Category Archives: Erwin Schulhoff

Erwin Schulhoff and the Art of Faking

I have just spent the most wonderful three and a half minutes listening to Sonata Erotica by Erwin Schulhoff. Why wonderful, you ask? Composed in 1919, at the time when all the best artistic minds played the field of creative exploration, Sonata Erotica is the music to a man’s ears… because it is a beautiful, rhythmic arrangement of female moans, groans, and screams that all lead to a climax. Yes, you are right: Sonata Erotica is a praise of a female orgasm. In fact, you can say it is an orchestrated orgasm, and you will be absolutely correct.

Forget everything you see and hear on the radio and TV today. Forget those vamp ladies in slinky dresses, breathing heavily in a quick-edited video. Imagine instead a diva performing Sonata Erotica to an audience in a bright, spacious hall, like, say, Tchaikovsky Conservatoire or the Royal Albert Hall.

Cannot get what I’m on about? Then put on your earphones and listen to a brilliant, provocative piece of experimental music of the early 20th c. To think about it, in mere 7 years this piece will celebrate a centenary. In a hundred years the only other person who famously blended female moans with music was Serge Gainsbourg in Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus.

Would any composer dare to create another, male, version of Schulhoff’s work?

And a few words about Schulhoff himself, from Wikipedia:

Erwin Schulhoff studied composition and piano in Prague, Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne, where his teachers included Claude Debussy, Max Reger, Fritz Steinbach, and Willi Thern. He was one of the first generation of classical composers to find inspiration in the rhythms of jazz music. Schulhoff also embraced the avant-garde influence of Dadaism in his performance and composition after World War I.

When organizing concerts of avant-garde music in 1919, he included this manifesto:

Absolute art is revolution, it requires additional facets for development, leads to overthrow (coups) in ordee to open new paths…and is the most powerful in music…. The idea of revolution in art has evolved for decades, under whatever sun the creators live, in that for them art is the commonality of man. This is particularly true in music, because this art form is the liveliest, and as a result reflects the revolution most strongly and deeply–the complete escape from imperialistic tonality and rhythm, the climb to an ecstatic change for the better.