Just got back from a party at a friend's house. Nice of group of people, some of whom I had never met, some of whom I had not seen for a long time. Almost everyone knew everyone else, a common occurence in St. Louis. A city that resembles a small town far more than most.
After dinner, the hostess lit a fire but did not open the chimney vent in time, filling the room with smoke and setting off the fire alarm. Calls to the local fire station prevented a flood of flashing lights and red engines. Still, throughout that mini-drama and indeed much of the evening, my mind was filled with a short musical phrase from Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 2, a sardonic parody of Viennese popular song of its time (the first decade of the 20th century). It's true that I had played it earlier in the week, but why that particular melody should have surfaced I cannot say.
What is true is that I am reaquainting myself with the music of 100 years ago, and it has a resonance with these times that I have never felt before. One could view this ominously, considering the worldwide disasters that were to come thanks to World War One and beyond. I feel, though, that the challenges this world has to cope with this time around are environmental, not military. No less challenging though. What does strike me is that music – indeed all of art – changed enormously a century ago, and even today very little of that change has been assimilated or understood. Why is that?