According to one of the most often repeated anecdotes in the history of Western music, the composer Arnold Schoenberg intimated to his student Josef Rufer one day in the summer of 1921 that he had “discovered something which will ensure the dominance of German music for the next hundred years.” The discovery was dodecaphonic serialism, the compositional technique that Schoenberg believed held the key to recovering practices specific to German music that had been undone in the early decades of the twentieth century by the overthrow of the tonal tradition, an overthrow Schoenberg himself had done more than anyone to bring about. Less frequently noted, however, is that, if Rufer's story is to be believed, Schoenberg's promise to the...

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