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Josef (Matthias) Hauer Twelve-note piece of February 19, 1953
Josef (Matthias) Hauer

Reflections on the twelve-note piece

Josef Matthias Hauer composed about 1000 twelve-note pieces. They reached their definite form in 1940 when Hauer wrote his first 12-note piece with monodic rules. Nikolaus Fheodoroff, a Hauer pupil, characterises the twelve-note piece as a type like this:

"It is an organic unfolding of the 12-note row in harmonic, melodic and rhythmic respects. Its peculiar, static character, which gives the impression of a sounding continuity, demands from the listener a willingness to meditate, from the artist the renunciation of virtuoso brilliancy and from the composer a subjection of all individual creative urges under the strict rules of a musical grammar."
From the preface of "Three twelve-note pieces for music groups", Vienna 1969.

Hauer himself says about the twelve-note piece:
"Twelve-note music is no art in the classical, romantic or modern sense, but a cosmic play with 12 tempered semi-tones."

Hauer's attitude can be understood from his philosophy which has absorbed ancient Chinese thinking. In "Tao Tê  King" Lao-Tse says:

Doing be No-Doing,
Business be No-Business,
Enjoyment be No-Enjoyment,
The great be small,
The plentiful be scarce.

Hauer's "non-composing" realises these thoughts in the field of music. In the place of musical inspiration he puts the rule. A work conceived in this way he calls "twelve-note piece".

"A twelve-note piece does not want to be a musical composition in the sense of a work of art but a play with 12 notes, ordered, aesthetically beautiful and radiating peace, which is transformed into sound. It can best be compared to a kaleidoscope which is able to delight the eye with its numerous ornaments which in themselves may have no artistic shape at all. If a twelve-note piece is tuned in gently, then the thoughts will soon begin to wander and it does not matter if the sounds in the "background" are no longer consciously perceived after a few minutes, (just like the ticking of a clock is usually ignored); on the contrary: the quiet sound is kept impersonal and artless so as not to divert the listener's meditation by attractive melodies, rhythms, etc." 
From the teachers' handbook "Creative play with sounds" by Johann Sengstschmid, Bosse publication house, Regensburg 1976.

Johann Sengstschmid sees in Hauer's ideas a starting-point for the paedagogy of music and with great fervour and success has put it into practice in grammar school classes.

"The twelve-note piece is accessible to anyone with a certain gift for music, similar to chess, and like it will spread playfully. The question is just if the 'composers' want to take it in hand first so that they are the originators or if they want to wait till children show them how to do it."
(Hauer's manifesto, written inside on the last page of the twelve-note piece for orchestra, of August 28, 1940).

Origin of a twelve-note piece 

Further information:
Kreative Musikerziehung nach J. M. Hauer
Steinbauer: Josef Matthias Hauers Zwölftonspiel
Johann Sengstschmid

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