From here Schoenberg and his contemporaries, as we know, moved on to the age of dissonance and atonality. And they as well as their followers have, until our present time, been composing music that has remained the concern of a very small circle of connoisseurs who are dedicated to a purely intellectual approach to artistic creativity in general, and to music in particular.
Did romanticism in music die altogether? I would say it didn't. It survived, and most forcefully so, though in an apparently watered-down form: the musical – on the stage and on the screen.
But in the decades that followed upon “Gurrelieder”, the sphere of classical music to me, as to so many others, represent a barren, almost desert-like landscape.
In the 1960's and the early 1970's, the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt struggled with composing in the dissonant style he had learnt as being the proper thing to do for a composer, were he to be accepted and acknowledged within his guild.
Until one day, when he painfully felt that he had got stuck in a blind alley and went silent for several years. These where years when he turned to ancient sources: the Gregorian chant, the Byzantine liturgical chant, early medieval music, studying them, pondering on them, meditating on them. And during these years, it also once occurred, as he was taking a walk downtown, that he began talking with a street-repairer he happened to meet. Pärt asked him what he thought to be the most important thing when composing music.
The street-repairer, utterly surprised by being asked such a question by a professional composer, pondered for a minute, and then answered:
- I think one has to love every tone, every note!
This was the decisive turning-point for Arvo Pärt. The works created by him ever since has brought about an entirely new dimension to music. It goes beyond romanticism, it goes beyond atonality, it leads the listener into a purely spiritual sphere. It is the music of serenity and meditation, delivered from all burdens. It is the music of utter clarity and peace, it is the language going beyond the words. It is the music where silence is also written into the score. Once touched by this, you will always return to it, over and over again.
And, as I hope, music will never again become a barren landscape.