J.M. Hauer: The phenomenon of Zwölftonspiel


Josef Matthias Hauer (1883-1959) was an Austrian composer known for the development of twelve-tone music—the study of the tropes. His work and life, however, have been underscrutinised by Russian scholars. Hauer’s musical works are generally regarded as illustrations to his theory with little artistic value. Meanwhile, the significance of his legacy goes beyond the twelve-tone composition: Hauer paves the way for discoveries in music of the second half of the 20th century. The article focuses on Hauer’s later works which centre around the twelve-tone game (Zwölftonspiel). This name is used by almost all Hauer’s compositions created in the last two decades of his life for a variety of instruments.

The concept of Zwölftonspiel is universal—it is a composition technique, an approach to music notation, a genre, a philosophy, a meditation, and didactics. The same broad meaning is given to the concept “game”, which is understood as a certain ontological category that eliminates the subject, the composer’s “Self” from the process of composing, making this process logical, predictable, almost automatic, and, at the same time, easy and relaxed, like a children’s play. Hauer resorts to a significant simplification of the previous technique of tropes, relying on a single twelve-tone series already containing harmony, rhythm and form.

Zwölftonspiel does not fit into traditional ideas about an opus as a result of the composer’s work. All music—absolute, unchangeable, eternal—has already been created by God, and it remains for humans only to study and comprehend it using their intuition. This is what the twelve-tone game serves for. This position based on the Eastern principle of non-action makes us recall the idea of the “end of the time of composers”, the concept of “non-work”, and meditative music, which appeared later. Thus, the name of Hauer should stand next to the name of Schoenberg.  Hauer’s ideas make him part of the circle of composers of the second half of the 20th century: J. Cage, K. Stockhausen, G. Scelsi, and V. Martynov.

4. Vexler article 2021-1

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ВЕКСЛЕР Юлия Сергеевна – профессор кафедры истории музыки Нижегородской государственной консерватории им. М.И.Глинки, доктор искусствоведения.
Yulia S. VEKSLER is a Doctor in Art Studies, Professor of Music History Department at the Nizhny Novgorod Glinka State Conservatory.
E-mail: wechsler@mts-nn.ru

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