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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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3. Is Anybody There? Texting in Schubert’s Musical Stratosphere


Lear: “Who is it that can tell me who I am?”Fool: “Lear’s shadow.”1

In 1906, with the publication of the Harmonielehre, Heinrich Schenker started the exploration of tonal musical language that would result in a new paradigm for the structure of musical works.2 Fundamental to Schenker’s ideas of tonal coherence were prolongation, as part of a process that extended beyond the succession of surface events by viewing them as a conceptual unit. Compositional unfolding – ‘Auskomponierung’ – showed how underlying structure was realized on levels of hierarchical design, from the most detailed focus on the musical surface through to the work’s underlying substructure. The unfolding of musical process, underpinned by a fundamental harmonic/contrapuntal structure – ‘Ursatz’ – provided a groundplan of structural coherence in tonal works as stylistically different as Chopin, Schubert and Brahms.

Schenker’s concept of background archetypes supporting a wide range of stylistic foregrounds was influenced by Goethe’s theory of organic morphology. Goethe described how the diverse features of shape or color in a specific species of plant could be understood as variants of a basic form.3 Not limiting his ideas to natural philosophy, Goethe proposed a more wide-ranging, holistic view: that such ‘variants on a theme’ were fundamental patterns of existence that could be identified in many areas of both organic and inorganic structures.4 Adapting ←65 | 66→Goethe’s concept of an underlying form supporting phenomenological variants to musical structures, Schenker developed his ideas on ‘Stufen,’ ‘fernhören’ and hierarchical levels in the three volumes...

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