A University of Oregon music theory professor has received a top award for his book about the music of modern composer Arnold Schoenberg.

The committee presenting the Berry award called Boss' book,  “a fresh perspective on the musical idea."

The committee presenting the Berry award called Boss’ book,  “a fresh perspective on the musical idea.”

Erin Zysett/UO School of Music and Dance

Professor Jack Boss first got to know Schoenberg’s music as a grad student. He saw the composer’s atonal works as a challenge to solve.

In 2001, Boss began studying Schoenberg’s framework for musical ideas.

“Basically what musical idea is for him is conflict resolution,” Boss said. “The music sets up some sort of conflict at the beginning. It elaborates it, makes it worse, creates other conflicts based on the first one. At some point later on in the piece, everything’s brought together and all the loose ends are tied up.”

It took Boss 13 years to publish his study. The book, “Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone Music: Symmetry and the Musical Idea,” is the 2015 Wallace Berry Award winner. That’s the top national prize for writings about music theory and composition.

Boss said the award will benefit his own work, and the University of Oregon music department in terms of international visibility.