and 1940s extended the idea of unity in diversity to accommodate interpretations related to military discipline, with collective will ‘extinguishing individual freedom’.28 On the other side of the political map, William Walton’s Spitfire Fugue accompanied the assembly of the new Spitfire in Leslie Howard’s film The First of the Few (1942). Walton, who had already made use of the unifying power of fugue in the finale of his First Symphony (1935), uses the Spitfire Fugue to similar effect, perfectly complementing Georges Périnal’s cinematography, which shifts back and forth from shots of the separate parts of the Spitfire to its assembly as a unified whole. In the spirit of the overture to Die Zauberflöte, the Spitfire Fugue, like Puccini’s fugue at the opening of Madama Butterfly, accompanying Pinkerton’s inspection of a new house, or Arthur Honegger’s fugue from Amphion accompanying the raising of the walls of Thebes, evokes a tradition of fugue identified by Jacques Chailley as associated with ‘the building of an edifice’.29 These examples show that fugue continued to signify the unification of diversity in a variety of contexts, old and new, well into the mid-twentieth century. In the interim, however, shortly before the First World War, Wassily Kandinsky’s Fugue (1914) introduced a challenging representation, or perhaps just interpretation, of fugue (see Pl. 1).30 A kaleidoscopic explosion of colours, with vague suggestions of curves, fragmented geometric shapes, interspersed among sporadically placed sets of short parallel or criss-crossed lines, Kandinsky’s painting has become a symbol of the marriage between music and painting. The consequent challenge for art scholars has been to explain why this painting is the artistic parallel of a fugue, and their explanations tend to follow traditional approaches such as those reviewed above by attempting to uncover the order that underlies the painting. A representative example is Donald Kuspit’s analysis in A Critical History of 20th-Century Art: The counterpoint in Fugue is visual rather than aural. … The hatches are one kind of visual motif, the curves another, the atmospheric squiggles yet another, the little triangles and circular fragments still other ‘melodic lines’. Their polyphonic interplay is transparent: Parallel hatches of different colors form curves, there is a white crosshatching near the center of the painting, and a crosshatching of the complementary colors red and green in the upper right corner. It seems a pale ghost of the counterpoint of the more prominent red and green curves seemingly far below it.31 Kuspit acknowledges that the painting does not have quite the lucidity one would expect from a fugue: ‘All seems molten—highly malleable and indeterminate. Every motif seems to be in the process of metamorphosizing into some other motif.’ Yet he ultimately concludes: ‘What makes Kandinsky’s painterly Fugue different from the usual musical fugue is that the motifs appear all at once rather than successively.’32 Pl. 1 View largeDownload slide Wassily Kandinsky, Fuga (Fugue), 1914. Oil on canvas, 129.5 × 129.5 cm. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Collection Beyeler. Photo: Robert Bayer Pl. 1 View largeDownload slide Wassily Kandinsky, Fuga (Fugue), 1914. Oil on canvas, 129.5 × 129.5 cm. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Collection Beyeler. Photo: Robert Bayer Kuspit’s analysis draws upon strategies adopted in textbook analyses of musical fugues. Themes (here shapes, hatches, curves, squiggles) are identified, and their recurrences are pointed out. Inversions (complementary colours), diminutions and augmentations (varying sizes) are sought out, and the whole is explained in terms of ‘polyphonic interplay’. His reading is true to the spirit of many contemporary views about the connection between painting and music, both in its understanding of musical rules (epitomized by fugue) as representatives of order, and in its emphasis on the aural vs. spatial elements. Important exponents of this approach in the early twentieth century were the ‘Orphists’ Robert and Sonia Delaunay and František Kupka, as well as their contemporaries such as Hans Richter, Heinrich Neugeboren, Josef Albers, and Paul Klee, who in 1917 observed that in Robert Delaunay’s ‘Windows’ series, the artist ‘tried to transfer artistic emphasis to the temporal aspect, on the model of the fugue’.33 Delauney, in turn, believed that ‘colors express performances, modulations, rhythms, counterbalances, fugues, depths, oscillations, chords, monumental accords; that is order’.34 As Peter Vergo and Simon Shaw-Miller have demonstrated, ‘fugal’ paintings of these artists and others of the time sit comfortably with interpretations in this vein, yet both scholars avoid discussing Kandinsky’s Fugue within this context.35 The reason for this, I argue, is that Kandinsky’s Fugue does not lend itself readily to interpretations relying on fugue-as-order; it expresses, if anything, quite their opposite. To appreciate this, let us first briefly view how three other paintings of the same period manifest the fugue-as-order idea, after which Kandinsky’s approach will stand out in sharp relief, as an expression of something completely different. The paintings entitled Fugue by Kupka, Klee, and Albers,36 created within a span of thirteen years that includes the date of Kandinsky’s painting, are not identical in their transferral of fugal techniques from music to art. Albers (Pl. 2), focuses on the distinct number of voices (presumably two, represented by black and white), with periodic and sometimes overlapping entries, an episodic layout (the six distinct blocks in the painting), and a single governing Affekt (the colour red). The parallel horizontal lines and the alternation between black and white suggest that the painting may have been inspired not only by the aural experience of a fugue, but also by the visual appearance of a fugal score or, perhaps, by Paul Klee’s graphic representations of Bach’s fugues that accompanied his teaching notes for his first lecture course at the Weimar Bauhaus in 1921–2.37 Klee, as Peter Vergo has noted, was an accomplished musician, who played occasionally with the Berne municipal orchestra, and made numerous references in his diaries to musical performances he attended.38 His own famous fugal painting, Fugue in Red (1921, Pl. 3), also suggests periodicity through discrete groupings, distinctness of voices through colours (three voices, significantly less contrasting than those selected by Albers), and a single Affekt through choice of background colour; but he also uses shapes to signify multiplicity of themes (amphoras, triangles, and rectangles), as well as augmentation and diminution of those themes.39 Whatever the differences between the details of the approaches of Klee and Albers, they nevertheless share an overall conception of fugue as order, in line with the ‘return to order’ characteristic of European art in the 1920s.40 The suggestion of a left-to-right flow, particularly evident in Albers, but also present in Klee’s choice of the axis along which the diminutions are arranged, implies that both artists were trying to bridge the gap between the temporally unfolding musical inspiration and the spatially unfolding painting, supporting Klee’s conviction noted in his diary in 1905 that ‘both arts are temporal’.41 Pl. 2 View largeDownload slide Josef Albers, Fugue, c.1926. Sandblasted flashed glass with black paint, 24.8 × 65.7 cm. © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander, Imaging4Art Pl. 2 View largeDownload slide Josef Albers, Fugue, c.1926. Sandblasted flashed glass with black paint, 24.8 × 65.7 cm. © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander, Imaging4Art Pl. 3 View largeDownload slide Paul Klee, Fuge in Rot, 1921, 69; Fugue in Red, 1921, 69. Watercolour and pencil on paper on cardboard, 24.4 × 31.5 cm. Privatbesitz Schweiz, Depositum im Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern Pl. 3 View largeDownload slide Paul Klee, Fuge in Rot, 1921, 69; Fugue in Red, 1921, 69. Watercolour and pencil on paper on cardboard, 24.4 × 31.5 cm. Privatbesitz Schweiz, Depositum im Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern Kupka’s Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colors (1912, Pl. 4), adopts a different approach, focusing on the nature of counterpoint, with its intertwining voices and unclear limits between theme and accompaniment. Kupka, as both Peter Vergo and Simon Shaw-Miller have noted, was an enthusiastic admirer of Bach’s fugues, believing that in analogy to fugue, ‘colour must speak as forcibly as form’.42 Indeed, as the title of the painting implies, the two colours in Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colors represent two voices, and although both unite in creating what appears to be an ‘amorphous amphora’ (Kupka, Simon Shaw-Miller reminds us, studied Greek vase-painting in the Louvre),43 their roles as foreground and background interchange in a manner reminiscent of voices in a fugue.44 The differences between the fugues by Kupka, Klee, and Albers notwithstanding, all three present an ultimate visage of clarity, control, order, and unity, harnessing the traditional meaning of fugue-as-unity to these artists’ interest in questions of internal logic and procedural coherence. Pl. 4 View largeDownload slide František Kupka, Amorpha, fugue en deux couleurs (1912). Photo: National Gallery in Prague 2017. © ADAGP, Paris [2017] Pl. 4 View largeDownload slide František Kupka, Amorpha, fugue en deux couleurs (1912). Photo: National Gallery in Prague 2017. © ADAGP, Paris [2017] Within this context, Kuspit’s interpretation of Kandinsky’s Fugue seems reasonable, especially if we consider that in one of his catalogues (Handlist III), Kandinsky added to the title the handwritten parenthetical words Beherrschte Improvisation = Fuga (controlled improvisation = Fugue). The idea of a controlled improvisation seems to imply an association of fugue with control, and hence order. Yet the word Improvisation is just as important. For Kandinsky, Improvisation and its next-of-kin Impression were to be understood in contrast to Composition, a work that was the sum total of reason, consciousness, determination, and expediency, all values associated with order.45Improvisation, one instance of which was characterized by Magdalena Dabrowski as ‘a turbulent harmony of vibrant, independent voices’,46 was therefore of a class diametrically opposed to order. Within that chaotic class, fugue, for Kandinsky, was associated with a degree of control, but this is still a far cry from the traditional set of values associated with fugue, such as order and reason. Kuspit’s analysis, like others, imposes upon the painting precisely this traditional set of values, yet if such a reading were correct, Kandinsky’s energetic, frenetic, kaleidoscopic, and explosive painting would have to be considered quite unsuccessful, at least considerably less so than those by his contemporaries. Would it not make sense to conclude that Kandinsky identified something entirely different from his contemporaries in fugue—a chaotic element, rather than a unified one, or a diversity that feels no obligation to unity other than its inclusion within a single work of art? I argue that Kandinsky and many of his contemporaries, including composers and authors, indeed perceived fugue in this way, welcoming its inherent diversity into a world-view that no longer held unity as an artistic value above all others. Within the variety of approaches that the early twentieth century had to offer, order and learnedness continued to serve as the main subject of fugue, yet alongside them a meaning of fugue-as-chaos served as a countersubject, resonating with the prevailing sense of disorder of the time. Unlike his ‘Orphist’ contemporaries such as the Delaunays and Kupka, or his future Bauhaus colleagues, Klee and Albers, Kandinsky was more attracted to euphoric, centrifugal energies than to questions of internal logic and procedural coherence as sources of creative inspiration. One year prior to the painting of Fugue he laid out his view of art and the creative process: Painting is like a thundering collision of different worlds that are destined in and through conflict to create that new world called the work. Technically, every work of art comes into being in the same way as the cosmos—by means of catastrophes, which ultimately create out of the cacophony of the various instruments that symphony we call the music of the spheres, the creation of the work of art is the creation of the world.47 The early twentieth-century rhetoric notwithstanding, Kandinsky’s description continues the traditional association of music in general, and fugal writing in particular, with unity in diversity in a cosmic context. The work of art reflects the act of godly creation, bringing together ‘different worlds’ into a ‘new world’, the ‘cacophony of the various instruments’ into a unified ‘symphony’. But his imagery involves a shift of the traditional focus, dwelling not on the creation of order, but on the pre-existing chaos, and celebrating not the ultimate unity, but the primordial diversity. The fugue becomes the ultimate point of chaos, through which synthesis eventually emerges, a crucial element in the cycle of catastrophe, redemption, and spiritual renewal that held a central place in Kandinsky’s writings and art during 1913–14. Hugo Ball, who was heavily influenced by Kandinsky’s ideas at the time, likewise spoke in his poem ‘The Sun’ (1914) of ‘domes exploding with organ fugues’, and one year later he placed the fugue at the point of furthest remove (to borrow Leonard Ratner’s description of the moment preceding the retransition in sonata form), in a vignette included in his Flight out of Time: We Germans are a nation of musicians, full of an unbounded faith in the omnipotence of harmony. That may then serve us as a passport to all kinds of temptations and experiments, to all kinds of boldness and deviation. Whether we begin with major or minor and strike the most daring dissonances, we still believe that at the end, in the fugue, the darkest, most brittle discord must give way and yield. It can be said, then, that harmony is the Germans’ Messiah; it will come to deliver its people from the multiplicity of resounding contradiction.48 The fugue is, on the one hand, the most dissonant, chaotic moment, ‘the darkest, most brittle discord’, but that is what forces it to yield: deliverance arises from ‘the multiplicity of resounding contradiction’, not because diversity is unified, but rather because it has become catastrophically chaotic. In the spirit of the political and social unrest of the months leading up to the First World War, both Kandinsky’s and Ball’s diversities are of exceptional violence, involving parts that are not simply different, but conflicting, their cacophonous coexistence resulting in ‘thundering collisions’ and ‘catastrophes’. These create not the final harmony, but rather the chaotic moment that necessitates it. Their fugues are thus not an act of unification and ordering, but a paean to the creative and redemptive power in chaos.49 It is significant that Kandinsky’s chaotic interpretation of fugue came shortly after the new and radical experimentations with tonality of the Second Viennese School, Stravinsky, and others. As I have already pointed out, fugal procedures in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were able to stand for disruption and disorder particularly where they abandoned the traditional tonal layout of the fugue. After the breakdown of Western tonality, this potential became essentially available for any kind of fugue: without the unifying element of traditional harmony, it was easier to focus on the diversity in fugue, as the unruly behaviour of the various voices was no longer governed by an external, regulating system. It is well known that Kandinsky followed developments in the musical world closely, and in 1911–13 corresponded regularly with Schoenberg. As noted by J. B. M. Janssen, much of the Schoenberg–Kandinsky correspondence was centred around questions of ‘Chaos’ and ‘Construction’, with Kandinsky telling Schoenberg of his belief in ‘Dissonanz statt Konsonanz’ as the motto of the new art.50 The replacement of the nineteenth-century consonance with twentieth-century dissonance was, for Kandinsky, but a small detail in a larger aesthetic shift espoused by ‘new art’. The latter he characterized in his essay of 1910 (published only in 1912), Über das Geistige in der Kunst (On the Spiritual in Art) as ‘clashing discords, loss of equilibrium, principles overthrown … great questionings … opposites, and contradictions’, emphatically summarizing ‘this is our harmony’. In the new art, ‘external lack of cohesion is … internal harmony … haphazard arrangement of forms may be the future of artistic harmony’.51 A decade and a half later, in his essay Der Wert des theoretischen Unterrichts in der Malerei (1926), Kandinsky was even more explicit, writing that, at least from an external point of view, the ‘order’ of the nineteenth century was being replaced by what can be summarized in a single word—chaos. Kandinsky’s new cosmic interpretation of the fugue-as-chaos soon found a musical counterpart in Darius Milhaud’s ballet La Création du Monde, composed in 1922–3 to a scenario based on African myths of creation drawn from a collection compiled by the Swiss-French novelist and poet Blaise Cendrars. The ballet, which uses jazz themes inspired by music Milhaud heard on his visit to Harlem in 1922, includes six parts to be played continuously, leading from ‘The Chaos before the Creation’ through the creation of plants, animals, and culminating in man, who is unique due to a capacity for love. The second of these sections, the first to be heard after the curtain rose in the original production, describes the chaos before the creation. Earlier representations of chaos typically chose to describe their theme through abandonment of the reigning compositional order, whether in harmony, phrase construction, or form. Thus, the language of chaos in works such as Rameau’s Zaïs, Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les Elémens, or Haydn’s Schöpfung made use of fragmented musical utterances, seemingly haphazard juxtaposition of different materials, hushed amorphous sound effects, or clashing dissonances, all awaiting the arrival of a governing order. The arrival of order in Haydn’s oratorio and in Weber’s Die Erste Ton is celebrated in fugue. In the light of these precedents, Milhaud makes a surprising choice in La Création du Monde, representing chaos through a clearly articulated fugue on a jazz theme (Ex. 2). The unorthodox subject traverses an unorthodox, albeit firm, tonal sequence played by a no less unorthodox collection of instruments, introduced on D by the double bass, followed by the trombone on E and then a saxophone on A before returning to D. The sense of tonality in this section, though still clearly perceivable, is perhaps the weakest in the entire piece, manifesting itself more in the tonally common yet fugally uncharacteristic I–II–V–I overall tonal layout, but hardly at all in the seemingly haphazard vertical harmonies. Milhaud’s fugal chaos relies not only on lack of tonal equilibrium, but also on the generic clash between the ‘high’ fugal form and the ‘low’ jazz theme, in which Milhaud supposedly recognized African origins that resonated with the ostensibly African origins of Cendrars’s text. The incompatibility of form and content endows the fugue with an ironic stance towards its otherwise traditional role in the narrative of creation, bolstering its shift in position from a celebration of the triumph of creation as an act of organizing the chaos, to a carrier of the climax of a chaos, which will ultimately dissolve into order. Ex. 2 View largeDownload slide Darius Milhaud, La Création du Monde, II. Le chaos avant la création, bb. 1–21 (© With kind authorization of Editions Durand) Ex. 2 View largeDownload slide Darius Milhaud, La Création du Monde, II. Le chaos avant la création, bb. 1–21 (© With kind authorization of Editions Durand) Fugue also makes a prominent appearance in Schoenberg’s Prelude Op. 44 (1945), originally part of the Genesis suite, a collaborative setting of seven tableaux from the first book of Moses, organized in 1945 by Nathaniel Shilkret, and including a prelude by Schoenberg, a Creation by Shilkret, The Fall of Man by Alexandre Tansman, a Cain and Abel by Milhaud, The Flood by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, The Covenant by Toch, and Babel by Stravinsky ending the cycle (we shall return to Stravinsky’s work later in this article).52 Schoenberg’s prelude, which was the only untexted contribution to the cycle, dealt with the creation of the world out of chaos, ‘a universal, creative state before a directed created vision was realized’, in the words of Jennifer Shaw.53 The Prelude opens accordingly with fragmentary elements, or ‘isolated sonic particles’ that depict ‘the fragmented state of space’ in the words of Sabine Feisst:54 the first two notes of the basic note row (B♭, G♭) are presented tremolo in the double basses; the next six (D, F, E, C, B, G♯) appear in an upwards zigzagging sequence in the bass tuba, and the remaining four (C♯, D♯, A, G) are completed by the violins in a downwards zigzagging motion, leading from C♯ in their uppermost register, to an open G string in the end (Ex. 3). All in all, the presentation of the row encompasses six octaves, from D1 to C♯7, giving the impression of disconnected and unorganized matter. Ex. 3 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Genesis Prelude, Op. 44, bb. 1–7. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles Ex. 3 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Genesis Prelude, Op. 44, bb. 1–7. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles In bar 25, however, Schoenberg introduces a double fugue in inversion, which dominates the remainder of the prelude (Ex. 4). The note rows (P5+RI10) are distributed between the subject and the countersubject (with one note in the countersubject interpolated between every pair in the subject), now spanning one octave alone. In his article ‘Composition with Twelve Tones (II)’, from 1947–8, Schoenberg warned that composition of fugues should nowadays ‘only be undertaken for a special reason’, such as ‘a nostalgic longing for old-time beauty’, or the inclusion of ‘old style’ among a variety of other styles in a large work.55 Hence, attempting to explain the predominance of fugue within the prelude—which is not a large-scale work, and deals with a period much earlier than that associated with fugal ‘old-time beauty’—has elicited considerable hermeneutic acrobatics from many a writer on this work. Willi Reich suggested that it ‘was meant to give an idea of the “technical” difficulties at the creation of the world’, thus drawing a parallel between musical and cosmic acts of creation that harks back to the ancient concept of the Harmony of the Spheres.56 Yet, as Carl Dahlhaus pointed out, Reich’s explanation fails to convince because Schoenberg did not believe there was anything difficult about writing a twelve-note fugue.57 Instead, Dahlhaus resorts to a somewhat anachronistic strategy of interpreting Schoenberg in the light of Goethe’s understanding of Bach ‘as if eternal harmony were communing with itself, just as may have happened in God’s bosom before the creation’.58 Feisst likewise views this fugal episode as a reference to Bach (and the prelude on the whole as referring to Haydn’s Schöpfung), part of a process leading from initial fragmentation through fugal creation of order, continuing to ‘the impending creation of humankind’ with the entry of untexted singing and the arrival of order and the completion of creation with a final unison on C.59 But there are strong reasons to doubt such a narrative. Not only does it ignore some key moments in the music (such as the stop-and-go nature of the fugue, the massive cataclysmic crescendo and accelerando culminating in bar 81, or the fact that the concluding unison comes more as a shock than as a logical conclusion), but also its position in the piece, before Shilkret’s own contribution, which commences with the first words of Genesis, i.e. before the creation began. Schoenberg may have been unwilling to stoop to creating stylistic continuity between his dodecaphonic and Shilkret’s Hollywood-style pieces, but there was no reason for him to have done the same with the narrative continuity. Instead, I would suggest that here, as with Kandinsky and Milhaud, Schoenberg associates fugue with the reigning chaos, its multiplicity of seemingly independent voices providing the ideal framework for expressing the primordial state of the universe before the act of creation. The fugue does not serve a function of imposing order, but rather of mixing together elements that were hitherto discrete, a stirring of the ‘primordial soup’, to use J. B. S. Haldane’s enduring term from 1929 for the emergence of life on earth.60 The introduction of human voice without text maintains a sense of quasi-haphazardness, by adding a distinct previously unheard sound, and is also, due to the absence of text, disembodied. Indeed, when the fugal climax quickly subsides, ending the prelude with the lingering voices on unison C, Schoenberg could perhaps be setting the stage for the continuation of the work, the creation of the heavens and the earth in the next section by what is missing in the untexted voice: the logos. Such a reading renders Schoenberg’s fugue a counterpart to Kandinsky’s: the apparatus that both represents chaos and brings it to the climax from which creation can ensue. Ex. 4 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Genesis Prelude, Op. 44, bb. 25–36. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles Ex. 4 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Genesis Prelude, Op. 44, bb. 25–36. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles fugue as social disorder The role of fugue as a state preceding creation in the examples by Kandinsky, Schoenberg, and Milhaud is drawn from its earlier cosmic meaning. Yet in Milhaud’s case, the combination of high and low social strata, and the discrepancy between Germanophile fugue with négrophilie jazz, suggest a cosmic description driven strongly by social politics too, a wish to create a world free of former social and racial distinctions. More than a decade earlier, and then again in 1922 (the year Milhaud’s ballet was composed), Heinrich Schenker, in his introductions to the volumes of Counterpoint (1910), had prescribed the study of counterpoint as a cure for the malaise caused by the loss of social hierarchy, ‘in an era in which all values in human relationships are turned exactly upside down … [whereby] those who need to be led become leaders’.61 The disintegration of traditional hierarchies that Schenker was lamenting was in his view the reason for the decline in the basic skills in composition, and it is thus that he completes the tortuous route from the problem, which includes symptoms of what he identifies as an ‘era of asininity … inimical to art’, such as women assuming men’s roles or the exemption of children from work, to its remedy: a new tutorial in counterpoint, no less.62 As eccentric and objectionable as Schenker’s logic may be, his prescription of fugal skills as a restorative to social disintegration harks back to earlier, social interpretations of fugue. It might not be overly fanciful to refer to it as a reactionary neo-Forkelism. Forkel’s social interpretation of the fugue was indeed still very much alive, but not everyone associated it, as did Schenker, with social order. In Milhaud’s ballet, the association of fugue with the disintegration of boundaries was oblique, but Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point (1928) drives the point home explicitly and emphatically. In the second chapter of the book, the ailing painter John Bidlake, who is based on the artist Augustus John (1878–1961), listens to a performance of Bach’s Second Suite for Orchestra in a private event at his home. Huxley’s brilliantly ironic description, with its ‘multiplicity of aspects seen’, to use the term suggested by Philip Quarles, the novelist within the novel—i.e. its repeated conflations of the audible experience of Bach’s work with its physical means of production (flautist Pongileoni’s ‘vibrating air column’ played upon by his ‘snout’)—is, as observed by Morton Gurewitch, both a glorification and a comic diminishing of Bach’s music.63 At first, however, Bidlake’s description of the majestic slow introduction to the first movement (in the tradition of a French overture) resorts to terms and imagery that sound almost like a paraphrase on Schenker’s introduction: ‘In the opening largo John Sebastian had, with the help of Pongileoni’s snout and the air column, made a statement: There are grand things in the world, noble things; there are men born kingly; there are real conquerors, intrinsic lords of the earth.’64 But with the entry of the fugue, social order is not reinforced, as Schenker would have had it, but rather swept aside in favour of general havoc: But of an earth that is, oh! complex and multitudinous, he had gone on to reflect in the fugal allegro. You seem to have found the truth; clear, definite, unmistakable, it is announced by the violins; you have it, you triumphantly hold it. But it slips out of your grasp to present itself in a new aspect among the 'cellos and yet again in terms of Pongileoni’s vibrating air column. The parts live their separate lives; they touch, their paths cross, they combine for a moment to create a seemingly final and perfected harmony, only to break apart again. Each is always alone and separate and individual. ‘I am I’, asserts the violin; ‘the world revolves round me’. ‘Round me’, calls the ’cello. ‘Round me’, the flute insists. And all are equally right and equally wrong; and none of them will listen to the others. In the human fugue there are eighteen hundred million parts. The resultant noise means something perhaps to the statistician, nothing to the artist.65 Huxley draws upon numerous traditional meanings of fugue here, including unity in diversity, fugue as truth, fugue as internationality, and fugue as social order. Yet all of these have their meanings reversed. Truth is upheld by the theme in a single voice alone—the violins—but as soon as the cellos enter that same truth ‘slips out of grasp’ rather than being confirmed; social order is not brought about, but rather dispelled by the fugue; its internationality is not one of agreement (as in Marpurg), but rather of dissent, broken down beyond the level of nations to that of each and every one of the world’s eighteen hundred million parts. Huxley’s fugue (pace Bidlake) is all diversity and no unity, all noise and no art, all chaos and no order. It becomes a tower of Babel of sorts, a shattering of the unity of mankind that had hitherto brought forth conquerors, lords of the earth, and ‘grand things in the world’, reducing it to multitudinous complexity in which (as in Goethe’s ‘strange fugue’) no one will listen to the other. Although Bidlake’s interpretation of fugue should not necessarily be taken as Huxley’s own—the novel is populated by a variety of radical characters covering a broad spectrum of views on a variety of subjects—it nevertheless indicates an understanding that would have been available to the early twentieth-century listener. Huxley’s own view of fugue as stated in his essays is more sober, but the chaotic potential is evident in all. One reference appeared in his essay on Blaise Pascal, published in the collection of essays Do What You Will, of 1929, placing it contemporaneous with Point Counter Point. The ending of that essay is a paean to ‘the life-worshipper’, whose guiding principle is ‘to live intensely’, a credo as autobiographical as it is documentary: His diversity is a sign that he consistently tries to live up to his principles; for the harmony of life—of the single life that persists as a gradually changing unity through time—is a harmony built up of many elements. The unity is mutilated by the suppression of any part of the diversity. A fugue has need of all its voices. Even in the rich counterpoint of life each separate small melody plays its indispensable part.66 What stands out in Huxley’s otherwise typical reference to unity in diversity in the context of fugue is his concern about the fragility of the system as a whole, or the way the suppression of any of the parts will mutilate the overall unity. It is as if in Bidlake’s constant mutilation of each of the voices—the flute is a mere vibrating column of air attached to a snout, the string instruments are ‘scraped’, and the motions of the conductor are ‘undulations from the loins’—Bach’s fugue no longer appears as unified, and chaos ensues. A similar concern for the fragility of fugue’s ability to reveal its intricacies is expressed in Huxley’s essay Gesualdo: Variations on a Musical Theme (1956). Huxley explains the brevity of the madrigal by the absence of what he calls a ‘structural pattern’, without which lengthy counterpoint risks becoming unintelligible. Although the nature of Huxley’s ‘structural pattern’ remains obscure—it is a strange confusion between sonata form, fugue, and canon—it seems to require a clear definition of two key areas, a series of modulations, and a recapitulation: in other words, a strong tonal grounding. Huxley would probably have found a fugue without tonality largely unintelligible. He seems to have had little sympathy for atonal music, judging Berg’s Lyric Suite as an expression of self-absorbed self-pity, and comparing Schoenberg’s music to Gesualdo’s only to the detriment of the former. His analysis of what he calls ‘the most startlingly chromatic of the mad prince’s compositions’, published in The Doors of Perception (1954), provides another insight into the interplay between order and chaos in Huxley’s view of counterpoint (under the self-attested influence of mescaline, in an attempt to transcend his own self): It does not matter that he’s all in bits. The whole is disorganized. But each individual fragment is in order, is a representative of a Higher Order. The Highest Order prevails even in the disintegration. The totality is present even in the broken pieces. More clearly present, perhaps, than in a completely coherent work. At least you aren’t lulled into a sense of false security by some merely human, merely fabricated order. You have to rely on your immediate perception of the ultimate order. So in a certain sense disintegration may have its advantages. But of course it’s dangerous, horribly dangerous. Suppose you couldn’t get back, out of the chaos …67 Even in this intoxicated account the language of unity in diversity prevails, yet, as Holly Rogers has pointed out, the role of disintegration is paradoxical, offering at once ‘a bridge back to the human world’ and an inescapable and ‘horribly dangerous’ chaos.68 The unity here is not the traditional imposition of order to rein in variety, but rather a rejection of such ‘complete coherence’ in favour of a ‘Higher Order’ that can only be accessed through the disintegration. As with Kandinsky, it is necessary for chaos to push us to the brink in order to attain the ultimate order. Huxley’s attribution of worldwide significance to fugue was echoed only two years later in Ernst Toch’s Geographical Fugue. This spoken fugue, ‘Weimar rap’ in the words of the composer’s grandson, quickly became a perennial classic for amateur choirs.69 It was composed in 1930 as part of a spoken-word suite called Gesprochene Musik, for a concert featuring new works to be performed by gramophone, yet is usually performed nowadays by live choirs. The words of the fugue are a list of places from all over the world, presumably selected for the rhythmic qualities created by their distinct patterns of repeated consonants and vowels, enabling them to be recognized through augmentation and diminution. As Carmel Raz has brilliantly demonstrated in her analysis of the Geographical Fugue, Toch planned the text carefully for maximal intelligibility, a point emphasized by Toch himself in his short reference to the work at the end of an article he published in Melos. Drawing from this and, no doubt, from the traditional interpretation of fugue as a unifying framework for international diversity, Raz concludes that the Geographical Fugue ‘makes an implicitly internationalist statement on bridging cultural differences by the juxtaposition of diverse international locations by assonance and choice of syllables’.70 Although one cannot argue conclusively against such an interpretation, it does not ring true in the broader context of the work’s composition. As Raz demonstrated, Toch had to take into consideration various political sensitivities in his text, such as his exclusion of places in Africa in the light of what was then known as Die schwarze Schmach, the positioning of African soldiers along the Rhine as an occupying force. In this, as in its typically Dadaist interest in the potential of vowels and consonants to serve as auditory object independent of semantics (as Raz mentions, Kurt Schwitters’s Ursonate and Raoul Hausmann’s poster poems are obvious precedents), the Geographical Fugue is a characteristic creation of the post-First World War decade. Yet this dreadfully disillusioned generation was not prone to adopt a relaxed globalist attitude espousing the bridging of cultural differences. Many artists, writers, and musicians opted for a more aggressive approach, characterized more by biting satire than by cuddly peace-for-all messages. As I have argued in an earlier article in this journal, Erwin Schulhoff’s Alla marcia militaristica in modo europaico and the suite it was originally intended to conclude used internationalist images and anti-war rhetoric to reject notions of unification of nations through art.71 Unlike the younger Schulhoff, Toch had completed his musical education and established himself firmly in the German musical world before the outbreak of the First World War (where he served for four years on the Italian front), and his musical style was correspondingly less vitriolic in the years following the war, yet it was still likely to have maintained a critical and ironic view of global politics. Closer to Toch’s age was the Prague-born illustrator Walter Trier (1890–1951), now remembered mainly for his collaborations with Erich Kästner, including the illustrations of the first edition of Emil and the Detectives. Trier’s anthropomorphic map of Europe in 1914 (Pl. 5) satirizes the pre-war political climate by squeezing a character or an animal into each country’s border.72 A belligerent Germany has one foot on the back of a cringing France, and a bayonet in the nose of a ravenous Russia, who seems to be attempting to swallow the entire continent. The Austro-Hungarian empire likewise has a gun jammed into Russia’s mouth, as well as an elbow in Italy’s eye, and a foot on Montenegro (a termite’s nest) and Serbia (a swine). In the midst of the turmoil, as Trier’s accompanying text mockingly states, Switzerland attempts to preserve ‘good will’. Although much of this was to have changed by the end of the war, it is likely that Trier’s ridicule of good will would have only been all the more relevant. Pl. 5 View largeDownload slide Walter Trier, Map of Europe in Year 1914. © walter trier-archiv, konstanz (Germany). From Antje Neuner-Warthorst, Walter Trier: Politik, Kunst, Reklame (Hannover, 2006), 109, Pl. 126a Pl. 5 View largeDownload slide Walter Trier, Map of Europe in Year 1914. © walter trier-archiv, konstanz (Germany). From Antje Neuner-Warthorst, Walter Trier: Politik, Kunst, Reklame (Hannover, 2006), 109, Pl. 126a It appears more plausible to read the Geographical Fugue in the light of Schulhoff and Trier’s internationalist satirical creations than in terms of a naïve world peace. Furthermore, Toch’s own account of the Geographical Fugue seems to suggest a meltdown of cultures rather than their bridging-over. His insistence on intelligibility, and his careful choices of ‘well defined rhythms, vowels, consonants, syllables and words’ may have been intended to clarify the fugal manipulations but he was well aware that, at the same time, the fugal setting obfuscated the semantics, so that ‘one might almost forget that it originated from speech’.73 Toch’s instructions to accelerate the performance on the gramophone would doubtless have made the names of places even less intelligible. Any message about bringing cultures together would have been poorly delivered. If, however, the idea was precisely the lack of order and the loss of semantic intelligibility as the result of international communion (again, as with Huxley’s description of a Bach fugue, the image of the tower of Babel springs to mind), the fugue works remarkably well. The Geographical Fugue is a satirical work of tongue-in-cheek irony, rather than a pacifist manifesto. It is less a message about bridging cultural gaps than a commentary on contemporary chaotic communication.74 That Huxley and Toch invoked a Babel-like imagery in their fugal references, while Kandinsky, Milhaud, and Schoenberg invoke the creation of the world, is but another manifestation of the age-old tension between Bach’s cosmic narrative and Forkel’s social one. If the biblical story of the Creation was an attempt to explain the rise of cosmic order, the story of the Tower of Babel tried to account for social and national diversity, specifically the variety of languages and cultures. To an extent, the two stories mirror each other, reflecting prevailing perceptions of the cosmos as unified (hence the word universe) and of society as diversified: in the creation, God creates order out of a pre-existing chaos, while in the Tower of Babel, God undermines the prevailing order (‘Now the whole world had one language and a common speech’),75 and man’s attempts to maintain it (‘let us build ourselves a city … otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth’), replacing it with a chaotic state of affairs (‘let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other’), which explains the diversity we know today (‘the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth’). Two settings from the first half of the twentieth century, Babelstaarnet by the Danish composer Ludolf Nielsen (1876–1939) and the Tower of Babel scene in Gottfried Huppertz’s score to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), resort to the obvious box of tricks, including theatrical fanfares in open perfect intervals in the brass, primitivist ostinati, and recurrent restricted melodic cells.76 Against the backdrop of these pieces, Stravinsky’s seven-minute cantata Babel, the last completed part of the aforementioned collaborative Genesis suite, stands out in sharp relief, not only in its adherence to the biblical tale, preserving its trajectory from unity and order to diversity and chaos, but also in the musical means it employs. Stravinsky refused to comply with Shilkret’s explicitly populist agenda, objecting for religious reasons to having the voice of God imitated by the human voice, and for aesthetic reasons to having the music illustrate anything at all.77 Instead, as noted by Robert Craft, he modelled the work on the traditional and ostensibly abstract form of a passacaglia and fugue. As abstract as Stravinsky may have intended his choice of form to be, that the most salient formal moment—the beginning of the fugue—coincides with the moment where the narrative reaches its climax, suggests an array of at least implicit connections between Stravinsky’s choice of form and his subject matter. The climactic moment here marks the onset of confusion and diversity, where the narrator recites the final verse, ‘Because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth; and from thence did the lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth’,78 and Stravinsky’s atonal fugue, with its angular theme assigned to the horns and trumpets doubled by frenetic semiquavers in the strings, matches the text in what is probably the closest thing to word-painting that one could hope for in Stravinsky (Ex. 5). Curiously, Mikhail Druskin inaccurately described the work as a passacaglia in which the building of the tower is portrayed by a fugato, after which a Con moto meno mosso accompanies the account of its destruction.79 Whatever the reasons for Druskin’s error, it is a telling one, as it reflects a projection of the traditional meaning of work as order, and hence construction and building (and specifically its association with ‘building an edifice’ mentioned earlier), onto a place where it had been used to describe precisely the opposite. Stravinsky’s generic choice of fugue was perhaps not traditional, but it was well in line with contemporary understandings of the form as an expression of chaos and diversity. Yet as with Kandinsky, Milhaud, and Huxley, Stravinsky’s choice does not reflect a negative evaluation of the outcome of the tale of the tower of Babel, but rather an embrace of diversity (in this case of languages) as a new aesthetic. As he was later to say in his conversations with Robert Craft: ‘Musically speaking, Babel is a blessing.’80 Ex. 5 View largeDownload slide Igor Stravinsky, Babel, rehearsal 23 − 2 to 25 + 1. © 1944 Schott Music Ex. 5 View largeDownload slide Igor Stravinsky, Babel, rehearsal 23 − 2 to 25 + 1. © 1944 Schott Music Not so in the numerous fugal episodes in Schoenberg’s opera torso Moses und Aron, most of the music for which was composed between 1930 and 1932. Pierre Boulez, probably inspired by the work’s choice of a biblical text to explore philosophical ideas, its reliance on two contrasting religious leaders as soloists, and its extensive use of canon and fugue, compared the opera to Bach’s Passions.81 It is likely that Schoenberg intended such comparisons to be made, and his use of fugal techniques should be considered bearing that in mind. For instance, the episode in Act I (b. 442 ff.), in which the people question Moses and Aron anxiously about the nature of the God they herald, seems directly to invoke similar turba sections in Bach’s Passions. The Bachian reference notwithstanding, it is significant that in Schoenberg’s work fugal techniques appear not at the moments of godly revelation, but rather at moments of confusion and chaos. The most extended and thoroughly worked-out fugue—a triple fugue in six voices—appears at the moment of ultimate crisis: the Zwischenspiel that precedes the dance round the golden calf, in which the people doubt with growing confusion that Moses will ever return from Mt Sinai (Ex. 6). Ex. 6 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Moses und Aron, Zwischenspiel, 4–10, choir parts only. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles Ex. 6 View largeDownload slide Arnold Schoenberg, Moses und Aron, Zwischenspiel, 4–10, choir parts only. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles With the gradual thickening of fugal forces, beginning with three voices and ending with six, Schoenberg’s interlude brings to mind Forkel’s description of fugue as an emotion gradually gripping the collective members of a people. Yet for Forkel the emotion was a single, unified one, bringing together the people, presumably in a joint spirit of praise thanksgiving or, as in Don Giovanni, moral victory. The emotion of the people in Moses und Aron is one of confusion (if confusion can be considered an emotion), in its very essence an antithesis of unity and cohesion. Bearing in mind the age-old concern with the lack of intelligibility of texts in contrapuntal setting, Schoenberg’s choice of triple fugue makes lemonade out of a lemon. The confusion is present already in the very first presentation of the subject, with some parts whispered, others spoken, and still others sung, all this at once. Textually, a single fugal entry looks like this: Subject—(Whisper:) Where is Moses? (Sing) Abandoned are we! Where is his God? Where is the Eternal One? Countersubject 1—(Sing:) No, no, no! He shall not return! Where is he? Where is Moses? It’s been a long time since he was seen!! Countersubject 2—(Speak:) Moses! We shall never see him! Where is his God? Where is the Eternal One? With the three-layered subject itself projecting a sense of confusion, the addition of further fugal entries and the subsequent proliferation of voices, as well as the lack of a unifying tonal framework, turn this highly complex and organized fugue into the perfect conveyor of chaos. And whereas the first fugal entry in Mattheson or the fugal framework as a whole had traditionally been associated with leadership and design, here it becomes associated with a disintegrated people, losing both control and faith as soon as their leader, Moses, is absent. Unlike Stravinsky, Schoenberg’s fugue appears at the moment of deepest crisis, both in terms of the biblical narrative of the Exodus, and in terms of Schoenberg’s own version of it in his libretto for Moses und Aron. This is the moment in which the uncompromising Moses is rejected by the people, whereas pragmatic and communicative Aron is embraced. Upon his return, Moses will find the people deep in orgiastic worship of the golden calf, his doctrine abandoned, himself alienated. Yet this crisis was also pregnant with the potential of redemption, for out of it Schoenberg (through Moses) was able to ‘generate the power to present the wilderness as the proper metaphysical analogue and metaphoric ideal for psychological man’, in the words of Carl Schorske.82 Indeed, Schoenberg’s self-attested goal in his biblical works was that ‘the mode of speech, the mode of thought, the mode of expression should be that of modern man’.83 broader perspectives and summary Just as the biblical narratives were adapted to attain modern meaning, so were the ancient forms brought to bear on modern perceptions of society, culture, and science, in all of which a chaotic element was beginning to take hold in the first decades of the twentieth century. Schorske’s ‘rational man’ of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, whose mission it was to uncover the underlying order of the universe, was superseded by ‘psychological man’, that ‘richer but more dangerous and mercurial creature … fundamentally incompatible with the social whole’.84 Psychological man not only experienced society as ‘a chaos of conflicting value orientations’, but the universe as a whole as chaotic, irrational, and ‘ungovernable’.85 In this world, psychological chaos became ‘a meta-sensuous order’, resonating with Kandinsky and Ball’s notions of a redemptive chaos. At the same time, new discoveries and ideas in mathematics, physics, cosmology, and psychology were also leading to a thorough re-evaluation of long-held tenets of human knowledge. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity challenged the accepted distinctions between space and time; the rise of quantum mechanics undermined the hegemony of Newtonian mechanics; and Bertrand Russell’s antinomy (1901), Werner Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty (1927), and Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems (1931) heralded a new awareness of the limits of scientific inquiry, implying that achieving full understanding of the underlying order of the universe was inherently and provably impossible. Alexander Friedmann’s conjecture of an expanding universe (1924) demonstrated that not only are the known species of life in a state of flux (as Darwin had shown seventy-five years earlier), but so is the cosmos in its entirety something that ‘can expand, contract, collapse, and might even have been born in a singularity’, a finding that even Einstein initially found ‘suspicious’.86 Thus, even if an ‘underlying order of the universe’ were to exist, it was not constant. In psychology, Freud’s explorations of the unconscious and Charcot and Bernheim’s earlier advances in hypnotic technique suggested that humans are but imperfect witnesses of their own experiences and emotions. The fugue as understood by Kandinsky, Milhaud, Huxley, Schoenberg, Toch, and Stravinsky during that period, whether from a cosmic or a social perspective, was therefore as much in resonance with views of the cosmos or of social order as it was in earlier times. Yet those cosmological or sociological views now relied on instability rather than stability, chaos rather than control. Whereas traditional harmony had hitherto been the ‘ordering’ feature of fugue, that is, the unifying element that justified the diversity of independent voices, the rejection of traditional tonality in new music rendered fugal writing suitable to assume meanings in accordance with new, chaotic, conceptions of human society and modern scientific ideas. When coming to interpret these works, we must be aware that their use of seemingly traditional techniques belies their modernity, inviting not an understanding of the modern art work in terms of the traditional techniques it invokes, but rather a renewed appreciation of those techniques in the light of their newly found modern contexts. Such readings do not deny that the seeds of a new understanding may not be identified in earlier ones. Indeed, the chaotic potential of fugue had been recognized in some writings and compositions as early as the eighteenth century, yet it was either overcome by fugal rigour, or was characteristic of ‘strange’ fugues or irregular ones. To speak of these early interpretations as forward-looking would be as misleading as to interpret late fugues in the light of earlier aesthetic values. A barbaric fugue was indeed a contradiction in terms, yet one exception cannot be ignored, a fugue that loomed large in the early nineteenth century, powerfully presaging the early twentieth-century fugues discussed in this article both in its style and its reception. Beethoven’s Große Fuge seems only poorly suited to represent order of any sort, whether cosmic or social. Together with the Hammerklavier fugue, it is a work that, in the words of Julian Johnson, ‘teeters on the edge of chaos … an out of control machine … [that] comes close to allowing musical discourse to fall into raw noise’.87 It is illuminating that an early anonymous, yet by now well-known review of this forward-looking work, published in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 22 March 1826, was equally forward-looking in striking all the keys touched upon in this article: But the critic does not dare to interpret the meaning behind the fugue finale: for him it was incomprehensible, like Chinese. When the instruments in the regions of the South and North Poles have to battle with immense difficulties, when each one plays different motifs and the musical lines cross each other per transitum irregularem in a host of dissonances, when the players, mistrusting themselves, are not able to play properly in tune, I do declare the Babylon-like confusion is then complete; then there is a concert which can only be enjoyed by the Moroccans.88 This excursion from China through the North and South Poles to Babylon and Morocco reads the social chaos of the tower of Babel—its inhabitants engaged in battles, mistrust, and mutual incomprehension—into Beethoven’s irregular and dissonant fugue. Just as parts of Beethoven’s fugue anticipate the unapologetically dissonant sonorities of the early twentieth century, so does its critic anticipate the interpretative potential the fugue was to assume within that dissonant context. Indeed, Beethoven’s critic is censorious, while the twentieth-century meanings are not necessarily so, but this reflects not an error of judgement, but rather the shift in values that had occurred in the interim. If the values in the review were eventually to cross the Rubicon to become artistically desirable, then perhaps this is but another proof of Stravinsky’s famous evaluation of Beethoven’s work as ‘forever contemporary’, especially in a world where chaos is the new order, and Babel is a blessing. Footnotes 1 Daniel Chua, Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge, 1999), 270. 2 Michael Beiche, ‘Fuga/Fuge’, in Terminologie der musikalischen Komposition (Stuttgart, 1995), 103–44 at 104. Although the Italian origin is more commonly cited, Schoenberg subscribed to the German one; see Severine Neff, ‘Schoenberg’s “Kristallnacht” Fugue: Contrapuntal Exercise or Unknown Piece?’, Musical Quarterly, 86 (2002), 117–48 at 127. 3 Keith Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, in Danuta Mirka (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory (New York and Oxford, 2014), 301–29 at 323. 4 For authoritativeness see Robert S. Hatten, Musical Meaning in Beethoven: Markedness, Correlation and Interpretation (Bloomington, Ind., 1994), 87. The other values are commonplace, and most of them are mentioned in Chapin. 5 ‘Les Fugues, en general, rendent la Musique plus bruyante qu’agréable’; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Écrits sur la musique, la langue et le théâtre, ed. Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond (Oeuvres complètes, 5; Paris, 1995), 832. Translation from Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, 309. 6 Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, 309. 7 Charles Burney, A General History of Music, ed. Frank Mercer (New York, 1935), 516. 8 Ernest Charles Harriss, Johann Mattheson’s Der vollkommene Capellmeister: A Revised Translation with Critical Commentary (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1981), 694. 9 Ian Bent, Music Analysis in the Nineteenth Century, i: Fugue, Form and Style (Cambridge, 1994), 176. The quotation from Johann Ernst Wagner appears in Schumann’s essay on Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, yet Wagner’s original, given by Schumann as ‘somewhere or the other’, remains obscure. 10 Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, 320. 11 Julian Johnson, Out of Time: Music and the Making of Modernity (New York and Oxford, 2015), 54. 12 John Butt, Bach’s Dialogue with Modernity: Perspectives on the Passions (Cambridge, 2010), 162, and Ruth HaCohen, The Music Libel against the Jews (New Haven, 2011), 94. 13 HaCohen, The Music Libel, 95. 14 Another well-known example of what may be termed a ‘fugue-as-strife’ topos evident in Bach and Wagner is Berlioz’s overture to Roméo et Juliette (1839), in which the tonal sequence is B minor→F♯ minor→G major→B minor→D major→F♯ minor, the last four entries arriving in condensed tonal and temporal intervals. The overture to Charles Gounod’s opera of the same name (1867), perhaps in homage to Berlioz, incorporates a brief fugal episode, the strictness of which is undermined when it is overrun by the ominous fanfares that opened the work. I am grateful to Elisheva Rigbi-Shafrir for bringing these examples to my attention. 15 Jacques Chailley, The Magic Flute, Masonic Opera, trans. Herbert Weinstock (New York, 1971), 84–5 and 177–83, and A. Peter Brown, ‘Haydn’s Chaos: Genesis and Genre’, Musical Quarterly, 73 (1989), 18–59. 16 See e.g. Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue in Two Treatises, edited and with an introduction by Wolfgang Leidhold (Indianapolis, Ind., 2004), 28–30; Henry Home and Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, 6th edn. (1785), edited and with an introduction by Peter Jones (Indianapolis, Ind., 2005); and Alexander Gerard, An Essay on Taste together with Observations concerning the Imitative Nature of Poetry. A facsimile reproduction of the third edition (1780) with an introduction by Walter J. Hipple, Jr. (Gainsville, Fla., 1963). 17 Christoph Wolff, Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician (New York, 2001), 466. 18 Johnson, Out of Time, 54. 19 Wolff, Johann Sebastian Bach, 467. 20 Matthew Dirst, Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge, 2012), 19–32. 21 Translated in Chapin, ‘The Learned Style’, 324. 22 More than a century later, Verdi was to use fugue to a similar effect in the finale of Falstaff (1893), on the words ‘The whole world is a joke’. The fugue as finale, by then a well-established tradition, probably derived from vocal works, and was famously satirized by Berlioz in the Amen Fugue in The Damnation of Faust (1846). 23 Ian Woodfield, Performing Operas for Mozart: Impresarios, Singers and Troupes (Cambridge and New York, 2012), 30–1. 24 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey, 1786–1788, trans. W. H. Auden (Harmondsworth, 1970), 298–9. 25 Translated in David Yearsley, Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint (Cambridge, 2002), 228. 26 Malcolm Boyd, Bach (New York and Oxford, 2006), 206. 27 Chua, Absolute Music, 117, 270. 28 Yearsley, Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint, 232. 29 Chailley, The Magic Flute, 178. 30 Colour versions of the plates are available in the online version of this article. 31 Donald Kuspit, ‘Spiritualism and Nihilism: The Second Decade’, in A Critical History of 20th-Century Art, at www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit3-8-06.asp. 32 Ibid. 33 Paul Klee, Tagebücher 1898–1918, ed. F. Klee (Cologne, 1957), 383. Trans. according to Jörg Jewanski, ‘Colour and Music’, in Grove Music Online. 34 Anne Ganteführer-Trier, Cubism (Los Angeles, 2004), 54. 35 See ch. 4, ‘Quasi una Musica’, in Simon Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of Music: Art and Music from Wagner to Cage (New Haven and London, 2004), 121–62; and ch. 5, ‘The Art of Fugue’, in Peter Vergo, The Music of Painting: Music, Modernism and the Visual Arts from the Romantics to John Cage (London, 2010), 203–53. 36 These are but a small selection of visual fugues from this period. Other notable examples include Adolf Hölzel’s Fugue on a Resurrection Theme (1916), which draws on the religious connotations of fugue, and Hans Richter’s Fugue (1920), or Fugue 23 (1923), which brings together influences from Bach and Chinese scrolls in a work that presents transformations of interlocking themes from left to right. Severine Neff has devoted attention to Richter and Eggeling’s Fugue in Red and Green, in ‘Schoenberg’s “Kristallnacht” Fugue’. Peter Vergo has devoted an entire chapter to The Art of Fugue, including references to Bach and/or to fugue in the works of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Georges Braque, Lyonel Feininger, and Henrik Neugeboren, in addition to Kupka and Klee (Kandinsky is given short shrift in this context). A particularly early visual and non-abstract fugue is the disturbing painting Fugue by George Frederic Watts (1900–4), depicting the ascension of cherubs to heaven, their bodies intertwined like themes in a fugue. 37 See Vergo, The Music of Painting, 230–1, esp. Fig. 52. 38 Ibid. 241. 39 An excellent and more detailed analysis of the fugal ideas in Klee’s painting can be found in Vergo, The Music of Painting, 243–5. Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of Music, 152 also provides an interesting analysis, although I am unconvinced by his conjecture that the black background in Klee’s painting (and in the one by Kupka discussed below) acts as a pedal point. Klee and Kupka, both trained musicians with excellent knowledge of fugues, would have known that a pedal point is only relevant towards the end of a fugue, and certainly not in an exposition, which Klee’s painting clearly includes. 40 See Vergo, The Music of Painting, 209. 41 Paul and Felix Klee, The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898–1918 (Berkeley, 1964), no. 640, 177 (cited in Vergo, The Music of Painting, 241). 42 See Vergo, The Music of Painting, 223–6, and Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of Music, 128–44. The quotation is from Vergo (p. 224). 43 Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of Music, 123. 44 Vergo, The Music of Painting, 246, has pointed out that Klee’s later ‘polyphonic’ works make similar use of the interchanging roles of voices characteristic of fugue. Shaw-Miller gives excellent background to and an insightful analysis of the fugal aspects of Kupka’s Amorpha in Visible Deeds of Music, 128–36. 45 Hans K. Röthel and Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky (Oxford, 1979), 106. 46 Magdalena Dabrowski, ‘Kandinsky and Schoenberg: Abstraction as a Visual Metaphor of Emancipated Dissonance’, in Esther da Costa Meyer, Fred Wasserman, and Magdalena Dabrowski, Schoenberg, Kandinsky, and the Blue Rider (New York, 2003), 79–93 at 86. 47 Wassily Kandinsky, Complete Writings on Art (1901–1921), ed. Kenneth Clement Lindsay and Peter Vergo (London, 1982), 373. 48 Hugo Ball, The Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary, ed. John Elderfield, trans. Ann Raimes (1915; repr. Berkeley, 1995), 22.X (p. 37). 49 It is worth noting that Kandinsky’s paintings of 1913–14 are his most chaotic creations: they abound in blurry boundaries, energetic abstractions, and a colourful exuberance to which he was never to return. It is significant that it was one of these works that he entitled Fugue. 50 J. B. M. Janssen, ‘The Construction of Painting with White Form’, in Konrad Boehmer (ed.), Schönberg and Kandinsky: An Historic Encounter (Amsterdam, 1997), 1–8 at 2. Similar issues were raised in James Leggio, ‘Kandinsky, Schoenberg and the Music of the Spheres’, in idem (ed.), Music and Modern Art (New York, 2014), 97–128; Dabrowski, ‘Kandinsky and Schoenberg’; and the chapter ‘Convergences: Music and the Visual Arts’ in Walter Frisch, German Modernism and the Arts (Berkeley, 2005), 88–137, esp. 115–37. 51 Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In the first passage I used the English translation of the second edition in Kandinsky, Complete Writings on Art, ed. Kenneth C. Lindsay and Peter Vergo, i: 1901–1921 (London, 1982), 114–220 at 193. The second passage was not stated as tightly in the second edition, so I have used the translation of the first 1911 edition by Michael T. H. Sadler (Auckland, 2011), 108. 52 The scenario of the Flood would have suggested another potential locus for chaos, but although Castelnuovo-Tedesco employs fugato in his Hollywood-style saccharine setting, it accompanies the words ‘and thou shalt alight the ark’, thus connecting to traditional views of fugue-as-redemption rather than to the more modern meaning as diversity discussed here. His setting of the flood itself resorts to theatrical means akin to those used by Nielsen and Huppertz in their depictions of the confusion of Babel. 53 Jennifer Shaw, ‘Music and the Intertextualities of Listening, Performing and Teaching’, in Sally Macarthur, Judy Lochhead, and Jennifer Shaw (eds.), Music’s Immanent Future: The Deleuzian Turn in Music Studies (New York, 2016), 36–45 at 40. 54 Sabine Feisst, Schoenberg’s New World: The American Years (New York and Oxford, 2011), 103. 55 Arnold Schoenberg, Style and Idea, ed. Leonard Stein, trans. Leo Black (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1984), 248–9. 56 Willi Reich, Schoenberg: A Critical Biography (London, 1971), 215. 57 Carl Dahlhaus, ‘The Fugue as Prelude: Schoenberg’s Genesis Composition, Op. 44’, in Schoenberg and the New Music: Essays by Carl Dahlhaus, trans. Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton (Cambridge, 1987), 169–77 at 169–70. 58 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Carl Friedrich Zelter, Briefwechsel zwischen Goethe und Zelter, ed. Ludwig Geiger (Leipzig, 1902), 495. 59 Sabine Feisst, Schoenberg’s New World: The American Years (New York and Oxford, 2011). 60 J. B. S. Haldane, ‘The Origin of Life’, Rationalist Annual, 148 (1929), 3–10. 61 Heinrich Schenker, Counterpoint: A Translation of Kontrapunkt, Book I, ed. John Rothgeb, trans. John Rothgeb and Jürgen Thym (Ann Arbor, 2001 [orig. 1910]), i, p. xix. 62 Heinrich Schenker, Counterpoint: A Translation of Kontrapunkt, Book II, ed. John Rothgeb, trans. John Rothgeb and Jürgen Thym (Ann Arbor, 2001 [orig. 1922]), p. xvi. 63 Morton Gurewitch, The Ironic Temper and the Comic Imagination (Detroit, 1994), 121. 64 Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point (1928; repr. Urbana-Champaign, Ill., 2009), 23. 65 Ibid. 66 Aldous Huxley, ‘Pascal’, in Do What You Will (Garden City, NY, 1929), 251–331 at 331. 67 Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (London, 1972), 50–1. 68 Holly Rogers, ‘Death for Five Voices: Gesualdo’s “Poetic Truth”’, in Brad Prager (ed.), A Companion to Werner Herzog (Chichester, 2012), 187–207 at 190. 69 Lawrence Weschler, ‘Popocatepetl: A Noodling Reminiscence’, Threepenny Review, 92 (2003), 6. 70 Carmel Raz, ‘From Trinidad to Cyberspace: Reconsidering Ernst Toch’s “Geographical Fugue”’, ZGMTH-Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie, 9 (2012), 227–43 at 230. 71 Yoel Greenberg, ‘Parables of the Old Men and the Young: The Multifarious Modernisms of Erwin Schulhoff’s String Quartet’, Music & Letters, 95 (2014), 213–50 at 232. 72 The tradition of anthropomorphic maps is many centuries old, but it appears to have enjoyed a huge proliferation during and immediately after the First World War. For a collection of such maps see http://flashbak.com/12-satirical-maps- of-world-war-one-41903/. See also Roderick M. Barron, ‘Bringing the Map to Life: European Satirical Maps 1845–1945’, Belgeo,3–4 (2008), 445–64. 73 Ernst Toch, ‘Uber meine Kantate “Das Wasser” und meine Grammophonmusik’, Melos, 19 (Sept. 1930), 221–2 at 222. 74 The women’s chorus of Dallas perform an amusing illustration of the chaotic potential of the Geographical Fugue. See https://youtube/1bnM09XGy-U. 75 All the following biblical quotations are from Genesis 11: 1–9 (trans. New International Version) 76 The story itself has not had many musical reworkings, and curiously, the few that exist impose order upon the ultimate diversity. Anton Rubinstein’s Thurm zu Babel, Op. 80 (1870, the only 19th-c. setting of the story I have found, uses a heavily dramatized version of the story ending in a promise of renewal (‘We praise thou maker of all, thee, who world hath destroyed and new worlds dost create’). Ludolf Nielsen’s setting is a work of indifferent quality composed between 1912 and 1914, roughly following the biblical narrative during its first half, but then concluding with a ‘happy end’, in a second half dedicated to man’s ultimate reconciliation with God. Doubtless, Nielsen’s composition is to be understood in the light of his initiation in Freemasonry, which held the construction of the tower of Babel to be an inaugural moment. The Tower of Babel scene in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a free, socially aware retelling of the story by Maria, entirely altering the original biblical emphasis: the tower fails because there is no shared interest between the hands that built the tower and the brain that conceived it. Moreover, in the end of Lang’s Babel, people still speak the same language but nonetheless cannot understand each other. 77 Eric Walter White, Stravinsky, the Composer and his Works (Berkeley, 1979), 417. 78 Genesis 11: 9, King James Bible translation. 79 Mikhail Druskin, Igor Stravinsky, his Life, Works and Views, trans. Martin Cooper (Cambridge, 1983), 110. 80 Robert Craft, Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (Garden City, NY, 1959), 36. 81 Hermann Danuser (ed.), Die klassizistische Moderne in der Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts (Mainz, 1997), 331. 82 Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York, 1981), 364. 83 Arnold Schoenberg, ‘3 December 1912’, in Arnold Schoenberg, Ausgewählte Briefe (Mainz, 1958), 31. 84 Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna, 4. 85 Ibid. 362. 86 Friedmann’s ideas laid the foundations for the Big Bang theory, premonitions of which can be identified in Kandinsky’s ‘catastrophic collisions’. Ari Belenkiy, ‘Alexander Friedmann and the Origins of Modern Cosmology’, Physics Today, 65/10 (2012), 38–43 at 38. 87 Johnson, Out of Time, 54–5. Johnson provides an interesting contextualization of Beethoven’s chaotic fugues that complements my own one of the 20th-c. fugue. 88 Translation taken from Beethoven-Haus Bonn digital archives, www.beethoven-haus-bonn.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=15288&template=dokseite_digitales_archiv_en&_dokid=wm252&_seite=1-1. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Music and LettersOxford University Press

Published: Apr 2, 2018

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