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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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6. Utopia and Dystopia Revisited: Contrasted Domains in Beethoven’s Middle-Period F Major and F Minor Works

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For Lewis Lockwood

As these utopian and dystopian fictions remind us, we rely on works of fiction, in any medium, to help us understand the world and what it means to be human. Janet Murray1

Shaping events into conceptual narratives has long been the business of historians. Until well into the 20th century, the contours of social development, market forces and ideology were described along historical time-lines. The ups and downs of human affairs – in Lear’s pithy phrase “who’s in, who’s out”2 – are the fiber of history, chronicled in Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ and Yuval Harari’s ‘Brief History of Humankind,’ just as the ups and downs of nature’s affairs are mapped out in Stephen Hawking’s ‘Brief History of Time’.3

Along the time-lines of chronology are reference points and markers that enable us to collate fragmented, often indecipherable events in the present into recognizable patterns, and extrapolate probable courses of action into the future. In musical works, similarly, such identifiable patterns help us discern normative features of style and structure against digressive action.

But chronology is not the only way of looking at time and events. Like Newtonian physics and relativity theory which offer alternate descriptions of space, cyclical time offers an alternative view to chronology, by reading history, in Isaiah Berlin’s phrase, “against the current.”4 Instead of viewing stylistic musical features as characterizing a particular slice of chronological time, cyclical time focuses on how they...

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