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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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5. ‘The Matrix’ Revisited: A Reconsideration of Schubert’s Sonata Form Movements


Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions. ‘The Matrix’

In a detailed discussion of sonata form, James Hepokoski raised the issue of explanatory deficiency in normative descriptions of 1st and other movements in sonata form.1 Existing explanations of sonata form, he contends, often fail to account for the unusual ways that composers use to shape sonata design. More detailed explanations are needed to account for the many kinds of different departures in sonata movements. He subsequently addressed these concerns, together with Warren Darcy, in ‘Elements of Sonata Theory’ which gives an extended description that details many variants of sonata writing.2

Like a close-up photograph, diversification puts emphasis on the details. Honing in on the details, though, may lose sight of the big picture, as the context to which those details are related and the reference points against which departures may be evaluated. How we make such evaluations of similarities and difference in many areas of experience, including sonata praxis, is by reference to some kind of model, against which, formally or informally, we match the present instance to assess the ‘fit’. Using the model as reference enables us to propose more refined descriptions for individual cases. Essentially, matching against models – cars, spaceships and sonatas – enables us to recognize similarities of structure and differences of individual character, as criteria of experience that help us make sense of the world.

The present discussion of sonata forms, and Schubert’s in particular, takes the opposite point of view...

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