Since the premiere of the triptych of one-act operas, Hindemith gained the reputation of a ruthlessly provocative avant gardist; a new series of works even strengthened this impression. The Kammermusik No. 1, Op. 24 No. 1 offers in its final movement «Finale 1921» a desolate portrait of the times, culminating in the howl of a siren and the quotation of a foxtrot.
The fourth movement of the Sonata for Solo Viola. Op. 25 No. 1 bears the performance indication «Breakneck tempo, wild, beauty of tone is beside the point.» Since Hindemith himself frequently performed this Sonata, he became practically identified with this type of music. Hindemith wrote the following about the «Ragtime» from the Suite 1922, Op. 26 for piano: «...Play this piece very wildly, but always very strictly in rhythm, like a machine. Regard the piano here as an interesting kind of percussion instrument and act accordingly.» Hindemith drew a title page for this work, a street scene in a big city that directly expresses something of the character of this music.
But other works were being written at the same time that had nothing harsh, rough or provocative about them, and that would lead Hindemith to a new conception of the meaning of his music. He himself considered the song cycle Das Marienleben (Life of Mary), Op. 27 (based on Rainer Maria Rilke) as a first climax in his composing career: «I like the pieces very much and am glad that I succeeded so well. I am sure that they are now the best I have done...»
In later years he even admitted: «The strong impression already made by the first performance on the listeners – I had expected nothing – made me aware, for the first time in my life as a musician, of the ethical necessity of music and the moral obligations of the musician...»