Grundgestalt refers to short, recurrent units of motivic material, similar to Wagner’s Leitmotive, defined as a theme recurring throughout the length of a composition or story. The very first bar of the Second String Quartet’s first movement makes up one of these Grundgestalt units. The piece begins by quoting a sequence of four significant pitches: A-G#-F#-C#. This little tune was purportedly a signal that Schoenberg and his compatriots would whistle at one another as a “call to forge ahead” against the overwhelming dismissal of new music by critics and audiences, and this quartet certainly ‘forges ahead’ in the search for their new frontier. 

The piece opens with this Grundgestalt motive, a suit of cards opens with the ace, and so this collection of prints opens with a piece focusing on the visual motif layered into each print: a symbol based on the melodic contour of the Grundgestalt figure. This symbol is meant to be the obvious focus of this print and so I carved a reasonably spare overlay: just a border and five parallel lines that are meant to indicate a staff.

Grundgestalt

 © 2020 by Alexandra Huryn. 

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