Arnold Schoenberg and number 13

13 has been considered unlucky for centuries: in religion because of Judas Iscariot – the disciple who betrayed Jesus – being the thirteenth diner to sit at the Last Supper, and throughout history works of literature, entertainment and pop culture have reinforced myths around the number.

And it seems that American-Austrian composer, Arnold Schoenberg, may have found today more stressful than most, after suffering with a life-long phobia of the number 13.
Known as triskaidekaphobe, his fear is linked to 12 being a number of perfection – for example, there are 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a clock and 12 zodiac signs.

The music theorist, teacher, writer and painter is widely considered to be one of the most influential classical composers of the 21st century, but he would still go out of his way to avoid the number 13.

It has been suggested that he even deliberately misspelt his opera, Moses und Aron, as the correct spelling resulted in the title being 13 letters long.

The then 76-year-old composer had spent the day in bed, feeling unbearably anxious and believing the worst was about to happen…
His wife, Gertrud, recalled: “About a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over.

“Then the doctor called me. Arnold’s throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end”.

We’ll never know for sure whether there’s any truth in it – but for now, we might just steer clear of black cats and cracked mirrors…

By Helena Asprou

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