Monday, October 22, 2007

Beethoven is Hegel in notes,

I wrote last post, thinking I'd hit upon something. But of course I must have read it, or something like it, somewhere in Adorno. In TWA's splendid, luminous essay "Skoteinos, or How to Read Hegel," after a particularly gnarly passage from Hegel's Subjective Logic, one finds this:
Music of Beethoven's type, in which ideally the reprise, the return in reminiscence of complexes expounded earlier, should be the result of development, that is, of dialectic, offers an analogue to this that transcends mere analogy. Highly organized music too must be heard multidimensionally, forward and backward at the same time. Its temporal organizing principle requires this: time can be articulated only through distinctions between what is familiar and what is not yet familiar, between what already exists and what is new; the condition of moving forward is a retrogressive consciousness. One has to know a whole movement and be aware retrospectively at every moment of what has come before. The individual passages have to be grasped as consequences of what has come before, the meaning of a divergent repetition has to be evaluated, and reappearance has to be perceived not merely as architectonic correspondence but as something that has evolved with necessity. What may help both in understanding this analogy and in understanding the core of Hegel's thought is recognizing that the conception of totality as an identity immanently mediated by nonidentity is a law of artistic form transposed into the philosophical domain. (Hegel: Three Studies, trans Shierry Weber Nicholson, MIT P 1993, 136-7)
***
Skoteinos: darkness, obscurity. The essay among other things is a wonderful primer on difficulty in Hegel.

5 comments:

E. M. Selinger said...

Hi, Mark!

"The individual passages have to be grasped as consequences of what has come before, the meaning of a divergent repetition has to be evaluated, and reappearance has to be perceived not merely as architectonic correspondence but as something that has evolved with necessity."

This seems true of how we read poems as well, no? Which leads me to wonder, is it more true of Beethoven than of other composers? You know music better than I do--is this true of some kinds, some periods, more than others? (I'm guessing it's NOT true of that maddening Bear-Guitar solo I saw here a few weeks back, but maybe that's just my poor ear talking?)

Scott said...

Mark,

I'm new to your blog, but scanning recent entries see many of my own touchstones - Messiaen, Bryars, Miles, Ruskin, Zukofsky, etc.

Based on your last two posts, I thought you might appreciate this passage from the liner notes of Messiaen's Quatour pour la Fin du Temps (EMI Classics/Yvonne Loriod. Notes by Michael Stegmann) "The Quartet is constructed in a broad arch form, in which there is a clear concordance between the second and seventh movements...and the centralIntermede, which harks back to the first and third movements while anticipating the sixth and eighth. The large-scale form corresponds on a small scale to the "non-retrogradable rhythms" which are one of the fundamental elements of Messiaen's musical idiom: axially mirrored sequences of varying note values which yield the same sequence whether played forwards or backwards: an emblem for abolished time in which organized finiteness transforms itself into infinity."

Etha Williams said...

Found your post while googling "Beethoven Hegel"...nice. Have you read the collection Adorno's fragments on Beethoven, published under the title "Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music"? TWA there makes the Beethoven/Hegel connection frequently and convincingly...it's very interesting.

For example:

"...[Beethoven] incessantly created entirely new categories, in secularized appliction of the theological concept of the creator -- not rhapsodically, but as a consequence of his musical thinking. This, however, is connected at the deepest level to the content of Beethoven's music. It is the truly human element, something not ossified but genuinely dialectical -- the exact opposite of the paranoiac. This ability has such importance in Beethoven because it is entirely without anything accidental, irresponsible, aper├žu-like -- because in him, philosophically speaking, the power of the system (the sonata is the system as music) equals that of experience, each reciprocally producing the other. In this he is really more Hegelian than Hegel, who, in applying the concept of the dialectic proceeds far more rigidly, in the manner of all-embracing logic, than the theory itself teaches.... Beethoven is implacable and yielding at once. It must be so, but the prisoner is granted bread and water. One can no longer compose like Beethoven, but one must think as he composed."

Anyway, I can't recommend this book enough...it's wonderful. Fragmentary, but wonderful.

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Anonymous said...

wonderful writing and thoughts