Josef Matthias Hauer

Josef Mattias Hauer (March 19, 1883September 22, 1959) was an Austrian composer and music theorist. He is most famous for developing, independent of Arnold Schoenberg, a method for composing with all 12 notes of the chromatic scale, using a technique which he called "tropes."



Hauer was born in Wiener Neustadt and died in Vienna. He had an early musical training which included cello, choral conducting and organ, but evidently did not include theory and composition for he claimed that he was self-taught. In 1919 he published his first work on music theory, and during the summer of that year devised his method for composing with twelve tones. Unlike Schoenberg's method, in which the order of the twelve notes of the row is of utmost importance, Hauer conceived the twelve-tone system as consisting of two complementary unordered hexachords: that is, the order of the six notes in each hexachord was not as important in the composition as the identification of any given note with one or the other hexachord. These two hexachords—or tropes, as he called them—would be used as building-blocks of a composition. In the early 1920s he published several works on his method and ideas related to his method.

Hauer wrote prolifically, both music and prose describing his methods, until 1938, when his music was added by the Nazis to the "degenerate art" (Entartete Kunst) exhibit. Wisely keeping a low profile, he stayed in Austria through the war, publishing nothing; but even after the war he published little more, although he probably wrote more than 1000 pieces which remained in draft.

Some scholars have suggested that Hauer was the model for Adrian Leverkühn in Thomas Mann's novel Doktor Faustus. Late in life Hauer spoke about Mann, as well as Theodor W. Adorno, with great bitterness, for he felt that both men had misunderstood him. Adorno had written about Hauer, but only disparagingly.

All of Hauer's copious compositions after 1940 are named "Zwölftonspiel" or Zwölftonmusik" (Twelve-tone piece, or twelve-tone music.)

Further reading

Fürsprache für Hauer—Hermann Heiß und die Hintergründe eines Briefes von Thomas Mann an Ellie Bommersheim im Jahre 1949, lit. Speech for the defence of Hauer—Hermann Heiß and background of a letter of Mann's with Ellie Bommersheim in 1949, Herbert Henck, composer publishing house 1998, ISBN 3980234134.


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