Humming Schoenberg's Piano Concerto

It was a thrill to hear hundreds of audience members vigorously hum the tone row to Arnold Schoenberg's Piano Concerto at my pre-concert talk for the LA Philharmonic. In preparing for the talk, I struggled with various approaches. So often, talks about Schoenberg obsess with permutations of the 12 tone row. Attractive jargon like "combinatoriality" is, well, not so attractive to listeners struggling to get a handle on some difficult music. 

I realized the key is to hear it the way Schoenberg talked about it—as thematic music that develops classically like Beethoven and Brahms. So I had the audience sing the tone row repeatedly while I harmonized it differently, first like Haydn, then like Chopin, then Richard Strauss, and finally Schoenberg. By that fourth time, they could "feel" the theme and we were ready to embark on the journey of the concerto!