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Volume 12• Number 1

Spring 2005


 

 

To Edit a Sketchbook

by Richard Kramer

Artaria 195: Beethoven's Sketchbook for the Missa solemnis and the Piano Sonata in E Major, Opus 109. Volume I: Commentary. Volume II: Facsimile. Volume III: Transcription. Transcribed, edited, and with a Commentary by William Kinderman. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003. vol.I: xx, 114pp.; vol.II: viii [unpaginated]; vol.III: xii, 120pp.

To edit a sketchbook! Implicit in this daunting challenge are the thorny work-aday issues with which every editor must contend: how to transcribe a sketch, and what to say about it beyond the mere identification of the thing. But if this were to suggest that identity means simply the naming of what is known, the sketches are here to bedevil us. The identifying and the transcribing feed on one another in a circularity difficult to breach. A sketchbook, common sense tells us, will always remain inscrutable in its deeper reaches. When we tease the sketch from the shadow of oblivion onto the well-lit stage of identity, there is a danger that this confident step from the obscure, the arcane, the unknown to that which we know all too well is mapped onto a "creative process" about which we can know only too little. We impute to this process an intentionality, an underlying set of motives, of reasons and arguments, a causality that is our own invention. The inclination to solve these mysteries begins with the fallacy that there is something mysterious to solve, that music unheard in the silences between sketches will reveal itself in response to reason and wit. Often enough, Beethoven in the sketchbooks is a man in search of his own mysteries.

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