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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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8. Classicism in Retrospect: Op. 135 as Beethoven’s ‘Haydn’ Quartet


The year 1826 was a year of awful happenings and great achievements.1

By the fall of 1826, Beethoven had finished the F major quartet, Op. 135. 1826 saw the completion of two of the late quartets, the C sharp minor quartet, Op. 131, and the F major quartet, Op. 135. The C sharp minor quartet, written between December 1825 and July 1826, with its slow 1st movement fugue and seven movement plan, required intense, detailed work, with more sketches than for almost any other work except the 9th symphony.2 On August 12, 1826, Beethoven sends Schott the score with the ironic note: “Zusammengestohlen aus Verschiedenem diesem und jenem” (cobbled together with filched bits of this and that).

Co-existing with the compositional reality of structural problem-solving and expressive delineation is the everyday reality of physical existence, often disorganized and at times chaotic; bouts of ill-health and the ongoing struggle with deafness; simultaneous, often duplicitous negotiations with publishers; and circumstances that he tries to manipulate or control, in particular the contentious relationship with his nephew Karl, for whom he was the guardian.3

Virtually coinciding with completion of Op. 131, tension between Beethoven and Karl reaches crisis point. After months of violent scenes, with Karl trying to assert his independence from Beethoven’s possessiveness, on July 29 Karl pawns his watch and buys two pistols. In a distraught frame of mind, he tries to commit suicide but sustained only slight injury. The effect on Beethoven, though, was traumatic....

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