Schoenberg triumphs: his music is played by ice-cream vans

Schoenberg triumphs: his music is played by ice-cream vans


norman lebrecht

March 20, 2015

He once predicted it would be whistled by milkmen. No milkmen left, sad to say.

But David Schafer, an art professor at the University of Southern California (where Schoenberg taught) arranged for five hospitality trucks to play Schoenberg tracks around the campus for a week.

Truck 1 played Brettl-Lieder, truck 2 aired Gurrelieder, truck 3 broadcast Erwartung, truck 4 drover around playing the 12-tone Wind Quintet, opus 26, truck 5 stuck to the late violin-piano Phantasy, opus 47.

Here‘s a real-time, unboosted sample.

Schoenberg-Erwartung van

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has not played a note of Schoenberg in almost a decade. They’ve lost the trade to the ice-cream merchants.


  • Petros Linardos says:

    How did the ice cream sell?

    Actually it was Webern who has been quoted (in the Moldenhauer biography) to say “Sometime even the postman will whistle my melodies.” The quote is traceable on Google books.

  • Mark Shulgasser says:

    Alas, Schoenberg’s music has always suffered from bad performances.

    • Hilary says:

      In their heyday the London Sinfonietta made a wonderfully urgent recording of the Serenade. Mehta and Karajan both excelled in the Variations.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The difference between a good and a bad performance of Schönberg’s later music is very hard to assess since the notes don’t make any musical sense. By ’emancipating’ dissonance (as AS had it) ‘wrong’ notes were ’emancipated’ as well. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Gregory says:

    If the Brettl Lieder was from the recording done by Marni Nixon many years ago, then what a sweet treat indeed!

  • Eifiki Robertson says:

    There is something that could be said as sure as it is for the one that have nothing to do with those ream corporation but to be honest no one has to make a product that could work in an instance because it’s not profitable and this is not a smart busines. Even a KD and have said it over the time.

  • William Safford says:

    I bet that bassoonist Doug Quint would play Schoenberg on his ice cream truck, if asked.

  • clarrieu says:

    So I guess Borstlap is gonna buy icecreams exclusively from trucks 1 and 2, if at all…