Thesis submission ID 944 | created | last updated

Roslyn Steer, Beyond Boundaries: The Aesthetics of the Scream in the Music of the Second Viennese School
PhD, Maynooth University, 2022

Volumes, pp.: 1(389pp.)  
Supervisor(s): Prof Christopher Morris
Repository (online):
Repository (hard copy): Maynooth University

General specialism: Musicology

This study investigates the complex relationship between the scream and music in the work of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. Taking Kundry’s scream in Wagner’s Parsifal (1882) as a key point of departure, this project draws on theories of psychoanalysis and hysteria which emerged in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and complements them with more recent critical theory to offer an expanded understanding of both the scream itself and its affective realisation in the music of the Second Viennese School. As well as the more explicit or literal manifestations of the scream found, for example in Schoenberg’s Erwartung (1909) and Berg’s Lulu (1934), works that are generally categorised as part of a broader movement of expressionism, this project embraces a more figurative understanding of the scream as a manifestation of the modernist desire to transcend reason, order, and the gloss of civilization through music. That is, the project asks how testing the limits and extremes of musical expression (a recurring feature of the vocal and instrumental music of these composers) can be productively related to the affective extreme of the scream as an utterance beyond expressive and communicative norms. I argue that the transformative nature of the New Viennese aesthetics of the scream was key to the lasting resonance of this aesthetics throughout twentieth–century music and culture and that this potential to enact a transcendence or synthesis of seemingly opposing or mutually exclusive states (the conscious and the unconscious, the body and the soul, noise and silence, male and female) places the scream at the heart of key questions occupying artists in the cultural foment of fin-de-siècle Vienna. By identifying the scream as a significant, yet under-researched feature of the aesthetics of the Second Viennese School and situating it within the broader cultural climate of expressionism, the project sheds light on practices and ideas with important implications for modernist culture.
Thesis submission ID 944