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Reconstructions of Death and Leave-Taking in Music

Barbara Barry

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Musik


Confrontation; victim; journey - these are the three perspectives that form the basis of the book 'Lebewohl'. Its sections - farewell, absence and return - follow the titles of the movements of Beethoven's 'Lebewohl' piano sonata, and project stances of death and models of mortality in music. As narrative reconstructions, the chapters examine how musical techniques are inflected by the theme, or subtext, of mortality, and through those reconstructions trace the dynamics of desire and trajectories of loss. The book presents these three sets of perspectives about death and mortality in music as case studies in the technique of structural poetics: how instrumental compositional techniques are inflected by the poetic subtext of mortality; and conversely, how operatic writing about conflict and death, underpinned by literary or dramatic substructures, projects existential predicaments that are mirrors of human experience. In the book's final chapter of return, these explorations are seen as Faust narratives - as Everyman's search for meaning in the multiple worlds of space-time, real time and musical time. At a time when contemporary society's glamorous images are largely, if not entirely in denial about death, 'Lebewohl' reconfirms our humanity through powerful and persuasive musical representations of death and leave-taking; and in coming to terms with our own mortality, enriches the journey through the transformative power of music.

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