( Morning Edition (NPR) )
Twentieth century classical composer Arnold Schoenberg's collection
of music, manuscripts, artwork and
drawings are now housed at USC. The family wants to move it, because USC breached the original agreement.
BOB EDWARDS, Host: Arnold Schoenberg already was recognized as an innovator
when he fled the Nazis
in the early 1930s. Among other things, he composed his music using an unusual 12-note scale. By 1934, he
was settled in Los Angeles, where he lived quietly until his death in 1951.
Twenty years after his death, his family and the University of Southern
California created the Schoenberg
Institute to house the composer's papers and preserve his legacy. Now, the university and the family are in
court, and the Schoenberg Institute may leave the United States. David d`Arcy reports.
DAVID d'ARCY, Reporter: The 12-tone or dodecaphonic music of Arnold
Schoenberg is based on the
division of an octave into 12, rather than 8, parts.
Schoenberg launched a revolution in music when he composed this way
at the turn of the century, says his
RANDY SCHOENBERG, Grandson: Schoenberg still is difficult for a lot
of people who aren't that familiar
with classical music, in general, but for the people who really love classical music, Schoenberg is part of
DAVID d'ARCY: Randy Schoenberg's grandfather preserved much of that
history himself, says Leonard
Stein [sp], a violinist who was Schoenberg' s assistant.
LEONARD STEIN, Violinist: Schoenberg kept just about everything that
he ever did and he lived a very
long life. And, in addition, the family first- or the widow, Gertrude Schoenberg, was determined to keep it
DAVID d'ARCY: Stein says that the archive assembled from Schoenberg'
s estate and other donations is one
of the most important in the field of 20th century music. In 1975, the Schoenberg Institute opened, and Stein
became its first director. Under his successor in recent years, the archive is under dispute. Randy
Schoenberg, who is also his family's attorney, says the University of Southern California has violated the
contract that created the institute - among other things, holding concerts and classes in the room built as the
institute' s exhibition space.
RANDY SCHOENBERG: The provost decided he wanted to meet with the Schoenbergs,
and he met with
them in February of 1995, and said, `Well, we need to change the contract. We need to get rid of the advisory
board,' - basically get rid of the Schoenberg's involvement; `We need to use the building for other things,' i.e.
let the school of music have recitals which aren't permitted under the agreement; and third, `We need the
Schoenbergs to relinquish all control over copyrights.' The Schoenbergs didn't agree to modify the agreement at
that time, and the provost then wrote a letter in April saying, `While we regret this, you're free to take the
DAVID d'ARCY: Since April of last year, the Schoenbergs have sought
to do just that. The cities of The
Hague, Berlin, and Vienna have all made offers. In the meantime, the institute's own programs and
performances have been curtailed, and USC has disbanded an independent fund-raising group called the
Friends of the Schoenberg Institute.
Attorney Scott Edelman [sp], who represents USC, argues that the university
built the institute's building, but
the Schoenberg's are blocking the school from using it.
SCOTT EDELMAN, Attorney: The university's position is that it values
the Schoenbergs' input and guidance
and knowledge about their father and about modern music, but that, ultimately, questions about how the
institute is run - for example, what sorts of classes are taught here, what the content of the journal of the
Arnold Schoenberg Institute is comprised of, things of that nature have to be decided by the university and
not by the donors.
DAVID d'ARCY: According to the Schoenberg family, that means they' re
able to transfer whatever materials
they themselves donated to the archive, but USC now insists on retaining the objects, manuscripts, and papers
that came in other donations, even those specifically intended to be part of the institute's collection. Randy
Schoenberg says that defeats the purpose of an archive.
RANDY SCHOENBERG: It's obvious to us and to anybody, and we've spoken
with every donor that we can
find, that all of these donated materials belong with the Schoenberg collection. They have relatively little
value to anybody outside of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, and, yet, the university has maintained that it is
entitled to keep those collections and will separate them.
DAVID d'ARCY: But there are broader implications, Randy Schoenberg says,
that deal with any manuscript
gift to any cultural institution.
RANDY SCHOENBERG: It's very troubling. I think a lot of people give
materials to institutions with the
understanding that they'd be used in a certain way. If the university or other institution decides not to do that
and breaches that understanding, it's very troubling.
DAVID d'ARCY: The dispute comes down to who can control a gift to a
university or cultural institution once
that gift is made. USC attorney Scott Edelman -
SCOTT EDELMAN: It makes no sense that somebody should be able to give
something away, take millions of
dollars in tax donations for having given it away, and then treat it as if it's still their own.
DAVID d'ARCY: A Los Angeles superior court judge has upheld the Schoenberg
family position and denied
USC general use of the Schoenberg Institute building. The judge still has to decide whether the archive can
stay together and who will hold copyright to the archive's papers and manuscripts. Former Schoenberg
Institute Director Leonard Stein says he's not convinced by USC's fervor to hold onto the institute.
LEONARD STEIN: In my estimation, it's a lot of crocodile tears about
something that they weren't that
concerned with. Now, they make a fuss about they want to keep some of the Schoenberg material and all
that? They never showed that interest before, and the new regime doesn't seem to know much- have much of
an interest in that at all. That's what confuses me. Why do they want it anymore?
DAVID d'ARCY: If the Schoenberg Institute leaves USC for a city in Europe,
its holdings may be
supplemented by the many paintings and drawings that Arnold Schoenberg made, which are owned by the
family and are on an exhibition tour in Germany.
For National Public Radio, I'm David d'Arcy.
[The preceding text has been professionally transcribed.
However, in order to meet rigid distribution and transmission deadlines,
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audiotape and cannot, for that reason, be guaranteed as to the accuracy of speakers' words or spelling.]
Copyright © 1996 by National Public Radio. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Composer Schoenberg's Family Battles USC for Collection., Morning Edition (NPR), 05-28-1996.
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