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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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9. Reflections on Schubert’s ‘Die Winterreise’: In Search of ‘Temps Perdu’ and the ‘Interpretation of Dreams’

Extract

In memory of David Lewin

The signs along the way were in a strange language, but the road was inevitable.

Martin Cruz Smith1

‘Die Winterreise,’ Schubert’s second song cycle on poems by Wilhelm Müller, which dates from 1827 and revised in the composer’s last year, 1828, is a journey of loss. Through undirected wandering, it is loss of external direction; and through fragmentation of self, loss of meaning in inner direction. The ‘Winterreise’ is a double journey which mirrors outer and inner nature, where ice and snow, as motifs in the winter’s landscape, are filtered through the narrator’s subjective perception. The journey opens with leave-taking from the village where his love lived. As the cycle unfolds, leave-taking becomes, metaphorically, the theme of the journey. Through a series of episodic stages, the narrator leaves behind known co-ordinates of the external world, withdrawing into physical isolation. Then, as a kind of internal leave-taking, through increasing melancholy he becomes introverted and dissociated from himself.

While the cycle unfolds as a sequence in linear time, the second part of the journey can be seen as a replay of the prior narrative that loops back on itself as a transformed reworking, unfolding as internalized experience that replays at a different level of spiral time. Within the unfolding linear time of the whole cycle, the second part can be seen as an interiorized reworking of Part 1, as spiral time embedded in linear time. Poetic and...

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