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Title: Unity, God and music : Arnold Schoenberg's philosophy of compositional unity in trinitarian perspective
Authors: Stearns, Michelle L.
Supervisors: Begbie, Jeremy
Issue Date: 2007
Abstract: This project consists of a theological exploration of unity, both divine and created, through an engagement with the writings of the composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874- 1951). It proceeds by examining Schoenberg' s philosophy of unity as embodied in his compositional theory and practice, and brings to light his explicit and implicit metaphysical commitments through the lens of Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy. A critique is offered that utilizes a vibrant tradition of contemporary trinitarian theology, drawing, in particular, upon the work of Colin Gunton. This theological critique employs 'musical space' to assist in 'sounding out ' and articulating a trinitarian and perichoretic model of unity. Thus, this thesis shows not only how theology can benefit the philosophy of music, but also how the philosophy of music can enrich and augment theological discourse. Part I examines unity from the perspective of 'particularity' . This inquiry traces Schoenberg's investigations into the material of music, from which he draws two conclusions: that conflict is essential to the musical material, and that the distinction between consonance and dissonance is illusory. Through adopting these assumptions into his philosophy of unity, Schoenberg unwittingly develops a theory of the many that undermines the value and integrity of material particulars. In response, this project counters with a trinitarian theology that upholds the integrity of particulars through a mutually constitutive understanding of particulars-in-relation. Part II examines unity from the perspective of 'the whole' . This investigation focuses upon Schoenberg' s structural principles of coherence, from which he makes three claims: that 'the whole' ('the musical idea') is distinct from the composition, that the essence of the musical idea must be expressed in every individual part within the whole, and that the primary goal of the composer is to express the musical idea. Schoenberg' s construction of unity is, therefore, dependent upon privileging the one over the particular. Thus, Schoenberg' s theory and practice lack the sort of unity in which the concepts of oneness and particularity are related adequately. This project proposes that a proper understanding of unity can arise only from a triune conception of being that holds oneness and particularity inseparably together: not as mutually exclusive, but as mutually constitutive.
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Type: Thesis
Publisher: University of St Andrews
Appears in Collections:Divinity Theses

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