In Schoenberg and Hollywood Modernism (Cambridge University Press, 2016), Kenneth Marcus places the work of exile composer Arnold Schoenberg within the context of the modernist movement in southern California. Far from being an isolated composer who was ill-at-ease in exile, as some scholars have portrayed him, Schoenberg’s connections to Hollywood proved vital to the cultural and intellectual environment of the region.
In this video, Professor Marcus explains some main arguments and themes of the book.
While teaching at both the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, Marcus argues, Schoenberg was able to bridge two utterly different worlds: the film industry and the academy. The book looks at some of the friendships Schoenberg had with numerous film industry figures, including George Gershwin, Oscar Levant, David Raksin and Alfred Newman, and each contributed to the composer’s life and work in different ways: helping him to obtain students, making recordings of his music, and arranging commissions. Marcus shows that alongside Schoenberg’s vital impact upon Southern California Modernism through his pedagogy, compositions and texts, he also taught students who became central to American musical modernism, including John Cage and Lou Harrison.