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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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2. Out of This World: Modeling Beethoven’s ‘Grosse Fuge’ in the “Bubble Wrap” Universe


They knew that in an infinite period of time, all things happen to all men.

Jorge Luis Borges.1

In infinite space, even the most unlikely events must take place somewhere.

Max Tegmark2

In today’s post-postmodernist world, deconstructionism and its discontents are challenged by innovative new models of musical structure. These afford striking new interpretations, not only as alternative narratives but also as alternative realities. Centered in theoretical work in cosmology, parallel worlds have become icons of contemporary culture in literary theory, sci-fi books and action movies. As part of today’s multi-track mind-set, parallel worlds open up possibilities to reveal new musical perspectives.

The concept of parallel worlds, outlined in Chapter 1, was introduced by physicist Hugh Everett in a paper in 1957, which he called the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI).3 Everett’s new paradigm of reality was based on a well-known principle in quantum mechanics. In the apparently random movement of sub-atomic particles, a measurement causes them to line up, effectively creating an intersection from which they split off into two or more pathways, like highway exits. The initiating action accordingly becomes the departure point for alternative routes and courses of action. As each pathway branches out, it develops its own distinctive identity along an independent line of space-time.

By extrapolating from the micro quantum world to the macro-world of existence, Everett proposed a striking scenario of alternative parallel worlds with ←45 | 46→variant identities. If a strategic...

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