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The Musical Matrix Reloaded

Contemporary Perspectives and Alternative Worlds in the Music of Beethoven and Schubert

Barbara Barry

The Musical Matrix Reloaded proposes a striking new scenario for the music of Beethoven and Schubert in the contemporary world. It draws on the theory of Multiple Worlds in physics, and on sci-fi and movies, as powerful contemporary models of alternative realities to explain radical features of interpolation, dislocation, and ultimately of return.

Confronting familiar assumptions about Beethoven’s and Schubert’s music as long-range consonance, the book proposes instead that musical action is predicated on an underlying disruptive energy, Nietzsche’s Dionysian disruptive background re-interpreted in the contemporary world. When it breaks through the musical surface, it dislocates continuity and re-routes tonal narrative into new, unforeseen directions. These unforeseen paths enable us to glimpse in Beethoven’s and Schubert’s music the beautiful, and often haunting, reality of another world.

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About the Essays

About the Essays


of circular loop by returning to its starting place. At a larger level of time and structure, the second part can be seen as a transformation of the first, replaying its motifs of tears, hope and isolation as loss, a transformation played out both within and against the backdrop of the winter’s landscape.

Chapters 10 and 11 are investigations, or rather sleuthing for clues in two of the composers’ most enigmatic works: Beethoven’s A minor quartet, Op. 132 and Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ symphony. In Chapter 10, the A minor quartet is seen literally as search for the enigma. Genetic theory, with fundamental life motifs coded in every cell and arrayed on the strands of the double helix, provides the explanatory framework for the initial ‘Gestalt’ motif and its variant reworkings in every subsequent movement, and how these variants play out on the intertwined tonal domains in the quartet. Chapter 11 reconsiders the enigma of a more than 40-year silence about the ‘Unfinished’ symphony after Schubert’s death and comes up with some surprising explanations of the work as psychic ‘Doppelgänger.’

The last chapter brings back the theory of ‘Many Worlds’ from the beginning as worlds revisited, and via Shakespeare’s ghosts, sees Schubert’s ‘Doppelgänger’ inflecting many of his late instrumental works in ways that resonate with striking power in our contemporary refracted world.

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