Musical thought and sound become one in creative art. But sometimes it is a long way from the thought to the creation of the sound by means of which it is expressed; likewise for the listener by way of his apperception, it is a long way from the sound to the comprehension of the thought.

Sound is the outward manifestation of music; not the goal but the result. In itself it has no musical meaning. Sounds may be pleasing according to the opinion of the listener but if he demands a special kind of sound he shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of music. Nevertheless he may be able to give an opinion in a concrete sense on some points of a work for the sound is adequate as an expression of the thought.
Every master has his own sound world which corresponds to his individual nature and by means of which he expresses his thoughts. These vary radically from time to time so that our contemporaries find it difficult to apperceive the new sound and by means of it reach the thought.

The new thought and the new sound are so closely interwoven that sometimes the composer himself hardly knows if they were not conceived simultaneously.

Schönberg wrote “For the first time in my songs after the poems of George I approached the expression of an ideal which had been hovering around me for years.” The listener also was astonished at this new sound. It was as if a new dimension had been contacted. Contours became apparent that scarcely seemed in the realm of music and in this strange new light the finest gradations of psychical experience were perceptible. This music soared outside the limits of any note values as if time itself had ceased to flow.

Clear-cut rhythmic figures were combined with chords creating sound pictures of almost torturing intensity. Above this accompaniment the voice floated following the natural rise and fall of speech in melodies of undreamed of tenderness and beauty. In this manner the George songs impressed us. Of course there were listeners who only remarked the absence of familiar landmarks. There were no concords, no triads and no fixed tonality. But the lack of all these resulted in an extremely positive quality. The music contained richer sounds and fuller harmonies while the tonality expanded into the infinite. One might ask if dissonance is as apt for artistic expression as consonance but it is in its very nature far more expressive.

Schönberg has proved this to us for all time by his use of it in moments of greatest emotion. The intensity created by dissonance does not consist in that it is resolved but rather in the fact that it is allowed to sound.
Regarding the oft-repeated effect of discord followed by its resolution, it is the first of the two that is by far the more interesting. It is as if the simple harmonies dissolved or spread like light in the prism, reuniting again with the resolution. Let us then have the dissonance unresolved recognizing that it is far more colorful than any nicely constructed consonance. In this sense Schönberg’s sound is real polyphony.

Formerly parallel octaves and fifths were forbidden because they contributed nothing new and could not even be considered as counterpoint. Now the same thing happened with the triad. It is understood and does not need to be affirmed. It contains only the first overtones and like the fifths and octaves it makes no counterpoint. It is merely a unison – only able to unite and not to differentiate.

Schönberg’s part writing consists in that the parts do not mingle one with another. Each voice sings individually. E ach note has its own life and enriches the whole by moving according to its own laws. It is the same in polyphonic writing. Here the whole sound is enriched by each voice singing its individual melody. Dissonance lightens (clarifies) the vertical sound and elucidates the thought in polyphonic writing.

Schönberg’s mode of expression is established by means of his sound world and in this way he speaks clearly and with the utmost concentration. Since writing these songs Schönberg has put his ideas in shorter forms thus experimenting in his use of the new sounds. These were at first insufficient for symphonic works of large structure. By shattering the tonal center the large form was destroyed.

With the birth of the twelve-tone series (row), the newly-oriented co-ordination took the place of the old tonal system and Schönberg realized his ideal of creating large works in his own manner. The new sounds born of the need for a new mode of expression were now moulded into tangible material.

Arnold Schönberg zum 60. Geburtstag, 13. September 1934. Wien 1934, 25–28