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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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1. ‘Many Worlds’ and Black Swans: Contemporary Models in Music, the Arts and Ideas


We have seen that the brain is a creativity machine. It searches for patterns amid chaos and ambiguity and it constructs models of the complex reality around us. This search for order and pattern is at the heart of the artistic and scientific enterprise alike. Eric Kandel1

In ‘The Road to Reality,’ Roger Penrose raised the need for scientific theory to forge powerful directions for the 21st century if it was going to reveal significant new discoveries of comparable import to those of the 20th century.2 Since contemporary ideas differ substantially from those of the past, they need innovative approaches to develop new theories. Such new approaches in turn provoke different questions, and in the attempt to answer them, reveal striking perspectives on events and existential contexts.

The value of new theories is not that they make truth claims, although after a time they tend to become ingrained in the intellectual landscape. Rather, they offer challenging ways to rethink existing premises of how the world works. David Passig writes that while convincing scientific theory most closely corresponds to facts, theory is not in itself truth but rather an explanatory scenario. In this context, he notes: “We need to remember, however, that scientific paradigms are useful in offering us mental patterns, not eternal truths.”3

Those mental patterns are subject to both external influences involving changing social and cultural paradigms, and an internal evaluation of problem-solving. Adopting new theoretical and philosophical approaches from a...

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