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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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4. Invisible Cities and Imaginary Landscapes: Timely Meditations on Beethoven’s Quartet in C Sharp Minor, ‘Quasi una Fantasia’

Extract

I will put together, piece by piece, the perfect city, made of fragments mixed with the rest, of instants separated by intervals, of signals one sends out, not knowing who receives them.

Italo Calvino.1

In his famous essay ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox,’ Isaiah Berlin discusses a fragment from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus and interprets it in a rather unusual way.2 According to Archilochus: “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Clearly, the hedgehog’s one big thing is the defense tactic of curling up in a ball, spikes out, to repel an invader, although no one cares to spell out what the fox knows. Commentators in the past have taken Archilochus’s rather cryptic remark as an implicit criticism of fox-like behavior, where people flit from one interest to another rather than focusing on a central plan of action. Hedgehogs don’t come off any better in the assessment stakes as they put all their eggs in one basket instead of having at least one version of Plan B.

Berlin, though, has a different and more positive view of both hedgehogs and foxes. Without pushing the distinctions to extremes, he contends that singularity and diversity characterize different kinds of writers, and, by extension, human beings in general. Hedgehogs are motivated by a single governing principle which provides a core identity to the writer’s output and plays out in different works in a variety of guises. Proust’s ‘mémoire’ is...

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