The Gurrelieder – the most recent compositions! How do you rhyme them together? And if Schönberg really does stand by the last years of his work – and there is no doubt about that – what is his position on the Gurrelieder? Must he not repudiate them?  But we have learned the contrary; we have witnessed that he has rehearsed and conducted the piece himself. Explain that contradiction to us, please!

My dear audience, you are wrong. No one repudiates what he has created – neither a craftsman nor an artist, neither a shoemaker nor a musician. The differences in the form which the audience perceives are concealed from creative persons. The shoes the master made 10 years ago were good shoes. Why should he be ashamed of them? Why should he repudiate them? “Just look at the crap I did 10 years ago” – only an architect could have said that.  But as we know, I do not count architects as people.

A craftsman creates the form unconsciously. Tradition adopts the form and the changes which develop during the craftsman’s life are not conditional upon his will. His customers – they grow older – suggest innovations to him, and thus a change occurs of which neither the consumer nor the producer is aware. In his declining years, the master makes shoes different from those of his youth – jut as his handwriting alters over 50 years. Just as all handwriting changes in the same amount, all writers are part of this change in equal measure, so it is simple to assume the century on the basis of the formation of the letters.

Artists are different. They have no customers. Artists are the ones who place the orders with themselves.

Their first work will always be the product of their milieu and their will. But for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, that first work already contains the artists’ lifetime achievement.

Crocodiles see a human embryo and say, “That’s a crocodile.” Humans see the same embryo and say, “That is a person.”

Crocodiles say that the Gurrelieder are by Richard Wagner. But people sense the colossal novelty by the first three bars and say, “That is Arnold Schönberg.” And it has been ever thus. Every artist’s life has been subject to that same misunderstanding. His contemporaries did not know that which was his own. Indeed, he felt the Mystery as something alien, and helped himself initially with analogies. However, if the New, the artist’s self, comes into full consciousness, then he attempts to salvage his inferiority with a laugh and with blustering.

We know Rembrandt’s work from his earliest boyhood. He became a famous painter – and then he created “The Night Watch.” There was roaring and clamor; “Why is he doing it differently now?” “That is not the famous Rembrandt – it is the ghastliest daubing!” And the Master was astonished and understood nothing of what the public was saying. He did not see what the public was seeing. He had not changed at all, had accomplished nothing new – and 300 years later, the public knows that the Master was right.

Truly he was not a new Rembrandt – merely a better, greater, more prodigious one. And now the public, paging through Rembrandt’s works, cannot see at all the rupture in the Master’s creations which his contemporaries so sharply criticized. The entire Rembrandt is already present in his earliest boyhood drawings, and we ask ourselves in astonishment how it could have been possible that the revolutionary aspect of those pictures could have been accepted without complaint. But all they saw was the crocodile.

Should I give some more examples? Beethoven’s progress? Have we forgotten that the 9th Symphony was pardoned because of the Master’s deafness? – that we might have lost that work forever if the French had not come to the aid of the German Master who had gone crazy?

Centuries will likely have to pass before people begin to wonder what Arnold Schönberg’s contemporaries were fretting and fussing about.

Arnold Schönberg zum 50. Geburtstage, 13. September 1924. Sonderheft der Musikblätter des Anbruch, 6. Jg., August-September-Heft 1924, 271–272