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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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7. Schubert’s ‘Quartettsatz’: A Case Study in Confrontation


Life, as we find it, is too hard for us; it brings us too many pains, disappointments and impossible tasks. In order to bear it we cannot dispense with palliative measures…There are perhaps three such measures: powerful deflections, which cause us to make light of our misery; substitutive satisfactions, which diminish it; and intoxicating substances, which make us insensible to it …The substantive satisfactions, as offered by art, are illusions in contrast with reality, but they are none the less psychically effective. Sigmund Freud1

Unfortunately, there is always an unmapped area of dangerous fallibility between a policy and its pursuit. Paul Scott2

Recent Schubert scholarship provides a range of perspectives on Schubert’s music, exploring historical context, literary choices and the distinctive musical characteristics in the instrumental works that Susan Wollenberg has called ‘fingerprints’.3 Hugh Macdonald’s discussion of Schubert’s volatile temperament, for example, gives a vivid account of how Schubert’s moods would veer from friendliness at one moment to taciturnity or violent eruptions of anger at the next. Macdonald sees these unpredictable outbursts as related to abrupt disruptions in the music, like the sudden, intrusive dissonances in both movements of the ‘Unfinished’ symphony.4

Scott Messing discusses how Schubert was depicted in later 19th-century image-making, recasting his rather unpromising body shape into a more idealized persona.5 By contrast with the powerful masculinity in Beethoven ←169 | 170→iconology, Messing considers how the feminine side of Schubert’s nature – what Schumann called Schubert’s ‘Mädchencharakter’ – was re-contoured into...

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