Schoenberg’s Annotated Libretto of Erwartung as Analytic Guide

Schoenberg’s Annotated Libretto of Erwartung as Analytic Guide

Dr. Philip Fried

with translations from the German by Michael J. Spudic

Introduction   [presented April 12b 1992]

A serious title implies a dreary lecture, however the title “Schoenberg’s Annotated Libretto as an Analytic Guide” is not only serious, but also seriously misleading. My discussion of Schoenberg’s annotation to Marie (Mitzi) Pappenheim’s libretto may in fact confuse the the issues surrounding Erwartung even more. There is a simple reason for this, and that is: since I have so much material on Erwartung to present, I have chose ( or rather it was strongly suggested to me) that I present this particular aspect of my larger study. It is my intention to confine this paper solely to the issue of the annotated libretto. It is true then, that many questions thereby created will be answered by my larger study of Erwartung, if time permits I will answer those questions that are outside of the proposed topic.

The libretto is the creation of two people: 1) Marie Pappenheim whose handwriting appears on the left of the libretto, and 2) Schoenberg whose annotations appear on the right in addition to his editing of Ms. Pappenheim’s original ideas. (So, unlike Ezra Pound’s editing of Eliot’s The Wasteland, Schoenberg deletes his own annotations relating to any of Ms. Pappenheim’s texts that he omits). I must note at the outset that Ms. Pappenheim’s original poem includes no notated sections, so that the division into four scenes is Schoenberg’s own creation.

The annotated libretto is, on its own, a fascinating document. Yet, I hope to show that Schoenberg’s annotated libretto for Erwartung represents the only sketches known for the work, as the holograph first draft of the short score is almost complete in its entirety. The annotated libretto, however, not only features extensive text revisions, but seven musical excerpts with tempo and dynamics, and fourteen Roman numeral indications as well.

I originally intended to investigate in detail the meaning of the three elements that appear in this libretto: text, musical excerpts, and the 14 Roman numerals that appear, to see if they could shed any light on the completed work. Recently I became aware through Joe Auner, that Jose Laborda has already published these textual changes.i Fortunately for me, Laborda confines his study of the annotated libretto to the text changes alone (I refer to Laborda’s transcription in a translation into English by our own Michael Spudic). Since the text work is already done, that still leaves two more elements of the libretto to discuss: 1) the musical “sketches,” and 2) the Roman numerals. A study of the seven musical “sketches” in detail would bring us into another section of my work, “Compositional Procedures in Schoenberg’s Erwartung. “ Since this is outside this paper’s topic, I will save it for another time, and focus on The Roman numeral meanings.

Some Historical Questions

The exact date or dates of Mitzi Pappenheim’s libretto are not known, nor do we know when she gave the libretto to Schoenberg. David Hamilton, in his paper on Schoenberg’s first opera, quotes an interview by musicologist Helmut Kirchmeyer with Mitzi Pappenheim some 50 years after the composition of Erwartung.ii Kirchmeyer and Hamilton seem to imply that Schoenberg, who worked from an incomplete libretto, and composed a page at time as the pages were given to him. I am not reading from David Hamilton’s quotation of Helmut Kirchmeyer:

The sketchy historical record indicates that the designation, like the subject matter itself, originated with the text’s author Marie Pappenheim (1882-1966). “On a summer holiday in Steinakirchen in lower Austria, where Stein, Berg, Mopp, land other artists were staying near the Schoenberg and Zemlinsky families, Schoenberg suddenly challenged the young poetess: ‘ Then write me an opera libretto, young lady… Write whatever you wish, I need a libretto.’ Marie Pappenheim responded: ‘I certainly cannot write a libretto, at most I could write a monodrama… Two days later, Marie Pappenheim went to friends at Traunkirchen, and there wrote the libretto for Erwartung. She had experiences the forest a year earlier in Ischl, where every night around 10:30 she had to go through a stretch of dark forest on her way home; therein she found the plot of the drama. Lying in the grass, she wrote in pencil on large sheets of paper, and made no copy; she hardly read through what she had written, and expected that Schoenberg, whom she did not yet know very well, would surely make proposals for changes… Three weeks later, she returned to Steinakirchen, firmly believing that her poem was no opera libretto. But Schoenberg took it from her page by page (she wanted to correct it), and composed it immediately.”iii

These statements concerning Erwartung’s compositional genesis are ambiguous, in that according to Kirchmeyer Pappenheim does not say that Schoenberg composed it a page at a time, but, merely that he took it form her page by page. Dika Newlin, in her reminiscence of Schoenberg, implies the opposite; that Schoenberg had to stop composing Erwartung until Marie Pappenheim could agree to a revision. “When he was about halfway through he found something in the text that didn’t seem to fit the rest[!], so he lost a whole day correcting that. He had to write Marie P. about it and wait for her answer.”iv Perhaps these are the revisions that occur around Roman numeral V [p. 2413].

The “Freudian” connection.

One of the phrases constantly used in conjunction with Erwartung is that it is a “Freudian” drama. For example, Robert Craft states: “This first Freudian music drama was born in the barely credible span of seventeen days (August 27-September 12, 1909).”v Yet Craft also states that “no contact has been recorded between Schoenberg and Freud…, but the emotional climate of Freud belongs to this music by his contemporary and compatriot as to no other score before or since.”vi Perle and Antokoletz concur, when they describe the composition of Erwartung as coming from “…the Vienna of Sigmund Freud,” and further: “..the symbolism of Erwartung suggests roots in Freud’s Vienna…”vii John Crawford states: “Pappenheim’s libretto reflects the knowledge of psychology and psychoanalysis which she had gained as a medical student in the Vienna of Sigmund Freud (her relative, Bertha Pappenheim, was in fact the original subject of Freud’s case-history “Anna O”). viii This same information turns up in David Hamilton’s study.ix

Popular thinking frequently equates any psychological idea with things Freudian. This is a simplistic view, since psychology existed before Freud, and after. So, however attractive these analogies may seem to be, we have the right to question any assertions on the history of psychiatry, made my musicologists, theorists, or worst of all, composers. This is perhaps unfair, but I believe that the overemphasis on Freud has inhibited the study of Erwartung by limiting possible readings of the text. Further, Freudian interpreters have yet to provide convincing, thorough analyses.

On the Possibility of Understanding

Schoenberg’s own statement concerning Erwartung’s dramatic argument, “the whole drama can be understood as a nightmare”x is ambiguous enough to leave room for interpretation. But, recourse to the “Freudian” nature of the “nightmare” makes it extremely difficult to get a handle on what is happening on stage. In fact, it can preclude the possibility of understanding the action at all. For example, what can one make of a text where Antokoletz (Perle in a phone interview says that this article is Antokoletz’s) states: “The work is highly symbolic, metaphoric, and ambiguous in that we do not know whether what we see on the stage is supposed to be a representation of a series of events or of a dream.” This is echoed by David Hamilton, who after proposing a Wagnerian reading of the text states: In fact the reality of the entire action is ambiguous at least,”xi or, as the Opera News proposes Erwartung’s operatic argument: “Erwartung does not depict literal events…”xii Another possibility, is that Erwartung is an John Simon says: “…for the whole piece, except for a cry for help, [Erwartung] is an interior monologue.” xiii would point out that if it is only a dream, it’s a dream occurring in real time on a real stage, or, if it’s an internal monologue, it’s a particularly noisy one.

The focus on symbolism, Freudian or otherwise, in Erwartung is also overstated.xiv Schoenberg’s own statement implies that symbolism is not the only path to understanding Erwartung. Referring to the stage design of the forest: “But for that very reason [because the drama can be understood as a nightmare] it must be a real forest…”xv If we consider the work of Robert Donnington, a short list of opera’s without “symbolism” would be very short indeed.xvi Laborda in his example on page 47 points out that Erwartung is not a symbolic opera like Schoenberg’s The Lucky Hand.xvii This distinction between Erwartung as a psychological monodrama, and The Lucky Hand’s elemental symbolism is further supported by Charles Rosen who proposes, “The concentrated expressive force of Schoenberg’s atonal style is more at ease with the nightmare of The Woman in Erwartung… than with the idealist symbolism of Die Glückliche Hand.”xviii

A Visit

Michael Spudic, when he heard that I was interested in the subject of Erwartung, suggested that we visit the relative (a niece) of Mitzi Pappenheim, Else Pappenheim, a Viennese psychiatrist who now lives in New York. During that visit Else Pappenheim,, showed me letters that have a direct bearing on the question of the relationship of Freud to Marie (Mitzi) Pappenheim and the Schoenberg circle. It is a letter to her from a musicologist Mr. W, who was in Germany doing research on the “Freudian connection.” Mr. W was directed to Mrs. Pappenheim not just because she was related to Mitzi, but because of her expertise in this field of psychiatric history. To summarize Mr. W, he asks Elsa Pappenheim for the “smoking gun” that will directly prove all of his “Freudian” hypothesis (that is – he wanted J. Crawford’s above quoted remarks to be facts) and further, speculates that Mitzi Pappenheim, a skin doctor, began her medical studies late because she underwent psychoanalysis [PSA].

In answer to this request for a “smoking gun” Else Pappenheim gives Mr. Wickes both barrels, the bum’s rush, negatory, no way Jose, not, when fish walk, or to sum up n-o-spells no. This is an English translation by Michael J. Spudic of Else Pappenheim’s replay to Mr. W:

April 19, 1989

Dear Mr. W:

I have received your letter dated April 4, 1989, and will attempt to address the questions raised therein. I really do not know all that much more than my cousin, Prof. Chauffeur.xix I am writing in German, since you apparently intend to hold your lecture in that language.xx

Concerning Anna O. i.e. Bertha Pappenheimxxi: I believe her consanguinity within my family to be a legend, and I am uncertain as to when and by whom this fiction was raised. After Jones revealed their names, I received a few inquiries in the United States. Bertha P. was totally unknown to me, right up until the time of publication of the book by Hirschmüller. Neither my grandfather nor my father nor even that matter my aunt had ever mentioned any relatives at all. Only my grandmother had siblings in Vienna. Pappenheim is by no means a rare geographical name ( a small city not far from Nuremberg). Every pupil in Austria and Germany knows that “Pappenheimer” by Schiller in Wallenstein, and there is even a street bearing this name in Vienna. As to this day, I am only questioned about this by American,xxii never by Viennese. Irrespective of the question of blood relationship or not, how should my aunt Dr. Marie Pappenheim have known Bertha Pappenheim? Bertha Pappenheim was in a sanatorium in Kreuzlingen in 1882, the year of my aunt’s birth! Furthermore Bertha Pappenheim resettled permanently in Frankfurt as of 1888 (see Hirschmüller).[Albrecht Hirschmüller, author of several books and articles on psychoanalysis, Freud, and Josef Breuer]

It never occurred to me that my aunt graduated late; this is however easy to explain. My grandparents did not want that she should study, as they probably just could not afford this. She also did not attend high school (Gymnasium) and therefore had to study Latin privately, ultimately on her own, with the help of a sole, well-to-do maternal uncle; this uncle also provided her with shelter. Perhaps she was just able to finish by the age of 21, only after becoming of full legal age. This would then make sense, that she was only able to begin studying medicine at the age of 22 or 23.

Apropos Erwartung: I believe all this analytical hair-splitting is sheer mythology. I always held this idea [the Erwartung text] for a classic description of an acute hallucinatoric psychosis, described as “ametia” by the Viennese psychiatrist Meynert.xxiii My aunt certainly observed many such cases – as I did after her – in seminar courses. This brings me to the topic of “psychiatric schooling.” Every Viennese medical student was obliged to attend four semesters of seminars that comprised five hours of weekly lectures in psychiatry and neurology, which in turn involved case histories. Of course already earlier in time, men and women of letters have described such patients. Only to mention on example: Shakespeare’s Ophelia. Nothing is known to me concerning a psychiatric treatment or other such special concerns. In later years my aunt and her husband would joke about the PSA. It is true, Hermann Frischauf did attend Wednesday evening meetings in 1910/11, however his name fails to turn up anymore, this after being suggested for membership.

My father and my aunt stood close to one another, nevertheless my father came into contact with Freud, I believe, for the first time only after the war – and moreover, he was preoccupied through the course of his lifetime with more than just neurology. He as first inducted into the Viennese PSA in 1926.

I cannot say when the acquaintanceship was established between the Frischauf brothers and the Pappenheim family, in any case before 1914. They also had common friends. The marriage of my aunt to Dr. Hermann Frischauf only took place in 1918, because Hermann Frischauf, as well as my father, immediately had to report for duty at the outbreak of the war. Hermann Frischauf spent the course of the war in Russian captivity, caught already during the war’s initial phase.

As far as Schönberg’s relationship to the PSA and a possible medial treatment, I am duly unaware of this. That he knew people from the Freud circle to my mind proves nothing. Intellectual and artistic circles (also painters, architects, etc.) mixed freely with one another, to which incidentally also belonged disciples of Freud and Adler. This is also relevant regarding the PSA. The “Traumdeutung” (interpretation of dreams) has remained well into the course of the 20th century, a lively source for discussion, alongside with politics and art. Else Pappenheim M.D.

Though is is perhaps no surprise that Mr. W. never acknowledged Else Pappenheim’s reply, the lack of hard facts (or Else Pappenheim’s permission)hardly precludes the success of an analysis along these lines.

Are the Roman Numerals Inconsequential elements?

The question is, what is the meaning of the 14 Roman numerals that appear in Schoenberg’s annotated libretto? Can these Roman numerals offer the music analysts any guidance for a deeper understanding of the work? For example, do they relate to the text form, the musical form, or as a combined form? Perhaps these Roman numbers were intended more directly to relate to Marie Pappenheim’s original (as in this libretto and Laborda’s reconstruction) unedited poem. Perhaps then, the Roman numerals merely add another layer of complications, that in the end are only of historical interest and must be rejected. There is certainly reason to proceed with caution.

I suspect that these fourteen Roman numerals indicate text/musical sections which are confluent, yet independent from the four scenes. For example, Roman numerals I and II coincide exactly with scenes I and II. Are these roman numerals scene indications? The four scenes according to Schoenberg indicate three transformations of the stage set and woman (as the score indicates), and in each case as in scene one, “The Woman” starts off-stage! As part of Schoenberg’s editing process he removes all other off-stage motions. I will now refer to the annotated libretto. [in order to avoid confusion, I will not require you to follow Laborda’s transcription, but I will give page numbers that refer to the annotated libretto. You will have to trust me.]

Spudics No’s 115, page 2406 – [She crawls, once more concealed behind the trees.]

48, page 2412 – [along into the shadows]

57, page 2412 – [She lies in such a way that her body is in darkness. Her hair is fully undone, one sees almost nothing of her face.]

60, page 2412 – [She embarks further into the dark, …]

The Woman only goes off-stage during the change of scene, so the Roman numerals don’t indicate changes of scene.

If these Roman numerals are structural, are they equivalent structural values? Or, are some more important than others? I must point out that every work of Pappenheim’s poem that is not crossed out (and some of the poem that is, for example the end of Scene I) appears in the holograph and final score. My point is that these 14 Roman numerals are never crossed (see XII) even when they appear close to large text erasures (for example V). In such case, it seems obvious that the Roman numerals were mapped out before the text editing, yet the Roman numerals are not likewise moved or crossed out.

Is the Libretto a Compositional Sketch for Erwartung?

All Schoenberg’s annotations appear in the holograph and final score. These annotations, besides the textual revisions, provide minute tempo, dynamic and musical reactions to Pappenheim’s text, stage directions, and with some slight alteration five (or arguably six) of the seven musical “presketches?” that also occur in the libretto. Two questions arise: 1) If this libretto were used while he composed would there not have been similar cross out’s in the short score holograph, and 2) what would be the purpose of writing back into the libretto in minute detail, events that happen in the score?

Why am I belaboring the question as to whether of not this libretto is a sketch for Erwartung? The importance does become evident if we consider that if this is a sketch for Erwartung, perhaps the composition of Erwartung took longer than Schoenberg indicates in his short score holograph, which is well known, is dated, and almost complete in itself. Since there are no exact dates for the annotated libretto (other than the summer of 1909), questioning the official dates of the composition of Erwartung may be pure speculation. However, I seriously doubt that I have hurt Schoenberg’s reputation as the most important and influential composer of the 20th Century, by making him more human.

The Importance of the Text

Erwartung creates sonic form and obvious points of arrival without the need for obvious argument. Schoenberg not only wanted to free himself from tonality, but also from thematic-ism as well.xxiv If we consider, Schoenberg’s statement that musical length could not be achieved except by textual means it is possible to see Erwartung as perhaps the greatest (most important) work of tone painting of the century. Examples of tone painting are everywhere in the score, not to mention Schoenberg’s incredibly detailed reactions to Pappenheim’s text, shown in the right hand columns in his annotated libretto. Obviously, a close examination of the text to investigate its formal properties would seem in order. The Roman numerals, though removed graphically from the holograph short score, leave an indelible imprint in the composition because they seem to create textual/musical sections. From example, as Robert Craft states: “The Woman’s short hymn to her lover, for instance, in which she begs him to awaken, is even preceded by a formal introduction.” A look at example 1, will show that Craft’s hymn is Roman numeral XIV. It is possible to divide Erwartung into its 14 numbered sections described in Schoenberg’s annotated libretto, since other Roman numerals leave an unmistakable imprint on the score.

Understanding the Text, Some Possibilities

Now I would like to start with a clean sheet of paper and consider the following: In Erwartung we are constantly aware of The Woman’s reactions to both her “stage” environment and her internal one. Therefore, in Erwartung all events that occur on stage are “real” to The Woman. If Erwartung is a nightmare it is a real one. Let’s consider her reactions to: a) her physical stage environment; b) her memory or internal environment; c) time – for just like Schoenberg’s Gurreliede, Erwartung starts at night and moves to daylight.

Another idea to consider is the association of related text ideas such as different body parts, and what Leonard Meyer call a “quantitative complex” which is the idea of associating fear, death, night, etc. into a single related textual category (for a differing view see J. Crawfordxxv). The use of a quantitative complex would also create implied text repetitions, since all these associated text ideas would now be considered variants of the same idea.

Besides the quantitative complex, there are many occurrences of exact work repetitions. For example, immediate repetitions such as No, No!. In fact, text repetitions could provide long range associative connections. For example, the repetition of the phrase “for these days,” in Roman numerals VI and IX.xxvi One could say in these cases that a word, or a phrase can act as a “text motive.” The point is that even though the pitch motivic structure in Erwartung is subtle to say the least, the text ideas repeat again, and again, and again.

Laborda on Form.

Laborda finds Erwartung to have several different formal aspects: “Text Form” which is in two parts (1-157, 158-426) or as they would say in Hollywood – girl loses boy girl finds boy dead; and “Momente Form” in 53 sections, which can best be described as phrase form. Further, Laborda notes the intervalic relationships, the pitch domain, and separately the ostinatos.xxvii Each of theses elements is independent of the four formal scenes.

Schoenberg’s Text Editing

Most of the text cutting is a matter of paring down, and removing repetitions of ideas – a general tightening up of the text. However, as Laborda’s reconstruction of Marie Pappenheim’s uncut libretto shows, the text changes in several respects, most importantly in Pappenheim’s original it is more strongly stated the The Woman was present at her lover’s murder:

Spudic No’s (77-8, page 2416 – [With rolled up fists to the trees…the shadow of the grotto…the thieves nest…here he clasp the trunk…and then the [gun]shot…)

(Score reference m. 243, Nein, Nein.)

Schoenberg removes any notions that would reduce our understanding of the “story” to conventional horror; Schoenberg removes reference to social moderators, that is, wine.

Spudic No’s 46, page 2411 – [who drinks our wine?],

and more strongly

114, page 2423 – [I dream inebriated as if from wine]

The Woman is not drunk and disorderly.

Schoenberg also removes references to the spirit work or “ghosts” S.N.’s

28, page 2409 – [I dare not disturb the ghost…if only a cloud would appear]


30, page 2409 – [the ghost is evil.]

Though it is highly recommended that this woman receive therapy, obvious references to insanity such as: S.N.’s

29, page 2409 – [la, la, la, la] The Woman is not in La La Land

or shrieking:

26, page 2410 – [She falls down with a shriek]


60-[1], page 2414 – [shrieking…How horrible] m. 233 are also cut.

Of course, the removal of shrieking may have a practical side as any singer will tell you.

Certain crossouts are placed back in:

Scene 1, page 2402 – [The moon is filled with horror]; [Does it look inside] and [I will sing and then he will hear me].

Roman Numerals

The placement of the Roman numerals would suggest that the text editing occurred last. T his is because these numerals are frequently featured in proximity to extensive textural cross-outs and revisions: for example II, IV, V, VI, and VII. However, these Roman numerals also appear to be written over various tempos, dynamic, and musical indications: IV, VI, VII (music), I (?), VIII, IX, XI, XIV over text. There is no ambiguity in the numbering of these Roman numerals except for XI 9 (is it XII? I would argue a slip of the pen) and XII (2419) the only Roman numeral that appears to be crossed out. A close look at Roman numeral XII reveals that arrows relating to two text annotations:

Spudic No’s 98, page 2419 – [brooding and aufspringend (springing up) – which is preferred… (reference m308) are colliding over the numeral.

In any event these Roman numerals are clearly visible to the eye and none are crossed out. The only ambiguity of placement to be found is with Roman numeral I, which appears to start measure 27 (see 2402). I speculate that because of the difference in the quality of the appearance or Roman numerals I and II, as well as their position that Roman numeral I, was placed as an afterthought and is back relating to page 2401 9only XIV is placed to the left side of the page, and, even so, is not so close to the edge). It is fascinating to consider that there might be a “0” section from mm. 1-27, which seems unlikely.

If we consider the sketches for Erwartung, the score is almost complete at first writing; it is the annotated libretto that functions as a compositional sketch. The question of the meaning of any sketch material to a finished score, relies solely on the presence of the sketch material making an appearance in that score. It has been previously noted by two writers, Craft and Rosen, that Erwartung might have more sections than the score notes, Rosen states that Erwartung is, “…a series of miniature…”xxviii As I have shown, Craft’s introduction and hymn are confluent with the Roman numerals (XIV), however, whether they are a separate section is another question.

The Question of a Linear Narrative

The fact that many commentators believe that there is no linear narrative in Erwartung creates problems for the music analyst, for if there is no linear text continuity what about the music? Philip Friedheim in his musical discussion of Erwartung’s four scenes, describes the first 3 as introduction to the fourth scene, thereby implying a linear form.xxix Yet this leads us to other problems. Schoenberg himself sates that the story is a single moment expanded in Perhaps then, the libretto is a group of several simultaneous thoughts and ideas that are then expressed (by reason of a single singer [a monodrama]) linearly. Music does have the possibility of expressing several ideas at once (see for example, John Eaton’s opera, The Tempest) and Erwartung does have quite a large orchestra.

To consider the question of Erwartung as a narrative, an examination of the notes from Mitzi Pappenheim to Schoenberg (the reverse letters are not available) can be of some help. In particular, one note from Mittzi Pappenheim to Schoenberg (in response to a note from Schoenberg) several years after the composition of Erwartung , refers to an exact point in the libretto where The Woman discovers her lover’s infidelity, perhaps Roman numeral X, or from Mitzi’s original libretto, Spudic No. 103, page 2421 – [You had a way, which I was not familiar with, a woman, who was not permitted to have a notion of me…stranger, whom you concealed before me…] It is not difficult then to find a linear story.

The Roman Numerals Examined

I now propose to discuss the meaning of the Roman numerals for the text, and by extension, the music form of the complicated score. This would follow Schoenberg’s own statement; “…I discovered how to construct larger forms by following a text or a poem.”xxxi However, I must limit my comments to the text only, as the scope of my work precludes an in depth discussion of that aspect of Erwartung here. The point I want to make is that the Roman numerals encapsulate particular text ideas. I now draw attention to Example 1.

These Roman numerals are not of equivalent length, II and XIII are the longest, some are extremely short (VIII is only 4 bars long). As with the scenes, the Roman numerals do not follow Laborda’s two-part text form mm. 1-158, 159-426.

Roman numerals I and III are concurrent with the first two scenes. These two Roman numerals express similar text ideas as their first lines show: “Is it here?” and “Is this still the way.” In both of these Roman numerals The Woman mostly reacts to her stage environment. However, the last line of the text at the end of Scene/Roman numeral I, mm. 31-2, text Schoenberg originally deleted he puts back in: “I will sing then he will hear me.” This becomes the first explicit reference to the “man.” Roman numeral III comes in sooner than Scene 3, with the text “But you have not come” underlining another very unambiguous reference to “him.” As Roman numeral III is the largest section, it overlaps into Scene 4 encompassing The Woman’s finding the body m. 153-7, and her cry for help mm. 190-3, and finally, for this section, her attempt to revive him with her sexuality.

The next three Roman numerals come rapidly and make direct references to time, in various guises and brooding on “him;” IV, which is 3 bars long, I can quote in its entirety: “night will be over soon…you wanted me this night…” V, “Oh, it is daylight..” a hopeful moment, which dissolves in m. 233 “Oh, how rigid your eyes are” a short transition into VI “for three days you have not been with me…” and includes her anger and denial of his death starting in mm. 243 “No, No it’ snot true, how can you be dead…” This ideas is repeated at the beginning of Roman numeral VI, “Not true…is it not true.” The question of the “blood dripping with a light beat” (mm. 259-60) here, would seem to imply the He is not dead yet, but dying.

Roman numeral VIII, marks a move internally, in the annotated libretto it’s marked “fast unhorbar,” (almost inaudible) pp and ppp in the score (m. 263). “I will kiss it [the blood?] to the last breath…never let you go…” Roman numeral VIII overlaps directly into IX, “To look into your eyes…All light, indeed came from your eyes…” which takes us to the deepest point of her obsession, or at least the most Wagnerian part “now kissing you I kiss myself to death…” This is different from the end of numeral III, because instead of trying to revive Him with her (breast), she tries to use her sexuality to join him in death.

In order to carry the thread forward, I must now do some skipping around with your indulgence. Roman numeral X, “Where are you looking” (m. 275) introduces a new idea, that the man has a lover, but she can’t seem to remember. XI repeats the phrase “for three days…” from Roman numeral VI, in a different context (rather than pp, leading towards the climax at m. 289 “so often you didn’t have time in these last few months…” She denies his death (m. 293 “No, not possible”, remembers him alive (m. 296) and denies death again (mm. 304-7 “I don’t want it, no, I will not.) Roman numeral XIII picks up and expands the thread from Roman numeral X (m. 325) “Again you are looking there…” and make the “other woman” most explicit (. 326) “Where is she then?…” Now a digression: it is well known Schoenberg’s fascination for number play, and a certain superstition about the number 13. For example in the holograph score the pagination replaces the number 13, with page 13b. It is perhaps no coincidence that in Erwartung section XIII occurs in measure 313 with the following text “No, no…my only love, not that.” Actually this section has an even darker aspect, speaking of bad luck and troubles, in the Roman numeral XIII dwells almost exclusively on The Woman’s jealousy of this “other woman with white arms.”xxxii

I now return to Roman numeral XII, “why did they kill you…” which brings us to an important problem in Erwartung, since this is the only explicit statement of The Woman’s possible knowledge of “his” death. As I have shown, Schoenberg removed Mitzi Pappenheim’s other references, which made this more explicit. For example, on p. 2419 (Spudic No. 97) in the unedited text, it went as follows: [it was so turbulent…so extraordinarily tender…absent-minded] “Why did they kill you…” This might imply that the man was killed defending The Woman, and further, perhaps her trauma relates to her being raped as well [her clothes torn etc.]. Roman numeral XII’s shortness and integration into the general texture (6 bars with a bar and a half introduction), would seem to argue against its importance. Yet the Roman numeral and its important text idea would argue for it. Fortunately, that is not only decision, rather it is my pleasure to make known to you a fascinating aspect of Arnold Schoenberg’s work. I’m afraid that I must leave this question unanswered until I can discuss the musical construction questions at length.

Finally (or so we suppose), in XIV, as the sun rises, The Woman calls to her “beloved…” and forgets her jealousy. Her life came only from him (his eyes), now this light is denied her. AS she acknowledges the coming of morning (m. 404), moving through the song quotation noted by Buchanan, which leads us to her final plea: “where are you” (mm. 415-16).xxxiii From here to eternity, or the curtain, which ever comes first, adds another element of ambiguity. That is the final dissolve(?), the rising musical motion in m. 426, could indicate The Woman wakening from her [day]dream. Note that the text could indicate this: “Oh there you are (fff)..I was seeking (pp-apologetically?)”.

A Linear Possibility

To make a long story short, I am proposing that each of the roman numerals creates a boundary for particular text/musical ideas. Further, there Roman numerals could be grouped into a higher four part order as:

  1. I, II anxiety

  2. III, IX, disaster, and denial

  3. X-XIII, jealousy (anger)

  4. XIV, anguish (relief?)

This appears to be a linear narrative.


The question of this paper is a matter of the “Lucky Hand.” Though Jose Laborda had the same annotated libretto that I have, fortunately for me he did not respond to the Roman numerals, or investigate their formal possibilities. In this case I had the “Lucky Hand” to present this information to you. I must point out here that most of the articles criticized for their “Freudian” bias, were never intended as detailed studies, but only as attractive descriptions. My interpretations of Erwartung’s text, though based on new evidence are personal and not the only ones possible. It is important, however, to “reevaluate” our comfortably held notions or for that matter uncomfortably held notions of any work of art from time to time. That is the scholar’s trade.

Appendix 1

An English translation of all of Schoenberg’s deletions of Marie Pappenheim’s and Arnold Schoenberg’s original unedited libretto by Michael J. Spudicxxxiv


  1. Ich fürchte mich.. [I am afraid]
  2. Es rührt sich so vieles da drin [ So much is stirring inside there]




  1. Der Mond ist voll entsetzen… [The moon is filled with horror]
  2. Sieht der hinein? [Does it look inside?]
  3. Ich will singen, dann hört er mich… [I want to sing, then he will hear me]




  1. Nicht mehr das zischen der Sensen im gras und der Schritt der Pferde. [ No more the swishing of the scythe in the grass and the gallop of horses.]
  2. (sah) [looked]
  3. etwas [somewhat]




  1. Schwämme [Mushrooms]
  2. (Sie hält sich an einem Baustamm im Dunkel an, sieht hinüber.) [She halts in the dark at a tree trunk, gazes about.]
  3. (zusammenschreckend:) [startled]





  1. Ganz [Completely]
  2. (Der Wind lässt nach) [the wind subsides]
  3. Ah er zischt… er lacht wie eine Schlange…Still, da liegter… [Ah he hisses…he laughs like a snake…Motionless, there he lies…]
  4. (Sie schleicht, hinter den Bäumen gedeckt weiter. [She crawls, once more concealed behind the trees]
  5. (Rauschen. Sie hält an!) [rustling. She halts!]
  6. Rufst du?…Oh etwas bricht durchs Gras… [Do you call?…Oh something is emerging out of the grass]




  1. (Mondbeschiene) [Moon illuminated]
  2. (Links) [to the left]
  3. (es ist fast noch entsetzlicher heir als im Walde) [it is almost more frightful here than in the forest]
  4. (sich…) [itself]




  1. Die Strasse krümmt sich endlos [The path arches itself along endlessly]
  2. überall [everywhere]
  3. Nichts als [Nothing but]
  4. (Heftig entschlossen: Aber ich kann nicht zu lang ohne ihn sein) [Vehemenetly decided: But I cannot be without him for very long]




  1. (Aufschreiend) [Shrieking]




  1. Da…da [There…there]
  2. Ich wage es nicht, das Gespenst zu berühren…Wenn nur eine Wolke käme… [I do not dare to disturb the spectre…If only a cloud would appear…]
  3. la, la, la, la
  4. Das Gespenst ist boshaft… [The phantom is evil]
  5. (Eine Minute) [One minute] (note fermata!)




  1. (wieder) [again]
  2. (..bis ihr Kopf den Gegenstand berührt. . [..until her head touches the object]
  3. (Sie erhebt sich auf die Knie. tastet:) [She lifts herself up upon her knees. gropes:]
  4. (Es hat) [ It has]
  5. (Sie fällt mit einem Schrei nieder:) [She falls down with a shriek]




  1. Hilfe [Help]
  2. ..erliegt da..Ganz finster.. [he lies there..Totally dark]
  3. sieht [sees]
  4. (von ferne ferne) [from afar afar]
  5. (Kurze Pause) [Short Pause]
  6. Bis in die Stadt?.. [Until reaching the city?]
  7. (Verzweifelt um sich schauend,) [Confused, glancing around]
  8. mein [mein]
  9. (Fast wimmernd) [almost whimpering]
  10. Wer trinkt unsern Wein? (?) [who drinks our wine? (?)]
  11. Oh du..nur ein liebest Wort..Deine Augen nicht in den Himmel [Oh you..only a precious word..Your eyes not skyward]




  1. (entland in den Schatten) [along into the shadows]
  2. Mein Herz ist so heiss vom Warten…Alles ist für dich bereitet. Ich habe so lange gewartet..Die Nacht [My heart is so hot from waiting. I have waited so long..The night]
  3. Die Nacht ist bald vorbei.. [The night will soon pass..]
  4. mein Liebsger.. [my dearest]
  5. Über ihn gebeugt, küsst ihn) [bent over him, kisses him]
  6. Deine Lippen sind matt und schliessen sich nicht..Küss mich doch.. [You lips are faint and refuse to close…just kiss me..]
  7. []
  8. (Sie wirft sich ganz über ihn) [She throws her entire self over him]
  9. Ich liebe dich so sehr..Du bist heiss..heiss..Dein Atem… [I love you so much..You are breath…]
  10. Sie liegt so, dass ihr Körper im Dunkel ist. Das Haar ist völlig aufgegangen, man sieht fast nights von ihrem Gesicht. [She lies in such a way, that her body is in darkness. Her hair is fully undone, one sees almost nothing of her face]
  11. (Stille, wildes Atmen) [Hushed, wild breathing]
  12. So kalt?..Ach wie kalt du bist.. [So cold?..Ah how cold you are..]
  13. (Sie geht weider ins Dunkel, fährt zusammen.. [She embarks further into the dark, travels together..]
  14. (Sie stützt den Kopf halb auf den Arm) [She leans her head halfway upon her arm]




  1. (schreiend) [shrieking]
  2. …wie entsetzlich… Wie ensetzlich das ist. […how horrible…How horrible that is]
  3. Was sie in die Bäume starren..

Der Mond ist verzerrt wie vor

Schreck..offen wie im Hilferuf

Was haben sie dir getan

Oh du..du..ich war so friedlich..

Die zitternden Blätter vor dem Himmel…

dein Haar ist blutig..dein weiches braunes Haar..


[What they look at fixedly into the trees..

The moon is distorted as if from like in a call for help

What did they do to you

Oh was not here

The evening was so peaceful..

The quivering leaves before the sky…

your hair is bloody..your soft brown hair..


  1. Und Blut an meinen Händen.. [And blood on my hand..]

und Blut auf dem Boden.. [and blood on the ground..]




  1. Wer hat das getan?.. [Who has done that?..]
  2. (Aufspringend) [Leaping up]
  3. Wer hat das getan du?..Du bist dan Enzige hier du musst es wissen… [Who has done that, you?..You are the only one her you must know it..]
  4. (Mit drohenden Händen Zum House hinauf:) [with threatening hands Getting up towards home]
  5. (Traurig) [Mournful]
  6. Du boshaftes Steingesicht.. [You malicious face of stone..] Wie es die Lippen zusammenpresst..Grinse nicht deinem Ritteraltan.. [How the lips press not grimace you..with your knightly gallery..]
  7. (Plötzlich in sich Ganz versunken [Suddenly slumped in totally]
  8. (Wieder aufweinend:) [Again crying:]
  9. (Sehr traurig) [Very sad]
  10. (Zärtlich fragend:) [Tenderly questioning]
  11. Hast du von heir zu mir hinübergespäht? Hand über den Augen..heir in Schatten [Have you been spying on me from over here? hand over one’s in the shadow]




  1. (Mit geballten Fäusten zu den Bäumen hinauf) [With rolled up fists up to the trees]
  2. Die Schattenhöhlen..dan Räubernest..Hier drückte er sich an den Stamm..Und dann der Schuss… [The shadow of the grotto..the theives’ nest..Here he clasped the trunk..And then the shot…]
  3. …dein Schritt in Garten… […your footstep in the garden…]
  4. (in angstvoller Erinnerung) [in anguished memory]
  5. Oh, der Abdruck deiner Füsse im Grase..ganz früh, wenn du mich verliessest..Aber später stehen die Halme auf..dann kommt der Lä helle laute Schritte heiss der Tag

Aber doch sind immer deine Küsse auf meinem Lippen…die Süsse deiner Wort


[Oh, the imprint of your feet in the grass..very early, if you were to leave me..But later the stalks stand up..then comes the noise..such clear loud steps the day is hot

But still your kisses are always upon my lips…the sweetness of your words




  1. in mienem Herzen… [in my heart]
  2. (Stille, Träumen Angstvoll, mit gefalteten Händen:) [Quiet, dreams, anxious, with folded hands:]
  3. Wie ein Band auf der Brust. [Like a ribbon upon one’s breast]
  4. …das meine, sie wissen es nicht.. [..mine, they do not know it]
  5. (Sitzt halb auf, lieb kosend) [Sitting up half-way, fondling sweetly]
  6. Weisse Feur [White fire]




  1. und rote Glut… [and red passion]
  2. Nun werd ich mich nicht mehr an deinem Bilde müde küssen [Now I will not kiss to fatigue anymore your image]
  3. Sehr…Blick [Very…look]
  4. Was war nur [What was only]
  5. (Aufspringend:) [Vaunting up:]
  6. Wer hat dich denn getötet?.. {Who then killed you?..]




  1. Man haat dich nicht beraubt.. [One did not rob you..]
  2. (Sucht:) [Searches;]
  3. (Verzweifelt grübelnd:) [Confused brooding:]
  4. Es war so sonderbar zärtlich..abwesend.. [It was so extraordinarily tender..absent-minded..]
  5. (Wieder grübelnd) [Again brooding]
  6. Warum bist du nicht lebendig?.. [Why are you not alive?..]

Mit meinen Händen dich erwürgen [With my hands strangle you]

  1. (Von Ekel geschüttelt:) [From disgust agitated:]
  2. (Wieder fort) [Again onward]
  3. Ich will ihr Feuer ins Gesicht werfen… [I want to throw fire into her face…]




  1. Du hattest einen Weg, den ich night kannte, ein Weib, das mich night ahnen durfte..Fremde, vor denen du mich verstecktest.. [You had a way, which was not familiar with, a woman, who was not permitted to have a notion of me..Stranger, whom you concealed before me…]
  2. weiss [know]
  3. Kein Glück, kein Traum, keine Welt als du [No happiness, no dream, no world other than you]
  4. …immer zu deinen Füssen… [always at your feet…]




  1. (Sehr leise) [Very gently]
  2. Warst du sehr oft bei ihr?.. [Were you with her very often?..]

Während ich vor Sehnsucht verging?… [While I faded away out of yearning?…]

  1. Sie streichelt ihn wieder, über ihn liegend) [she strokes him again, lying over him]
  2. Konnte sie dich küssen wie ich?..(hat) sie dich so liebkost?.. [Could she kiss you like I?..(did) she fondle you so?..]
  3. (wieder eifersüchtig) [again jealously]
  4. Oh, liess dich ihr Blick erzittern..wie mich der Deine?..Ihre Bewegung nicht war..wie Feuer..oder Betäbender Duft.. [Oh, did her glance leave you mine for you?..
  5. ..und deine Lüge [..and your lies]





  1. Ich träumte berauscht wie von Wein.. [I dreamed as if inebriated from wine..]


Example 1


Roman Numerals (with first line of text) Scenes
I (2402 mm. 1-37

Hier heinen?” [Is it here?]

1 mm. 1-37
II (2402) mm. 38-68

Ist das noch der weg?..” [Is this still the road?]

2 mm. 38-89
III (2403) mm. 69-221

Aber du bist night gekommen” [But you have not come]

3 mm. 90-124

4 mm. 125-426

IV (2412) mm. 222-224

Du wolltest doch bei mir sein diese Nacht.”

[Yet you wanted to be with me this night]

V (2413) mm. 225-234

Oh! es ist heller Tag..” [Oh! It is broad day]

VI (2415) mm. 235-254

Drei Tage warst du nicht bei mir” [Three days you have not been to me]

VII (2416) mm. 254-262

Nicht ist nicht wahr” [Not true.. is it not true?]

VIII (2417) mm. 263-266

Ich will es Küssen” [I want to kiss it]

IX mm. 266-274

In deine Augen sehn” [to look into your eyes]

X (2418) mm. 274-283

Wohin schaust du?” [Where are you looking]

XI (2419) mm. 284-306

Und drei Tage” [And for three days]

XII (2419) mm. 306 1/2-313

Warum hat man dich getötet?” [Why did they kill you?]

XIII (2419) mm. 313-388

Nein, Nein..mein einzig Geliebter.. das nicht” [No, no my love..not that]

XIV (2433) mm. 389-426

Liebsger, Liebster..” [Beloved, beloved]

(English by Louis Stanley)





iJose Maria Garcia Laborda. Studeien Zu Schoenberg’s Monodram Ewartung Op. 17, Laaber-Verlag (1981)

iiDavid Hamilton. “Schoenberg’s First Opera: Erwartung” Opera Quarterly, VI/III (1989): 48-58

iiiDavid Hamilton notes in his footnote #6 that Schoenberg’s pupil Egon Wellesz said that Pappenheim “received the idea from Schoenberg;” see his Arnold Schoenberg (London: J. M. Dent, 1921), p. 28 “These statements suggest that Pappenheim’s account, was, at least, incomplete”

ivDika Newlin. Schoenberg Remembered: Diaries and Recollections (1938-1976), New York: Pendragon Press, 1981, p. 211

vRobert Craft. “Notes to the Music of Arnold Schoenberg, Vol 1, Columbia Records, 1963

viHeart and Brain in Music, Style and Idea: Selected Writing of Arnold Schoenberg., ed. Leonard Stein (New York: St. Martin’s Press 1965), p. 55, Schoenberg claims to have written Erwartung in 14 days.

viiNotes To Erwartung and Bluebeard’s Castle: State bill of the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (January 1989).

viii John Crawford; “Schoenberg’s Artistic Development to 1911,” Arnold Schoenberg Wassily Kandinsky Letter, Pictures and Documents, Farber and Farber 1984, London/Boston.

ixDavid Hamilton, “Schoenberg’s First Opera, The Opera Quarterly, Vol. 6, Number 6, Spring 1989, pp. 48-58.

x1930, letter to Ernst Lagal, The Kroll Opera Director, included with the libretto, Belmont Music Publishers

xivis. fft.


xiii John Simon, Hearts of Darkness: Stage Bill vis. fft.

xiv J. Crawford. The Relationship of the Text and Music in the Vocal Works of Arnold Schoenberg, 1908-1924

xvviz. fft. 7

xvi Robert Donnington. The Opera and Its Symbols

xvii vis. 1

xviii Charles Rosen. Arnold Schoenberg, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ. 1981, p. 16For a complete transcription in German see Laborda.

xixMitzi’s son who is a professor of medicine currently residing in Vienna

xxThe correspondent, a musicologist, was residing at the time in Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany

xxiThe issue at stake here is the commonly held belief that Bertha Pappenheim, the original of Freud’s case-history “Anna O.,” was indeed a relative of Drs. Marie and Else Pappenheim

xxii Mr. W. is not American.

xxiii Pronouncements on music by psychiatrists may also be questioned.

xxivStyle and Idea, My Evolution, p. 88, “In fact, I myself and my pupils…believed that now music could renounce motivic features and remain coherent…”

xxv Ibid.

xxvi Also see the libretto p. 2407

xxvii His organization of the ostainatos are quantitative not qualitative

xxviii Vis. fft. 14, p. 56

xxix Philip Friedhaim, “Rhythmic Structure in Schoenberg’s Atonal Composition,” JAMS XIX, I (1966)

xxx “In Erwartung the aim is to represent in slow motion everything that occurs during a single second of maximum spiritual excitement, stretching it out to half an hour. Style and Idea, “New Music: My Music.” p. 105

xxxi Arnold Schoenberg, Style and Idea, “Composition with Twelve Tones,” p. 217

xxxii Hamilton relates this reference of a woman with white arms to other Irish legends. It can also be brought back to the Greek Goddesses, see Richard Lattimore’s Homeric translations.

xxxiii H. H. Buchanan, “A Key to Schoenberg’s Erwartung, “ in JAMS XX, (1967), pp. 434-49



Velocity and Metric Class as Formal Determinants in Milton Babbitt’s Third String Quartet



Analytic Chart description (figure 1, 1-10)

From top to bottom, on the left side:

1. PC Arrays (Arnold and Hair)
2. Rhythmic Arrays (Arnold and Hair)
3. Metric Class with bar numbers
4. Time Point Unit. Bracketed where more than one unit occurs in a single Metric Class (meter)
5. Exact start and stop of the time points (durations). It does not always agree with the changes in metric class (meter) and sometimes occurs within the metric class. notice the vertical lines in the 2/4 sections mm.n78-161 and 367-424. Also the lack of vertical lines in mm. 307 and 337.
6. Bridge/Overlap (my terms) A bridge, in [brackets],is an area between two time point units (notes in the rhythmic organization) where neither asserts itself, but another larger “combinatorial” unit acts as an transition. Overlap is where a time point unit (note) operates in a metric class (meter) its not suppose to.
7. Total bars of the Rhythmic Field (my term), or time point units.
8. Asserted Form (my term) for the form created by the varying intensities of the time points.
9. The Relationship between the time point units derived from my “Rhythmic fields.” The eight time point velocity set members are assigned a level number and a transposition letter (see 11, on this chart) Two exact transpositions are shown with the above sideways brackets.
10. Activity level. The hairpins “<” and “>” show the relative increase and decrease in surface activity. “A” is for active, “Less” is less, “Very” is very Active. “Mixed” has starts and stops. There is a correlation between changes in the “rhythmic field” and changes in surface activity in almost all cases. Activity includes: attack and release points(durations), sustains, and multiple entries.

addenda for Babbitt Chart

11. A key to the rhythmic fields similar to example 9.   From the original holograph chart.  The 32nd notes are 0, 16th are 2, 8th notes are 4.  Duple is a quintuplet b, triplet c, septuplet d.  The reason the 5 subdivision seems to come before  the 3rd is that this chart goes from left to right in order of duration length.  

October 6, 1991 version

Velocity and Metric Class as Formal Determinants in

Milton Babbitt’s Third String Quartet

by Philip Fried

The original topic of my paper was “velocity and meter as formal determinants Milton Babbitt’s Third String Quartet.” But since few in this audience know much about my methods and interests, I was asked by the Chair to prepare a general overview of my work. This is, of course, good for you but difficult for me as I now must present an analysis and a theory (really a theory in progress) in the same (short) time.

Such discipline, however, is good for the soul, and so I state my interests thus: it is my preference to analyze 20th Century music using a method centered on deducing formal elements from the most apparent surface redundancies, their repetitions, and transformations.

I would describe this technique as an investigation of surface content. As a method its analytic predecessor would be thematic analysis. One important point to consider, is that my surface contents method is not primarily pitch based (in the case of the Third Quartet, Babbitt himself notes the difficulty of hearing the pc arrays). What I present will see to be a rhythmic analysis of the Third Quartet, but that is only because I would start an analysis with the most sharply defined features of a given work.

Arnold and Hairi, who define the form of the Third Quartet by its pc arrays, as does Babbitt himself, also point out in their study that rather than pitch, it is “the rhythmic plane with its frequent changes in velocity that is the most sharply defined feature of the quartet.” So, the surface changes in “velocity” will be my starting point for my analysis. The problem with confronting this issue, is the fact that the pc array is deemed more important structural aspect by Babbitt himself.

However, I fee certain advantages to this method of analysis for recent 20th century music: 1) I content that surface content, if it is truly a description of the most salient aspects of a work, would be audible; 2) Since surface content does not primarily involve pitch it is confluent with pitch based analysis, both forte and 12-tone set theory.

The main pitch study of the Third Quartet, which I will refer to, is by Arnold and Hair. It is an important work, in it they elucidate the pc array, the rhythmic aggregate and the various lynes and so define the Third Quartet’s form. However, I intend to use the Meter and its related Velocities (which I state are audible) to define the form of Babbitt’s Third Quartet, hence my analysis will not necessarily differ from theirs, but rather than contradict their findings complement them. Further, since Arnold and Hair show the complete unfolding of the pc array and rhythmic aggregate, I will use their examples for constant reference, since it is not my intention to avoid comparison, but rather to show how these same elements (the pc array, rhythmic aggregate and the 8 lynes) can take up different meanings in the context of surface content (surface audibility).

Arnold and Hair (as well as Babbitt) divide the work into 4 main parts relating to the array structure “four main parts (for each of the array dimensions…)” In my figure 1: 1) the top line, represents the four pc array parts, 2) represents the rhythmic structure which is isomorphic to the pc structure, (it’s first two parts). Further, figure 1-8, and 9 shows the contrast created when the pc arrays are “draped”over the time point velocities, that causes different “rhythmic fields” to become apparent. 3) Surface content, is not a composer specific method. So my language will attempt to be general in nature.

The difficulties for a surface content approach are obvious, in that all sound compositions are known to have pitch, but not all sound compositions are known to have “thematic material.” Traditionally pitch analysis and thematic-ism have always worked together (ever Schenker referred to thematic material). Even when there is ambiguity between the two, it is always a point of passionate interest to theorists, and significant others.

Originally, I wanted to show that “Groves”was wrong about the time point system being inaudible, and that it’s audibility had important formal consequences for Babbitt’s Third Quartet. And so we begin…

The question of formal principles in Babbitt’s music, specifically in his Third Quartet, may be formulated in this manner: how is form to be perceived in a work where thematic-ism has been dissolved? In this work, Babbitt does not use the repetition of row forms to articulate macro form. As Babbitt remarks in the notes to his 1972 Turnabout recording,ii the Third String Quartet “does not instance any surface ‘formal’ pattern created by conjoined repetitions within and among [its] musical dimensions.”iii Pitch Classes, though repeating within the large arrays (P, I, R, RI)iv, have no reappearance of prime or pitch areas that would delineate from. It is a “completely, though by no means excursively, polyphonic [work],”v strictly ordered to form 12-tone aggregates (280n of them to be exact) that are not set out in any way that would make them an “event.”

This is also true of the larger aggregate sections as they are all integrated into the larger polyphony. Here, rhythm is controlled by a rhythmic aggregate which is isomorphic to the pc array,vi i.e., it follows the pc arrays (more on this later). If we understand rhythm as coordinated groups of pulsations,vii rhythm does not exist here, at least in the traditional sense, as Babbitt has dissolved any surface activities such as motives or developmental procedures. Therefore, how can we perceive from in this ? Babbitt himself states that the four pc array areas (P, I, R, RI) are referential: “…within the familiar transformations – the linear disposition and the ordering of the pc classes, the linear constituency of the aggregates and the order of aggregate progression of the [four] sections are identical.”viii Yet, Babbitt also states “this parallelism [between the four arrays] may not be completely obvious on first hearing because of these degrees of reinterpretation [of the musical material].” The key to an understanding of the audibilityix question as it pertain to Babbitt’s music lies in a special by-product of the time point system as it is used in the Third Quartet.

A Question of Audibility

The New Grove states that the time point system is inaudible.x The primary function of the time point system is to create durational relations between the notes that would correspond to the serial pc dimensions, i.e., the rhythmic aggregatexi. The rhythmic aggregate is a durational set, yet the time point system has the following property: it can be seen and heard as a collection of possible attack and release points within the measure. The time point system is not, then, a strictly durational set. Even in Composition for Four Instrumentsxii you can find a similar technique in that contrasting sections are built up from different modulo durations.


My Example 1 shows only five of the many possible interpretations of the rhythmic aggregate durations between time points 0 and 4 (I have excluded all other factors, such as articulation, which would complicate matters). Though each of the five parts of example 12 are allowable according to the time point system, it is difficult to hear them as equivalent because the durations are different in each case. However, there is no problem hearing these durations as being different. Example 1-5 has a special property for obscuring audible durational relationships, in that it extends time point 0 further in time, than time point 4. This happens quite frequently in the music itself, as we will see later.


If you look at my Example 2, you will see the durations of 0,4 from my example 1-4. I have listed the different durational possibilities for these time-points as they would change with every change in velocity of the Third Quartet.xiii If we assume a steady tempo,xiv it is easy to notice that events happen six times faster in the 2/8 meter than in the 6/4 meter. Metronomically speaking six times faster is a very significant change. You will hear an immediate difference, even at twice as fast. As in example 1, the time-point attacks of 0 and 4 are still a constant in each case, even though each change in the time point “velocity” has changed their duration. That means that each measure’s notated meter (with the exception of the 2/4 and ¾ meter) becomes a frame for defining the “velocity” of its time points, i.e. how the measure is divided into twelve. (The complexity of the surface would argue against describing velocities as merely tempo changes, because, velocity is not motor rhythm. As release points (durations) are variable, and further, even the slowest velocity (an eight note equals metronome 144( is so fast as to be out of character with the quarter). Furthermore, if you take a hypothetical row (assuming that we use time-point system as it is used in the Third Quartet, where meters of different length can control equivalent space) unfold it over different meters – e.g., 64 then 2/8, ex. 3 – you can also hear a difference. This is because the events (the pc/rhythmic aggregates) altered by the velocities, would happen six times as fast in a 2/8 bar than in a 6/4 bar.xv It is this audible contrast of the rate of events that is directly tied to the changes in meter and the velocities within the meters.


The us of the time-point system in the Third Quartet is a fusion of an older practice as, for example, in Three Composition for Piano, where the rhythmic sets are groupings of a constant modulo; the 16th note attack unitxvi (see West.), so are as time-point units are (here) interpreted as a single velocity. It is important to note that, in the time-point system, the use of a single rhythmic unit as a “background? For rhythmic events in no way implies a steady pulse.xvii In Babbitt’s early Three Compositions for Piano, from 1947-8, there is a constant reiteration of a modulo (16th) so that there is constant motion, pulse, and motor rhythm (really pulse rhythm) that does not appear in Babbitt’s Quartet No. 3 (of for that matter even in his Composition for Four Instruments). Though the velocities are constantly reiterated, the time-point “minimal duration” is not.

Since I propose that this aspect of the time-point system, the change in the rate of events, is audible, it will be the focus of this article to describe how the contrast and repetition of velocities and their interaction with meters (which I call “rhythmic fields,)”xviii create form.

The Rhythmic Field

I have shown the possibility of hearing contrasts among large-scale changes in notated meter, and their time-point velocities. But, what happens within these sections themselves? I propose that these sections are to be understood as a rhythmic field in Babbitt’s Third String Quartet. “Rhythmic” because it is not just made up of velocities but also of durations, as well as other factors; and “field” because of the sporadic (start and stop), but not static, nature of the musical material.

Sporadic Events

Babbitt’s variations and integration of musical materials disrupts any feeling of reference we might hear or feel. I have already spoken of the lack of coordinated surface (rhythmic) events. Further, each time-point velocity is associated with one of eight lynes of dynamics, and, as there is a constant change of dynamics, there is therefore, a constant change of accent.xix This particular technique of accent articulation cannot in any way be construed in a traditional way since it throws off any attempt to feel a regular pulse,xx since the dynamic lynes do not always coordinate with the notated meter (mm. 2-7, 9-11). Andrew Mead in his example 10, my example 4, shows a surface accent pattern (see his arrows) based on metric position (time-points 0 and 4), overlaying the notated 3/8 meter. His arrows show that the 3/8 metric patterns shift in mm. 2-5 and dissolve in mm. 5-6. this shifting metric pattern shows another aspect of the sporadic surface.


The question concerning meter in Babbitt’s music can be divided into two parts: 1) the generative nature of time-points to meter and 2) the question of the audibility of meter itself. Meter alone does not account for all the changes in the time-point set. Even though I find sixteen velocity subdivisions in this work, as there are sixteen occurrences of meter (who’s interactions I call “rhythmic fields”), they are not are related directly to changes in meter. For example, there are divisions with a meter (2/4), mm. 78-166, 366-424, and meters that don’t assert their own time-point units, such as mm. 304, and 307.

Babbitt’s own definition of the function of meter within the time-point system is “…a measure divided into twelve equally spaced time-points with the metrical signature probably [italics are mine] determined by the internal structure of the time-point set (example 9), and with the measure now corresponding in function to the octave in the pitch class system.”xxi

This raises several points; 1) that we should examine the structure of the time-point sets (example 9), and 2) that the measure has an octave function, so that measures of different length are in most cases equivalent (see ex. 3). Babbitt’s “probably” leaves the question of the “primal” time-point set/metric relationship open.xxii However, Babbitt clearly states that there is a close relationship between the notated meter and the time-point set – “…It is necessary merely to embed it (the time-point set) in a metrical unit, a measure in the usual musical metric sense [my italics], so that a recurrence of succession of time-points is achieved, while the notion of meter is made an essential part of the systematic structure.”xxiii This does not however explain how several different velocities can inhabit a single meter and thereby create division within a single meter. Further, a surface analysis reveals transitional areas between the termination of one velocity and the start of another (see Bridges). There are also measures where velocities appear where they don’t belong (m. 307). (It’s a difficult life for a velocity.)

Metric Audibility

The question of metric audibility in Babbitt has been addressed directly by two theorists, Andrew Mead and Joel Lester.

Joel Lester. “Notated and Heard Meter” PNM, 1986, vol. 24. pp. 116-127. Lester notes the difficulty, if not the impossibility, as a performer of imparting to an audience the various set durational (distance) relationships between the notes in Composition for Four Instruments and Aria da Capo. Lester describes the duration set in Composition for Four Instruments (p. 122), and concludes that this destroys pulse and , further, (tonal?) meter itself. “…Without powerful effects on the arrival of an expected event on a predictable time-point or of the syncopated placement of strong accentuations off the bear, there is a sense in which the impulses are not moored to a larger system of measurement… I believe that the rhythmic notations of the Babbitt compositions … cannot reliably be considered accurate representations of the perceived metric structure of this music, and cannot be considered accurate representations of the perceived durations [my italics] of the individual tones.”

I agree with Lester (particularly concerning pulsations,xxiv since Babbitt does not compose “thematic event” music at t his time), but, find that I don’t require such strong medicine as Lester. The fact is that composers today use a wide variety of rhythmic styles within our notational limits, and our notation, with its inherent redundancy has the ability to allow all of them. So, specifically in Babbitt’s music I hear changes in the rate of events and intensity relating to the velocity and clusters (more on this), rather than to traditional rhythm and pulse. It is through this transformation of familiar elements that Babbitt has found a new way to use rhythm and meter, one which I call a rhythmic field.

Andrew Mead, “About About Time’s Time: A Survey of Milton Babbitt’s Recent Rhythmic Practice,” PNM 25, nos. 1-2 (Winter/Summer): pp. 182-235. Mead’s article is a direct response to Lester concerning the existence of pulse in the works of Babbitt that Lester describes in his article. Referring to the Third Quartet: “There is a single pulse maintained throughout the work, through a variety of metrical interpretations (p. 226).” Furthermore, he finds major “pulse-affirming” elements in Babbitt’s Third Quartet, i.e., the downbeat. For example, he states (p. 195), “ a high percentage of bars have clearly articulated downbeats…” On p. 227 he states “…the downbeats of many measures are clearly articulated.” This can be related to Mead’s suggestion that within Babbitt’s music there is (non-traditional?) metrical hierarchy (p. 198). “One a pulse pattern or meter is established, there is also established an a prioi hierarchy among the elements that drastically alters many of the concepts of equivalence applied to twelve-element theory in the pitch domain. This difference necessitates new ways of thinking about structures translated into the rhythmic domain.”xxv

Although I agree with Mead’s defense of Babbitt, I feel that a question must be raised: Is pulsation, or audible pulsation, necessary for musical coherence?xxvi I say no.xxvii Strong metrical regularity is not consistent with the generally acknowledged audibility problems posed by Babbitt’s Third Quartet. However, the surface of the quartet does sound sporadic and irregular (as Mead’s own example shows). If pulse or meter are so obscured by the musical surface as to be made inaudible, their traditional functionality is removed. This does not dispute Mead’s ideas about metrical hierarchy in Babbitt, but rather sows why hierarchy based on metric position has a hand in its own dissolution (as Mead says “…necessitate[ing] new ways of thinking”). It is for that reason I define rhythm as a rhythmic field, and I would suggest calling the notated meter metric classxxviii. Of course this does not preclude any composer from using traditional rhythmic means.

Tempo Factors

The quartet has only one tempo, a quarter note = ca. 72, and there are not tempo alterations such as rit. or accel. Which might alter the aural effect of pc aggregate/rhythmic field intersections. A steady rate of attack points per measure would be a minimum requirement to bring out audible changes within the rhythmic field. Obviously, if there are more attacks in faster sections, these differences would be more pronounced (Since I have no time to reference figure 1-10 Activity Levels, we must make due with the more ruthless example 5). Furthermore, the relationship between tempo and meter is analogous to the relationship of the meter and the velocity, that being one constant and one variable, constant tempo (quarter note = 72) and changing meter, constant velocity and different durations.

About the Rhythmic Aggregate

Example 6a shows the first three pc/rhythmic aggregates of the Third Quartet, and how they are translated into music surface, ex. 6B, in measures 1-18. Note that ex. 6B, in order to conserve space, is not to the exact proportions; ex. 6B is marked by measure numbers which coincide with the rhythmic aggregate on the left side, exactly, and then move to the right. Some measure numbers are added underneath certain rhythmic aggregate members as well. The eight orchestrational/registral lynes of the pc aggregate are not translated into eight dynamic lynes of the rhythmic aggregate (see left hand side of the example). The notes that are boxed are the “wrong notes” mentioned by Arnold and Hair,xxix (refer back to example 6a).


Comparing examples 6a and 6b, one is struck by the amount of repetition of the rhythmic aggregate members, harking back to my example 1-5. For instance; in rhythmic aggregate 1, time-point 4 extends past time-point 9. Arnold and Hair point out that the rhythmic aggregate unfolds at a slower rate than the pc aggregate. This is facilitated by consistent repetition of rhythmic aggregate members (and their eight related dynamic lynes) in a way not found in the PAC As Babbitt says,xxxi “Repeated time-points…must not be regarded as analogous with pitch repetitions. (Pitch repetition is not a pitch procedure, but a temporal one.) The repetitions… are analogous to the representation of a pitch class by different ‘registral’ members of that class.” It is this constant repetition of the rhythmic aggregate members by “register” that interferes with the time-points being aurally understood as distances between the rhythmic aggregate members.

Hearing the Rhythmic Aggregate

The rhythmic aggregate (as the pc aggregate) is not set out in any way that would make it an aural event. Though rhythmic aggregate 2 (6a, 6b), with its stronger dynamic package, appears on time-point 0 or m7, ff, it cannot be construed as an audible “event” because stronger dynamics have just taken place in m. 6 (that is where, rhythmic aggregate 1 ends on time-point 11 fff). The point being that rhythmic aggregate 2 is not differentiated by dynamics or the previous orchestration which continues. Further, note that in m. 11 aggregate 3 overlaps aggregate 2 so there is a smooth transition between them.

Aural Changes within the Fields-Clusters

I propose that it is possible for several different lynes of the serial dimensions, to come into such close proximity that they seem to work in concert to create an audible “event,” which I call a “cluster.” I contend that it is not any one event or lyne, or any coordinated predictable rhythmic events that is important, but rather a group of related events or lynes that become referential entities, that is they stick out.

Just as the change in metric class and velocity create contrasting elements within the macro form, so do clusters of high or low intensityxxxii within fields become apparent on the small scale. For example, the opening of the Third Quartet (mm. 9-11 as far as its time-point 4) may be analyzed as a cluster of high intensity. Intensification of dynamics is accompanied by an increase in the time-points attacked (unison count as one) per measure (see example 7), followed by a cluster of low intensity.


Clusters can appear on the pc plane as well. Even though repetitions of the twelve notes are hidden by continuously varying their register and orchestration, even at the start, Babbitt’s Third Quartet has repetitions of pitch classes in the same register, by the same instrument, an with the same orchestration. These repetitions are mostly hidden by the complex surface, yet, when the surface clears, they can become audible as a cluster of p(itch)/r(egistral) reiteration (see examples 8 – Violin II, mm. 51-54; Violin I, m. 61, mm. 70-71, and mm. 190-192.)


The Time-Point Set


If we look a little closer at the time-point system, we can examine the eight time-point (set) units themselves, and see their inter relatedness. This explains why, in example 9, I have organized the time-point set into “rhythmic levels,”xxxiii or by 2/1 relationships (vertically), and by sequential “rhythmic transpositions” (duple, quintuplet, triplet, septuplet, left to right).xxxiv Further, each velocity is related to a particular metric class, as I show in example 10.

For ease of discussion, I have translated the time-point set of example 9, using a “movable do” concept in example 10. I translated the thirty-second note to a0, since it is the first time-point subdivision (“a” for first, and also since it is in this work, the largest durational type), and “0” for the smallest level. For those reasons I have given it priority for this quartet (other works would have other criteria. I call the sixteenth note a2 (or “a” twice as slow(, the eighth note a4 (four times as slow as a0), all or these having the 2/1 “rhythmic level” relationship, and, for that reason, all appear in the same column in examples 9 and 10. I call the triplet thirty-second note c0, the triplet sixteenth, c2. Etc. Again, this shows the relationship between the “rhythmic transpositions”: slower to the left, faster to the right – sixteenth note, sixteenth note quintuplet, sixteenths triplet, sixteenth not septuplet, or a2, b2, c2, d2. These relationships have some meaning as Babbitt uses b2, c2, and d2, all in the same 2/4 metric, class showing a close association of the sixteenth note level.


However, a few more aspects of the relationships between the time-point set units need answers. Are all these units expressions of a single rhythmic idea? To argue this point (affirmatively), I would point out that the sixteenth note (a2) is transposed three times to b2, c2, d2, and it is the only time-point transposition to appear on rhythmic levels b and d. It also appears in three different rhythmic levels, and has a habit of showing up where it “doesn’t belong,” such as mm. 307, 434, etc. On the other hand, it is true that the thirty-second note a0 is our first time-point unit.


These time-point units are only a “tool box,” and not the only durations in each rhythmic field. The time-point velocity only controls attack points, except when a duration is equal to a time-point set unit. The only rule is that the point of attack and the cutoff must coincide with the “minimal duration.” For example, Violin II, mm. 75-78, starts as an eighth and ends as a triplet. There is, in fact, a much larger group of related durations which can be of a 2/1 relationship (a0, a2, a4, a6, a8), or various additive types such as dotted figures. The only consistency is to be rhythmically erratic, i.e. sporadic. The rhythmic sections are, therefore, an accumulation of durational “fields” of that particular time-point set unit.


Each rhythmic field is set off by the boundaries created by the change of metric class, with the exception of the 2/4 metric class in mm. 78-165, and 366-242 which has groups of 14, 15, and 21 – which are present in this composition, and fit into this system by using mod-12 for the extra notes (see Mead). In many cases, there are notes held over sections and sustained (mm. 52-55, 75-78, and 265-66), making the rhythmic changes around them more audible. Changes of “rhythmic fields” always occur on the level of the measure and never in the middle of a measure, even in 2/4 sections (mm. 81-165, and 366-424).

Durational “Combinatoriality” – A Speculation

A time-point velocity has a dual character in that they are an attack point with a variable release (within limits, yet, they can also be interpreted as a “minimal” duration, equivalent to a time-point set unit. Therefore, it is possible to combine different velocities of various durational compatibility. On the surface then, time set velocities can combine in two different ways: 1) through “durational Combinatoriality,” or 2) “points of intersection.”

Durations combinatoriality refers to the fact that some time point velocities can combine easily with larger ones. For example, c2 and its metric class can combine with a4 on its time-points 0, 3, 6, and 9. Babbitt exploits some of the “combinatorial” possibilities by extending the eighth notes from the 6/4 section into the triplet 2/4 section – they appear after one bar in mm. 79-82 ff. A further example of this kind of durational combinatoriality occurs in a surface “bridge.” What I call a bridge is an area between two metric classes where neither rhythmic field is articulated, but some larger “combinatorial” duration is used. This is what happens at mm. 162-165 where the septuplets are not stated, but the combinatorial quarter is (this also occurs in m. 226, and m. 461).

It is also possible that a velocity smaller than a rhythmic field’s minimal duration can appear. I will refer to the metric class time-point positions where different (smaller) time-point set velocities can cohabit as “points of intersection” These would occur on what used to be known as “beats.”xxxv all of the different time-point set units, as attack points, can combine on “points of intersection” of any metric class; various kinds of articulation could make the durational difference inaudible, or allowable. This can explain the occurrence of two different time-point velocities in mm. 295 and 307 (c4 and a2), and in mm. 434-461 (a2 and a4).

I have found that Babbitt does take advantage of the possibility of duple and triplet subdivision in a single metric class.xxxvi This can happen by the methods I just described. It becomes most pervasive in the final 2/4 section where a2 is “rhythmically combinatorial” with c0, in the two bar group mm. 495-496. In fact, sixteenths continue all the way form m. 434 into the final section where the last attack is on an eighth-note pizzicato. The pervasiveness of the duple proportion, in what should be a totally triplet field, could be seen as a rapprochement of the different metrical proportions three and two.

Different time-point units always occur in succession, not simultaneously, except in m. 307 where triplets and sixteenths are used. For this reason, when I first examined the work I suspected that the form was ABA’ Coda, because of the interpenetration of the sixteenth notes, which could be interpreted as velocities into a triplet field, rather than what is now shown n my chart, figure 1-8, ABA’B’. It did not occur to me then, as it does now, that the return of B could also function as a coda.


My chart, figure 1-9, shows 16 subdivisions related by the interaction of the velocity and metric class, “rhythmic field.” I divide the work into four parts ABA’B’ (figure 1-8). the sixteen metrical divisions note the division of the 2/4 meter when the velocity changes within it: in section A, mm. 78-131, 132-161, (162-5 overlap), and in its analogous place in the section, mm. 366-400, 401-424. This is balanced by two isolated ¾ measures, 307 and 337, which do not assert their own time-point units. Direct contrast between my surface content method, and Arnold and Hair’s rhythmic sections can be seen in my and their example 11 (I show my idea of macro form) to the left of their example. I will now refer to my chart, figure 1-8, and 9.

The A section is chosen for several reasons, not the least of which is that it repeats, in a compressed form, with a change of order. In my chart, “asserted form/fields,” the A section, (mm. 1) a0-a4, is followed by c2, and d2. In A’ section (m. 338) a0 is followed by c2 (an inverse relation of a4-c2 or the A section), then b2, an element missing from the A section appears, followed by a4, completing the return of the A section, in the A’ area. The metric class follows the 2/4 metric class (mm. 425-) in the A’ section, and within those 2/4 sections, b2 (quintuplets) replaces d2 (septuplets), mm. 401-424. This is done, I feel, to create a slight winding down of intensity, because the quintuplets are less active than septuplets. I would also point out that M. 338 is as close to a thematic return (the three note motive in the Cello repeats a similar formation in Violin II, m. 1) as one can get in this kind of music. Since the d2 figures are very active (14 attacks in m. 337) just before the return to a0 (m. 338), the thirty-second notes are brought into strong relief and, therefore, create audible form.

Why not take the A section into mm. 166-199, where I start the B section? Because the “bridge” area (mm. 162-5) sets this off as a new sections. The “bridge” implies a change in the activity level, a slowing down of the surface activity. My B section (m. 166) starts with a repetition of the A section (see figure 1-9, subdivisions of the asserted form), a4-c2, form A, becomes a2-c4 to start the B section. Further, in the B’ area, another bridge occurs in the analogous place, m. 461. Obviously, these two sections are being related. In the B section, a2 is followed by c4, in the B’ section (mm. 461-), a2 exact repetition of metric class), is followed by c0, creating an exact relationship with the analogous B section. The B section also has other symmetries within it. In mm. 266-306 we have a rhythmic transposition of the opening a0-a4 as c0-c4 (see square brackets in figure 1-9, subdivision/fields.

Metric class is sometimes used as a transition: the two 3/4 bars, mm. 307 and 337, appear as isolated metric classes, as the time points from the previous section continue. Therefore, they mediate between different rhythmic fields, as they have no time-points of their own.


Many persons of note have spoken of the difficulties of hearing Babbitt’s music. To explain these aural difficulties is not the same as finding fault with the music. Rather, observing these difficulties can lead to what Mead call “new ways of thinking” about the musical (rhythmic) surface. The sporadic, but not static, nature of the musical surface sets the stage for the changes in velocity to become important “events,” because other competing factors (metric position, accents, motives, thematic events) are minimized or absent. Even so, within the rhythmic fields, clusters of intensity, and reiteration reveal the richness of Babbitt’s musical surface. So, I must argue that it is the interaction of these “rhythmic fields” with the pc arrays which create an “asserted” from, asserted by the contrasting and repeating intensities of the fields themselves. Since the Third Quartet is governed by a constant tempo, the level of activity change within the contrasting rhythmic fields and their repetition become the overriding determination of form.

Appendix 1

Questions of Choice

Some of the surface effects are directly related to the chosen set dimensions, that is the pc/rhythmic aggregates and their attended lynes (levels). Other effects are not. For example,, and not in an y particular order:

  1. The number of musical repetitions of each member of the rhythmic aggregate.
  2. The number of attacks per measure.
  3. The number of pitch classes (or instruments) that may enter at a given time-point, (for example 3 instruments enter point 0 in m. 1, 2 instruments in point 0 m. 2).
  4. Silence and rests
  5. The time-point set
  6. Meter and its repetition
  7. coordination of dynamics


Therefore, it can be argued that within the serial elements of the set(s), some dimensions are at the composer’s discretion. Even if it were discovered that none of the above are in fact discretionary, that would not alter their effect, which is: that it is only through the interaction of the rhythmic/pc aggregates and the above “independents,” that form becomes clear. As we will see in the concept of “clusters.” For example, the first cluster of intensity is still enhanced by a “wrong” note in m. 10. This is the sort of thing that Ralph Shapey would call a “perversion” (not to be confused with those “degenerate hexachord”). The point is, this is not composition by “number.” Aspects of choice, within the set elements remain.xxxvii


Perhaps a clue for these procedures can be found in Arnold and Hair’s statementxxxviii “The the rhythmic domain is independent, the pitch domain remains more important,” i.e. the rhythmic domain requires a less rigorous (serial) approach. Yet, the effect of the rhythmic domain is crucial to the form, otherwise the music would be just a collection of associated, but unrelated, orbits.” As John Rahn syas “anyone who has “12-counted” any Schoenberg must be aware that ht e”row” is not the composition.” In complex “serial compositions the importance of details, and inconsistencies cannot be stressed enough, for that is the difference between a work of art and an analysis.

example 11


Appendix 2

The following is a list of other related papers:


William Marvin Johnson. “Time-Point Sets and Meter,” PNM, Fall-Winter, No. 23 (1984) pp 278-293.

This is an excellent commentary on Babbitt’s “Twelve-Tone Rhythmic Structure and the Electronic Medium.” Johnson does not directly address questions of audibility. He states “In this paper I propose no fundamental changes in Babbitt’s general conception of rhythmic organization.” However, he does offer two compositional extensions: “1) through the interpolation of additional time-points between consecutive members of a given time-point set by repeating the prior of the two time-points modulo, an inferred beat structure, and 2) by establishing that a C12 partition may be perceived as a projection of a partition less than twelve, or that a partition less than twelve may be perceived as a contraction of the C12, and that either may serve as a representation of the original time-point set.”


John Rahn. “On Pitch and Rhythm: Interpretations of Orderings of and in Pitch and Time,” PNM, Vol. 13, No. 2 (1975), pp. 182-203

Rahn’s article is a recipe for his composition Peanut Butter Defies Gravity (a song which is published with this article). Besides the added “wrinkle” of register to the use of time-points, the interpretations of orderings refer to the fact that sets, modulo 12, can be subjected to a multiplicity of different interpretations. Referring to P. 186: “The…interdependence…of interpreted orderings is the fact that any ordering of pitches in time inevitably implies some ordering in time-points in pitch, and conversely any ordering of time-points in pitch implies some ordering of pitches in time.

Rahn devises four levels of order interpretation. The following refers to Rahn’s ex. 11 on p. 187:

T(ime) C(lass)/T(ime) the time-point attacks: 0, 1, 3

P(itch) C(lass)/P(itch) pitches in registral order, bottom to top: 0, 3, 4

P(itch) C(lass)/T(ime) the notated pitch succession: 0, 4, 3

T(ime) C(lass)/P(itch) time-points in registral order, bottom to top: 0, 3, 1

On p. 184 Rahn states: “…every sound has associated with it as least one pitch, but at least two time-points – the time of attack and release” [i.e., time-points as attacks and durations]. The meaning of rhythm, vis-à-vis the time-point system, for his song is clear in that the time-point unit is taken as a constant durational pulse. Therefore, Peanut Butter Defies Gravity” is much closer to Babbitt’s earlier music, sch as Three Compositions for Piano, in that it has a steady pulse, and motor rhythm in mm. 1-3, and mm. 8-48.


Peter Westergaard. “Some Problems Raised by the Rhythmic Procedures in Milton Babbitt’s Composition for Twelve Instruments,” PNM, Vol. 4, No. (1966), pp. 109-18.


Westergaard explains Babbitt’s use of durational sets of the Composition for Twelve Instruments. In example 13 (p. 117), he raises questions of perception: though we might be able to hear mod. 12 pitch relationships, can we “…hear durational relationship mod. 12…” On p. 118 “I see no way for the ear to distinguish attacks which define durations for P0 and those which define R12. Thus, I see no way for the ear to perceive either order or content.”

This article concerns music written before the time-point system was invented. As he states, “….this problem [i.e., the relationship between durational sets and metric class] … has since been solved by Babbitt in his more recent procedure in which metric position corresponds to pitch number, and hence, duration to interval” [the time-point system].

Joseph Straus. “Listening to Babbitt,” PNM Spring-Summer 1986, vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 10-25.

Straus states that “The relationships described by most analysis of Babbitt’s music are hard to hear.” Straus, therefore, presents a guide for Babbitt String Quartet No. 2, not using the aggregates or sets relationships, but by demonstrating the surface activities that are relatively easy to hear, such as register, dynamics, rhythm, articulation. He shows how they illuminate a “rich network” of surface activity.

iStephen Arnold and Graham Hair, “An Introduction and Study: String Quartet No. 3” Perspectives of New Music 14, no. 2/15 no. 1 (1976, 155-86 See p. 158 In order to avoid confusion with tonal rhetoric, lines of music “are described as layers to avoid any connotations that the word ‘line’ might invoke.”

iiOn TMK(S) Turnabout, performed by The Fine Arts Quartet, Vox Productions, Inc., 1972.

iiiArnold and Hair, figure 1 gives a list of all the aggregates, pp. 173-86

ivFor more information concerning arrays, see Milton Babbitt, “Since Schoenberg,” PNM Vol. 12, pp. 3-28

vOn TMK(S) Turnabout, performed by The Fine Arts Quartet, Vox Productions, Inc., 1972.

viSee Arnold and Hair. The pitch numbers are translated as any of the twelve time point positions; i.e., pitch-0 is time point-0, etc.

vii“Noted and Heard Meter,” Joel Lester PNM, 1986, Vol. 24 pp. 116-127. Referring to an earlier work: Babbitt’s Composition for Four Instruments (1948), “ Shorter rhythmic values do not occur in extended series; as a result, these pulses are established on l intermittently’… Further, “…without the powerful effects of the arrival of an expected event on a predictable time-point, or of the syncopated placement of strong accentuations off the beat, there is a sense in which the impulses are not moored to a larger system of measurement.” Also see Westergaard, Peter. “Some Problems Raised by the Rhythmic Procedures in Milton Babbitt’s Composition for Four Instruments.” PNM, Vol. 1 (1966) pp. 106-18 for an example of Babbitt’s Three Compositions for Piano, where pulse by this definition (extended use of a single rhythmic value or modulo) does occur.

viii On TMK (S) Turnabout, performed by The Fine Arts Quartet, Vox Productions, Inc., 1972

ixFor more about the “audibility” question in Babbitt, see Lester, Westergaard, and Straus

xPaul Griffiths, “Serialism,” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie, vol. VII. London Macmillan and Co., 1980, p. 167.

xiAs Babbitt says in his, “Twelve-Tone Rhythmic Structure and the Electronic Medium,” Perspectives of New Music 1, no. 1 (Fall-Winter 1962) pp. 49-79, “a Twelve-Tone ‘rhythmic system’ can be viewed either as a reinterpretation of pitch numbers so as to assure isomorphism between the two systems [as in the third Quartet] or as assigning temporal [durational] interpretations to the uninterpreted terms of the finite numerical equal difference structure [the time- points] of which both the pitch and rhythmic systems will be exemplifications.” See his examples 13-17 etc. Commentary articles (Lester, Westergaard) have generally focused on the durational sets and pre-time point music.

xiiSee Westergaard

xiiiThe time-point system divides a measure into twelve attack points, which has a variety of compositional uses. See Babbitt, “Twelve-Tone Rhythmic Structure and the Electronic Medium,” Perspectives of New Music 1, no. 1 (Fall-Winter) 1962; 49-79

xivMore program notes from record, “there is a single tempo to the work, within which changes in velocity – the number of attacks per unit time… [I understand velocity to mean the rate of the time point unit.]

xvThis kind of contrast has been noticed before by Peter Wetergaard in his “Some Problems Raised by the Rhythmic Procedures in Milton Babbitt’s composition for Twelve Instruments.” PNM, Vol. 4, no. 1 (1966) pp. 109-118. “Note, however the prevalence of the eight-note durations which provide an element of contrast between this section, and, say the one combining [the two row forms] I3 and RI0 with its prevalence of sixteenth note durations” viz., his footnote 13.

xviSee, Westergaard, Peter. “Some Problems Raised by the Rhythmic Procedures in Milton Babbitt’s Composition for Twelve Instruments.” PNM, Vol 4, no. 1 (1966) \: 109-18, his footnote number five, pp. 113

xvii The steady, pulse-like use of a single rhythmic unit (or several) to create subtempi is to be found in many of the works of Elliot Carter, and Henry Weinberg (such as the string quartets).

xviii Rhythmic, because they are not just made up of velocities, but also of durations, not durational sets (see Westergaard and Lester) and other factors such as dynamics and other levels of activity.

xixArnold & Hair’s ex. 10 p. 170 shows that some aspects of duration, and therefore accents, are controlled serially as part of the 8 registral/orchestrational levels, that is Arco & pizz-which have a direct effect on duration. Further, each notes intensity is further expanded when combined with the rhythmic aggregate, and dynamic lynes. However, a look at any measure will show that not all pizz’s are short, not all arco’s are long (not to mention places where longer notes are out accented by surrounding shorter ones, say m. 16-Violin I, 19 Violin I, or m. 62-3 Viola). To add to our dislocation of dynamic accent, occasionally there is a coordination of dynamics between different time-points whose durations overlap, and sometimes not, for example in m. 1, Vl I is forte all the way through even as other dynamics occur, yet in m 2, its ppp is coordinated with a cres. To p on time-point 9, with the Viola.

The number of instruments that enter on any time-point will also effect our perception of accent, and this too is constantly varied. For example in m3, will not time-point 4, because of the 3 entrances and higher register (as well as the pizz’s) seem more accented then time-point 0, or using the same rhythmic aggregate; the fff in m. 4, time-point 10 seems stronger than the fff in m. 4, time-point 10 because of the number of entrances.

xxFor other views of audibility of pulse, see Mead, Andrews, Mead, “About About time’s Time: A survey of Milton Babbitt’s Recent Practice,” Perspectives in New Music 25, nos. 1-2 (Winter/Summer 1987); 182-235. In his footnote .H no 16. pp. 233-4, for his ex. 10, Mead replies to Joel Lester concerning what is aurally perceivable in Babbitt’s music. Mead states, “I hear the “broad pulse,” the “big duple division of the broad pulse.” Lester contra-wise states: “…without the powerful effects of the arrival of an expected event on a predictable -point or or the syncopated placement of strong accentuations off the beat, there is a sense in which the impulses are not moored to a larger system of measurement.”

xxiMilton Babbitt, “Twelve-Tone Rhythmic Structure and the Electronic Medium,” Perspectives in New Music 1, no. 1 (Fall-Winter 1962) 49-79.

xxiiThis is a question best answered by Milton Babbitt as he could have made the notated meter non-repeating (for example ¾ could become 6/8 and still contain the same time-point velocity) if he had so desired.

xxiii ibid.

xxiv However, the coordination of large scale events and points of arrival seem to be related to the rhythmic, rather tan the pulse, sphere.

xxv Mead’s example 11 (p. 198), shows that his metrical hierarchy for Babbitt, is very close to traditional tonal metrical hierarchy in that it is based primarily on metric position or “beats.”

xxvi Obviously, a conductor must impart a “beat” to the performers. As to whether it is a musical requirement or an artistic necessity for the audience to be made aware of that “beat” is open to question.

xxvii Historically, we know that musicians only gradually accepted the idea that non-tonal music could be coherent without being tonal. The same will no doubt be true for the rhythmic sphere.

xxviii There might be some precedent for this term in Babbitt’s idea of “octave equivalence of the measure” since; ¾, 6/8, and 12/16 would imply different traditional metric patterns, but in the time-point system could imply the same velocity (a sixteenth note).

xxix Arnold and Hair a Study…, in reference to footnote 8, p. 168. Referring to a missing mute: “It seems to represent a more problematic inconsistency than the occasional rhythmic/dynamic discrepancy, such as occurs on the first page of the score [italics min]. It would be helpful to have the composer’s view of these questions.” In a question of theory and practice, at least for me, the composition and the composer are the final arbiters. Also,, see Babbitt’s criticism of the European serialists for the “harmony by fortuity,” in “Some Aspects of Twelve-Tone Composition,” in The Score and IMA Magazine (June 1955).

xxx As Arnold and Hair state: “…the rhythmic aggregates unfold at the ratio of exactly 1:3 in relation to the pitch aggregates, as far as pitch aggregate 27/rhythmic aggregate 9 (ending in bar 53); thereafter, the ratio increases immediately to under 1:2…”)

xxxi Viz., footnote 11

xxxii For more clusters see: a cluster of low intensity mm. 166 (time-point 11), – 172 (time-point 7) (alterations of clusters mm. 162-66). Generally a change to a slower velocity would mean less intensity. However, the change in field from 3/8 to 6/4 has a change in mm. 51-54, time-point 4, from a cluster of low intensity to high intensity forte mm. 54 – time-point 5, this field change is further marked, in mm. 54-55, by a crescendo, decrescendo (dynamic) imitation Violin I and Violin II, and continues into mm. 57-58. (Also see mm. 394-400, low velocity to high velocity mm. 401.)

xxxiii The idea that a 2/1 relationship between rhythmic values represents an expression of a single rhythmic idea, is similar to Henry Weinberg’s idea of “rhythmic registers” related to a single tempo.

xxxiv It is possible that a chart of relative rhythms (or tempi) like the one shown in example 9 might be of use in understanding other recent 20th Century rhythmic phenomena.

xxxv For more on how beats relate to the time-point system see William Marvin Johnson, Jr, “Time-Point Sets and Meter,” PNM, Fall-Winter, No. 23, 1984, pp. 278-293.

xxxvi Further examination for the purpose of defining all the various properties of durations and the confluences with the time-point units will not be carried out here, but I will point out all that actually occur in the music.

xxxvii Arnold and Hair, viz., footnote 1, in reference to their footnote 8, p. 168, refer to a missing mute: “It seems to represent a more problematic inconsistency than the occasional rhythmic/dynamic discrepancy, such as occurs on the first page of the score. It would be helpful to have the composer’s view of these questions.” In a question of theory and practice, a least for me, the composition and the composer are the final arbiters. Also, see Babbitt’s criticism of the European serialists for the “harmony by fortuity,” in “Some Aspects of the Twelve-Tone Composition,” in The Score and IMA Magazine (June 1955).

xxxviii See endnote #1.