Is serialism a classicism?

Why would classical art bring to mind twelve-tone composition? Writing to friends after a six-day, two-concert visit to London in May 1933, Anton Webern exclaimed: “I also saw the Parthenon Frieze! I stood there for an hour and a half. It’s an indescribable miracle.   The conception! It is the exact counterpart of our method of composition: always the same thing appearing in a thousand forms. Overwhelming. Comparable too with Bach’s ‘Art of Fugue'” (Polnauer, ed.: Letters, 1967, 20). Was he thinking of his musical grammar as a form of classicism? Might his be a classical “method of composition” that appealed to Stravinsky’s Neoclassicism and attracted him to Webern’s music?

May 20, 2016

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