D O C U M E N T 4 1 0 J A N U A R Y 1 9 2 5 4 0 5
410. From Arnold Schönberg[1]
Mödling near Vienna, 6 Bernhard Street, 1 January 1924
Highly esteemed Sir,
I am unfortunately compelled by the special nature of my position in the German
world of the arts to write the enclosed letter to Dr.
The wish to have
me disappear from there, to negate my existence, is as great as the number of those
who would, at best, eat their daily bread in tears if music liberated from tonality
proved to be viable. Once this umbilical cord, which today is connected not so
much to music as to musicians (and, as one should not fail to say, nourishes them),
is cut, German musicology, which considers itself today as a “cross” between mu-
sic and science, will only be a science, which it certainly barely was before. There-
fore the heated anxiety.
While I now count as the leading German musician, at least abroad, in Germany
they are incomprehensibly gladly prepared to give up this predominance in music,
if only it prevents my name from being connected with it. Therein, in this hatred
toward me, Jews and the resident swastika-bearers are of one mind.
Well, I have no reason to deprive this hatred, which lives off me, of its nourish-
ment; albeit neither do I have any interest in supplying it with fresh food. Nonethe-
less, it would never occur to me to endorse the tactlessness that sets my rank among
Jewish musicians lower than the one among all musicians. Whoever does not know
the rankings or is not in a position to apply them would have convenient recourse
to the alphabet. If, however, the latter is not adhered to, rankings are thereby ac-
knowledged, and then I am not so easily satisfied and exercise the broadest criti-
cism of this assessor’s authority.
On the issue itself I have to say that, to my knowledge, a Jewish music—artistic
music—currently doesn’t exist, even though, as I believe, all occidental music
makes reference to Jews and is indebted for its development, indeed, perhaps even
for its fundamental principles, to the Jewish character and spirit. On one hand, the
art of the Dutch recalls in many respects what one knows about the Talmud and
Kabbalah; and, on the other hand, we have gypsy music, partly produced by Jews,
as the counterpart to this cerebral art based on scientific and occult insights. Apart
from this (since it is a hypothesis whose proofs would not be easy to produce), there
is only German, Italian, French, etc. music written by Jews which therefore certain-
ly possesses Jewish traits. If one wished to stake a claim for it as Jewish music,
however, one would thereby, on one hand, be diminishing the above-described
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