Josef Matthias Hauer

Josef Mattias Hauer (March 19, 1883September 22, 1959) was an Austrian composer and music theorist. He is most famous for developing, independent of and years before Arnold Schoenberg, a method for composing with all 12 notes of the chromatic scale.


Hauer was born in Wiener Neustadt and died in Vienna. He had an early musical training which included zither, cello, choral conducting, and organ, but evidently did not include theory and composition, for he claimed that he was self-taught. In 1918 he published his first work on music theory (a tone-color theory based on Goethe's), and in August 1919 devised his method for composing with twelve tones. Hauer's compositional techniques of composition are extraordinarily various and range from building-block techniques to methods using a chord series that is generated out of the twelve-tone row ("Melos"). In fact, his compositional techniques change almost from each piece to the next. The so-called 44 "tropes" and their compositional usage ("trope-technique") are essential to Hauer's twelve-tone techniques. In contrast to a twelve-tone row that contains a fixed succession of twelve tones, a trope consists of two complementary hexachords in which there is no fixed tone sequence. The tropes are used for structural and intervallic views on the twelve-tone system. Every trope offers certain symmetries that can be used by the composer.

Hauer wrote prolifically, both music and prose describing his methods, until 1938, when his music was added by the Nazis to the "degenerate art" (Entartete Kunst) exhibit. Wisely keeping a low profile, he stayed in Austria through the war, publishing nothing; but even after the war he published little more, although he probably wrote several hundreds of pieces which remain in manuscript.

From the 1920s Hauer has been a model for literature several times, e.g., in Otto Stoessl's "Die Sonnenmelodie", Franz Werfel's "Verdi" (Matthias Fischboeck). It has been found out that—besides Arnold Schönberg and Theodor W. Adorno—Hauer was also a model for Adrian Leverkühn in Thomas Mann's novel Doktor Faustus. Late in life Hauer spoke about Mann, as well as Theodor W. Adorno, with great bitterness, for he felt that both men had misunderstood him. Adorno had written about Hauer, but only disparagingly. Because of his later achievements and developments it has also been assumed by many scholars that Hauer is also a model for the "Joculator Basiliensis" in Hermann Hesse's "Glass-bead Game".

All of Hauer's copious compositions after 1940 are named "Zwölftonspiel" or Zwölftonmusik" (Twelve-tone game, or twelve-tone music.)

Further reading

  • Fürsprache für Hauer—Hermann Heiß und die Hintergründe eines Briefes von Thomas Mann an Ellie Bommersheim im Jahre 1949, lit. Speech for the defence of Hauer—Hermann Heiß and background of a letter of Mann's with Ellie Bommersheim in 1949, Herbert Henck, kompost publishing house 1998, ISBN 3-9802341-3-4.
  • Josef Matthias Hauer. Schriften, Manifeste, Dokumente, Nikolaus Fheodoroff, Edition Österreichische Musikzeit, Vienna 2003. ("Josef Matthias Hauer - Writings, Manifests, Documents")
  • Zwischen Trope und Zwölftonspiel, Johann Sengstschmid, Gustav Bosse, Regensburg 1980 ("Between Trope and Twelve-tone Game")
  • See also chapter 5 'Out of Tune' Hauer's Legacy and the Aesthetics of Minimalism in Art and Music' in Visible Deeds of Music: Art and Music from Wagner to Cage, by Simon Shaw-Miller (Yale University Press, 2002) pp. 163-207

Musical Works

Theoretical Writings

  • 17 Theoretical Writings (1918-1926), 33 Essays and Articles (1919-1948)

The most important writings:

  • Über die Klangfarbe ("About Tone-Color", 1918)
  • Vom Wesen des Musikalischen ("On the Essence of Music", 1920)
  • Deutung des Melos ("Interpretation of the Melos", 1923)
  • Atonale Melodienlehre ("Teachings on Atonal Melodies", manuscript, 1923)
  • Vom Melos zur Pauke ("From the Melos to the Kettledrum", 1925)
  • Zwölftontechnik. Die Lehre von den Tropen ("Twelve-Tone Technique: Teachings on the Tropes", 1926)
  • Der Goldene Schnitt. Eine Rechtfertigung der Zwölftonmusik ("The Golden Ratio", manuscript, 1926)
  • Kosmisches Testament (three "Cosmic Testaments", manuscripts, 1937, 1941, 1945)

External links

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