Arnold Schönberg’s study in his house at Brentwood Park/Los Angeles is on display as a replica at the Arnold Schönberg Center. The room has the same dimensions as the composer’s original study (16 sq. m./172,2 sq. ft.) and contains a variety of objects that document the original environment for his intellectual work.

Schönberg had a separate room for his work as a craftsman, which included model building, constructing, and designing. Objects that were to some extent created in this second room have been included in the study replica for practical presentation reasons. In this museum replica of his study in Vienna, a theatre backdrop substitutes for the driveway of 116 North Rockingham Avenue which Schönberg could see from his window.

The contents of the study reproduction are explained here by the composer’s daughter, Nuria Schoenberg Nono. It contains original furniture, instruments, work utensils, tools, items crafted by Arnold Schönberg, games, and an early photocopier.

Visitors to the Arnold Schönberg Center are not permitted entry to the replica of the composer’s study due to conservational and safety concerns. It is separated off by a glass wall, and even the archivists rarely enter. Due to the small number of visitors to the Center in spring and summer 2020 we decided to photograph all objects and to compile a new digital inventory.

As part of this digitization project, all original objects were photographed and added to the online image archive. The objects were set up in a light box – a cube-shaped frame with white screens in which the items could be showcased in depth and illuminated evenly. The photographs were taken using a Sony Alpha 6000 camera with a Sigma prime lens (30 mm), providing high image sharpness. Everyday office equipment from the composer’s era was photographed with the same care and attention as the large number of work utensils and games that were created by Schönberg himself. It took two months to produce the photos that can now be viewed in the online image archive (link) of the Arnold Schönberg Center and testify once more to the versatility of the composer’s creative mind.

Browsing through this material unearths ostensible curiosities and relics such as a hat by Dobbs that Schönberg purchased from Bullock’s, as revealed by the name embossed in the leather band. The composer visited this department store chain regularly after California became his new home in 1936. His address file includes three of their stores in Westwood, Wilshire, and Downtown Los Angeles, where he regularly wrote checks.

On an entirely different level, various quills offer insights into Schönberg’s everyday life. The composer stored his work utensils in self-crafted boxes, using unwanted items such as the cover of a drawing block from his children. Archival documentation of every single quill in a separate document is justified due to the attention that Arnold Schönberg himself paid to his possessions: his 1939 diary includes detailed information on the purchase of new writing utensils.

A small metal box used by Schönberg while writing Der musikalische Gedanke allows us to experience his thinking process from a closer perspective. Over 200 index cards display references for the manuscript version that were recorded by the composer using a quill or typewriter. The purpose of this list goes beyond that of a mere index – the file documents key terms in the composer’s musical thinking that served him as a continual point of reference during the genesis of his main work of music theory.

Christoph Edtmayr, Eike Feß, Therese Muxeneder