6 Abstraction and Atonality

At the beginning of the twentieth century, abstract tendencies in the visual arts and the concurrent break with traditional functional harmony in music led to a new relationship between these art forms. In art and music influenced by esoteric and anthroposophic thought, the move away from naturalism opened up both formal analogies and a spiritual connection.

As opposed to traditional literary theater, experimental stage performances exploring a new relationship between word, image, and sound were developed. One of the protagonists was Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944). His intense interest in the links between color and sound as well as his contact to the young Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) prompted Kandinsky to theoretically examine this subject early on. In his central written work, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912), Kandinsky postulated the beginning of a general tendency toward the nonmaterial, the abstract. Of all the arts, for him music is the most nonmaterial of the arts today.[26] He saw the common goal of the arts in the aspiration to express the inner world of spiritual forces: Out of this combination will arise in time a new art, an art we can foresee even today, a truly monumental art.[27] In his stage piece Der gelbe Klang (1912), Kandinsky created a homogeneity of the components music, dance, and color, a pure play between color, motion, and noise.