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Editor's Note

Volume 12• Number 1

Spring 2005


 

 

Saving the Ordinary: Beethoven's "Ghost" Trio
and the Wheel of History

by Lawrence Kramer

1. Allegro vivace con brio

I t is one of the paradoxes of music history that European instrumental music in the first half of the nineteenth century developed a strong tendency to affiliate itself with literary forms, especially narrative, at the same time that its apparent autonomy was aggressively being celebrated and theorized, eventually to the point of being appointed the model for art in general. The reasons for this situation have never been satisfactorily explained. One possibility is that music was simply recovering the narrative connections it had lost as a result of the progressive "emancipation" from language that had consolidated around the turn of the century and was enshrined in the reception of Beethoven. Another, perhaps more revealing, possibility is that the narrative turn provided a means of limiting a transcendental power that had come to be ascribed to instrumental music and that was felt to be both magnificent and dangerous.

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