Bruce Arnold and John Gunther's Group "Spooky Actions" CD "Schoenberg, Five Piano Pieces op. 23"

Arnold Schoenberg’s 5 Piano Pieces


Bruce Arnold–Guitar

John Gunther—Woodwinds

David Phillips—Bass

Tony Moreno—Drums

Schoenberg’s Pivotal Opus 23 Arranged for Jazz Quartet

Spooky Actions plays five piano pieces by the father of 12 tone music

Arnold Schoenberg’s five pieces for piano, brief as they may be, are considered to be milestones in the composer’s development of his innovative 12 Tone theories. Opus 23, like much of Schoenberg’s music, is highly organized with intricate rhythms, angular lines and dense harmonies. The jazz quartet Spooky Actions presents these pieces meticulously transcribed and improvised over, on “Spooky Actions/Arnold Schoenberg Five Pieces for Piano Opus 23” (MSK 142). Herein the band continues in its tradition of incorporating music from other genres into the jazz sensibility in order to examine new sounds and improvisational directions.

Improvisation and Schoenberg

The result is a startlingly fresh sound, one that is accessible perhaps due in part to the way modern jazz has opened the ears of a generation of listeners to new timbres and structures. That the band can improvise over these complexities is a tribute to their musicianship and their respect for their source material. (They tend to improvise so faithfully to their source’s constructions that one critic, who shall remain nameless, once disparaged the band for not improvising when of course, they were!)

John Gunther Speaks:

John Gunther, who did the lion’s share of transcription and arranging, best describes the process of creating the CD in his eloquent liner notes:

Adapting and performing Opus 23 to jazz quartet presented unique challenges. The extreme range of low and high notes on the piano had to be re-distributed among guitar, sax, and bass. The number of notes that could be played at one time – ten fingers, ten notes on the piano – also had to be accommodated in some novel ways, mostly by Bruce (guitar) as Spooky Actions has basically 7 or 8 fingers or notes that can sound at one time. Despite these challenges and with very few exceptions, we play all the notes in Schoenberg’s score. Tony Moreno had the biggest challenge in creating a concept for playing drums with this music – something for which there is no precedent.

Each movement of the composition is followed by an improvisation in which we utilize the musical elements of the movement we just played, such as quoting directly from the 12-tone row or fragments thereof.   In addition, there are small bits of each movement that are expanded upon to give the ensemble a framework to improvise within.

In the first improvisation, the group improvises off of segments of the row and returns to the composition as a sort of Coda

The second improvisation is done over a repetition of the last 8 measures of the 2nd movement. The last measure forms a sort of riff or musical landing point.

The third improvisation features an extended drum solo that leads into a repetition of the 5th measure of movement 3, and then a restatement of measures 2-4 by the bass and guitar.   By isolating and repeating one measure of the original composition, some fascinating harmonies are brought to the fore.

Improvisation 4 begins with a rubato bass improvisation that leads into an ostinato based on the second to last measure of movement 4.   The 9-note motive is played once and then immediately in reverse forming a two-measure ostinato.

Improvisation 5, is again based on measures from the preceding movement 5.   The melody, somewhat uncharacteristic of Schoenberg at first hearing, is nonetheless a repetition of measures 15-17 and forms an intriguing composition on its own.

The tracks :

  • Movement 1:
  • Movement 1 Improvisation:
  • Movement 2:
  • Movement 2 Improvisation:
  • Movement 3:
  • Movement 3 Improvisation:
  • Movement 4:
  • Movement 4 Improvisation:
  • Movement 5:
  • Movement 5 Improvisation:

Melodic Rotations of 012345 Pitch Class Set Found in Op.23

Arnold Schoenberg based his Funf Klavierstucke on the pitch class set 012345. Mr. Arnold has created a book Melodic Rotations 012345 which shows you how to use this pitch class set in improvisation. See the webpage for more information and examples. Schoenberg used this pitch class set throughout the piece and it is quite amazing all the variations that he created using this idea.

Get Arnold Schoenberg’s 5 Piano Pieces…today!

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About Muse Eek

Muse-Eek Publishing Company is a publishing house with a broad focus on music education. Muse-Eek also publishes fine art and poetry books, and has its own record label, Muse-Eek Records. Our online presence, specializes in the publication of music workbooks, video courses and sound and video recordings that teach the foundation of good musicianship through groundbreaking and innovative methods along with traditional methods that have been taught for centuries. These historic methods date back through centuries of great musicians and educators. To see these interesting relationship please see Bruce Arnold's Music Education Genealogy Chart which tells you a lot about the where many of his educational ideas took root and some of the educational pillars that are evident throughout the books you find on this website. The Muse-Eek Records catalogue contains a diverse selection of music much of it by Bruce Arnold in collaboration with some of today's best players in classical, jazz, rock and avant-garde music. These are available in CD, DVD and mp3 formats. We believe in a working relationship with our music education customers; they are free to interact with the author after purchasing a book to help them through any material they don’t understand or which they need further clarification. We also have a member's area which contains a wealth of free information to help a student understand music at a deeper level and access additional files for our books. Many of our books offer cutting edge ideas regarding ear training, guitar technique, rhythm and time. These methods have a proven track record. Our main author Bruce Arnold has taught at some of the most prestigious music schools in the world, including Princeton, Dartmouth, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, The New School and NYU. Along with Mr. Arnold's publications on the website he has also written books and appeared in educational DVDs for MelBay and Truefire. Over the years Mr Arnold has used his experiences with his students to develop a program that can elevate a musician's ability to world class caliber. If you have questions about any of our books or recordings please send us an email. Along with general questions about either our record label or our publishing company we also welcome questions to help a student choose the proper materials to reach their goals. We have over 300 products to help you learn any style of music and to develop your musicianship to its peak. We also make recommendations for practice schedules for students who use our methods to get the most out of their study time. This, along with personal interaction with Bruce through email, nurtures the student's ability through a closely monitored situation, ensuring there is no wasted time or misunderstanding.