Saturday, January 06, 2007

Flesh + a letter

Arnold Schoenberg, Flesh (ca. 1909), Oil on cardboard.

Schoenberg to Wassily Kandinsky, 4 May 1923:
Have you also forgotten how much disaster can be evoked by a particular mode of feeling? Don't you know that in peace-time everyone was horrified by a railway-accident in which four people were killed, and that during the war one could hear people talking about 100,000 dead without even trying to picture the misery, the pain, the fear, and the consequences? Yes, and that there were people who were delighted to read about as many enemy dead as possible; the more, the more so! I am no pacifist; being against war is as pointless as being against death. Both are inevitable, both depend only to the very slightest degree on ourselves, and are among the human race's methods of regeneration that have been invented not by us, but by higher powers. In the same way the shift in the social structure that is now going on isn't to be lodged to the guilty account of any individual. It is written in the stars and is an inevitable process. The middle classes were all too intent on ideals, no longer capable of fighting for anything, and that is why the wretched but robust elements are rising up out of the abysses of humanity in order to generate another sort of middle class, fit to exist. It's one that will buy a beautiful book printed on bad paper, and starve. This is the way it must be, and not otherwise...
[excerpt from the Schoenberg-Kandinsky correspondences, which appear in Jean-Marie Straub's and Danièle Huillet's Introduction to Arnold Schoenberg’s "Accompaniment to a Cinematic Scene" (1973)].


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