The Book: The Genesis of Arnold & Igor

Arnold & Igor was inspired by my experiences as a musician, educator and orchestral conductor. While pursuing a masters degree at the University of Southern California, I stumbled upon a graduate seminar, Music 588, on the operas and theater works of Arnold Schoenberg.

The class met weekly at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, nestled in a leafy grove on the USC campus, a gem of forward-looking, modernist architecture—a structure resembling Bauhaus origami.

Each week, we were warmly greeted by Dr. Leonard Stein, a spry and avuncular instructor, a world authority on Schoenberg, who for many years had served as Schoenberg’s musical and personal assistant.

As we settled in around the long seminar table, surrounded by Schoenberg’s Expressionist paintings and drawings, hand-bound scores, various diaries and correspondence, calligraphy, and playing cards, I became captivated by Professor Stein’s vast knowledge and keen musicological insights. Equally riveting was the adjacent, life-sized replica of Schoenberg’s music studio, as it once existed in his Brentwood home.

Fast forward to ten years later, while studying orchestral conducting, I found myself wondering one day: what would happen if notorious archrivals Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, the opposing pillars of musical modernism, were to meet face to face in Los Angeles, where both resided during the 1940s?

Despite the fact that the two great luminaries resided within a few miles of one another for more than a decade (virtually within the same zip code, had zip codes been around then), their paths essentially never crossed. But what if they had?

The Arnold Schoenberg Institute from the outside
Arnold Schoenberg Institute, Los Angeles, 1975, photographed by Walker Dean Evans. Photo usage courtesy of the Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien.
A replica of Arnold Schoenberg's study, with office furniture, an upright piano, and three large arched windows looking out on a garden
Replica of Arnold Schoenberg’s study in the Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien. Photo courtesy of the same.
Arnold Schoenberg's study, with office furniture, bookshelves with many books and papers, and two arched windows
Arnold Schoenberg’s study in his house in Brentwood, Los Angeles, in 1953. Photo courtesy of the Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien.