總瀏覽量

2011年3月11日 星期五

Beethoven's Influences of Symphony - 1

前言: 我已經常常說,香港的現代教育,簡直是混賬到極,不知所謂到不能忍受的地步。香港那所訓練未來老師的最高學府裡頭的 "教授" 們給了 assignment 同學,又驚同學們沒有時間做,又驚他們不識做,又驚題目出得深,就說叫他們抄書就可以了。我有一位私人學生急急 call 我,並告訴我看完 Palisca 那本 History textbook 天書,都沒有直接答案談及有 Beethoven 對後世音樂 和音樂家的影響。現在是江湖告急。嗚呼! 連那些修音樂為主科的學位學生,隨口也不能 present 十分鐘有關貝多芬對音樂的貢獻和影響,還敢說自己是讀音樂,懂音樂的嗎? 看著書本也不懂 "抄",(應該是偷),怎辦? 我們常說,熟讀唐書三百首,不會吟詩也會 "抄" 嘛。坦白說,平時我指導這些私人學生,也常常提及不同作曲家和作品的風格特色和對後世的貢獻。些個同學是學 AMusTCL 考試研習的,Set piece 是 Schubert 的第五交響曲,我也談及過這首作品和 Beethoven 的交響作品的相同和不同的關係。我也曾教過同學,舒氏一生以 Beethoven 這位同期的前輩大師為學習對象,連死前也想學習 Counterpoint (這是Beethoven 最精,但 Schubert 最弱的技巧),皆因要寫偉大的交響曲,沒有精練的對位技巧是不行的。可是同學們就當私人老師是補鑊助理,"求其" 要他們改改 past paper 就算是跟他們學了。他們就只關心學校是否給他們一張證書,所以對校內的課就比較認真,私人嘛....嘿嘿....


正文:


Carl Dahlhaus suggested that the development of  symphony in the Romantic period could be described as circum-polar; composers had to response to or answer to, to more or less, the challenges and new trends by Beethoven. The following discussion is the Beethovean influences of the development of symphony.

First, large scale, and longer work: All symphonies have to be extended in order to express the aesthetics of  Romantic Sublimity. One of the elements that Romantic composers to deal with this expression was to create longer and larger work. In reception to  Beethoven's lengthly symphony ninth, Malher, for instance, created symphonies of almost double the length of his predecessor.

Second, greater emotional contrasts: Emotinal content  of the materials ranged more widely than that used in the Classical symphony. Thanks should go to the emergence of the liberal humantistic idea of Individualism in 19th century Europe. Greater and deeper explorations on individual inner emotions were demanded by artists in their artistic creations, claiming for the relief of one's sentimental burdens and immersed unexplainable passions. The common saying, " I am not the best, though, I am different"  was undoubtedly the incentive for composers seeking their inner emotional expressions through the media of musical art. Symphony, regarded as the highest form of all arts, was taken-for-granted to act as a sharp weapon  to achieve this purpose. Beethoven not only expressed his "giant-tyrant" like personality and zeals through his "heroic" symphonies, such as symphony no. 3 and no. 5, but also exerted a large  impact on the later followed composers to investigate their thoughts, ideals and dreams of a higher socio-political level through the musical genre of symphony. Mendelossohn's Symphony 5, Reformation, for instance, can be regarded as a response to the political turmoil  of the Post-revolutionary period in the 19th century Europe.

Third, Beethoven established the uniqueness of each symphony: each symphony had different aims and confronts different problems: What is a symphony? When classical composers seek to maintain a balance form and shape of a symphony with the use of sonata-allegro form as the first movement, then following by a contrast lyrical slow movment,  Beethoven attempted to extend such a rigid genre and structure by adding more weights on the coda and the last two movments. He replaced scherzo for Haydnean minuet, showing his inventive, however courageous, experiment to challenge the classical formality. How about the classical point of view of the balance of keys? What is the ultimate goal for such balance and well-proportion? Composers after Beeethoven would not hestitate to write any form of symphonic music that went far beyond the boundary of a conventional musical genre. If Beethoven could complete a symphony in five movements (symphony no. 6), instead of a standardized balance form of four movements, why not me! Perhaps, this can help us understand why Schubert 's symphony 5 in Bb major broke the normal rule of a sonata principle that the recapituation section returns in subdominant key, instead of the normal tonic key. It seems that this breakthrough just wanted to inform Schubert;s contemporary audience that there is no need to reolve dominant to tonic in sonata principle.


Fourth, The whole symphony becomes unified through its developing emotional content, outlining a psychological journey: To Haydn and Mozart of the Classical period, symphony, was not more than an instrumental piece to let different sounds sounding together. They wrote symphony for the patrons, for the rising middle-class  concerts. They wrote because audience liked it. Beethoven, on the other hand, wrote symphony for himself. According to Sir Grove,  Beethoven's music never failed to depict a protrait of Beethoven himself. Symphony no. 3, for instance, although was written originally for the dedication to Bonaparte, an ideal hero liberating the layman people from political monarchy, was undoubtedly a sonic image of Beethoven himself. The music of this "Heroic" symphony can be realized as four stage of the growth of hero, say, first movement, is the born of a naive hero,  second movement, is the dead of  hero, third, is the resurrection of hero, and then the finale is the  triumphant of hero. While Beethoven wrote symphony to seek the issue of hero, Gustav Mahler, on the other hand, followed Beethoven to transcend symphony as a medium to explore the issues of life and death. Richard Strauss, though he wrote symphonic poem, instead of a conventional symphonic genre, tended to complete the 'definition' of 'Hero', after Beethoven's attempt to do so, in his famous work 'Heldenleben', 'The Life of a Hero.' True, Beethovean effects prevails every sorts of musical work, ranging from a tiny toy-like miniature to a monumental symphony in the19th century up to the 20th century.

To Be Continued...........待續



David Leung (theorydavid)

2011-03-11 (published)

Interpreting Beethoven’s Middle and Late Styles of Work

前言: 對於 Beethoven 來說,或許耳聾了是一個不幸中的恩賜。就是因為他不再須要了解別人的想法,只為根本聽不到他們說甚麼,所以,他就可以用近乎肆意放縱的心態去創作,想寫甚麼就寫甚麼,不須理會別人的感受,甚至喜歡與否。這樣,他流下來那如謎一樣的音樂,讓各種各色人去評論,研究,探索,甚至閒談,吹捧。這都只因這些樂曲往往帶有無限詮釋的可能,跟本是不需要,甚至是不可能讓聽眾達致一個共同的理解。有人說,這類曲樂,往往在貝多芬晚期風格 (late style 1824-1827) 的音樂裡呈現。可是,我卻認為貝多芬的中期的音樂風格 (middle style 1803-1820) 的音樂 ,如英雄交響曲 op.53 等,都已經浮現了這種如謎一樣的特性。而且,我認為這些帶有如謎一樣的音樂特性,正是現代藝術的多角度詮釋 (multiple readings) 的先驅。並為在貝多芬往後一佰多年後的後現代詮釋理論奠下了基石。就讓我們看看前人和今人甚樣看 Beethoven 的 中與晚期作品風格裡的謎樣特性。


正文:


Interpreting Beethoven’s Middle and Late Styles of Work



To many experienced concertgoers, Beethoven’s late style works are apt to lack of the composer’s earlier boldness and charm, for which the classical aesthetics is highly praised. The eerie sound is only to signify the listeners that conventional elements have struggled to break away from the work, leaving only incomprehensible fragments behind, and communicating itself as if in cipher, expressing “expressionlessly”. In fact, these fissures and rifts are hard to decipher, just like a spontaneous composite of “irrational” dissonances, perhaps noises, and a series of irrational chopping sound blocks under the governing of an uncontrollable mind.

For this dramatic change of style from an ineffable genius to a nutty deaf madman, the acceptable explanation may be that these works are products of a subjectivity, or of a “personality” ruthlessly proclaiming itself, which breaks through the elegance of form for the sake of expression, replacing sweet harmonies for the dissonance of its sorrow and rejecting any superficial sensuous charm for a deep contemplative profundity.

One explanation for Beethoven's change of style is that he had a change of personality when he became deaf.  His later music, particularly the six late string quartets, starting from op.127 to op. 135, loses previous charm and becomes more dissonant and yet more contemplative.


Therefore, it is not surprise that Theodor Adorno regards Beethoven’s late works are “relegated to the margins of art and brought closer to a personal documentation”. This is why referencing Beethoven’s individual biography and his life are seldom absent from discussions of his late works; as if, in face of human’s life, struggle, destiny, and finally death, conventional art concept has to forfeit its right and give way to the philosophical and aesthetic theory. Thus the concepts of self-consciousness, irony, sublimity, together with the ideas of subjectivity and psychological reflection are often applied in the interpretation of Beethoven’s later works.

However, reading music, symphony in particular, as philosophy, rhetoric, narrative or religious meditation is not only restricted to Beethoven’s late works. In the mid-style Beethoven, works such as Symphony no. 3 in Eb major, Eroica, and Symphony no. 5 in C minor, are also well opened to various modes of interpretation. Scholars, philosophers and musicologists of different generations are like to apply a narrative reading to the mid-Beethoven’s works. For example, both the 19th century philosophers A.B. Marx and Alexandre Oulibicheff coincidentally offered a programmatic interpretation to Eroica. They both claimed that they could hear the music of the first forty-five bars of this Napoleon-oriented program symphony as a sonic picture of a battlefield where generals, array of soldiers and horses with flags, canons, guns and swords are all participating in the battle.

Besides the battlefields, to many scholars, Erioca is always read as a narration of the growth of a hero, thereby describing the dualistic contrast of the musical elements as the conflict between the hero’s inner nature and his/her external world. Sometimes, this psychological reading could be elevated to a higher humanistic level. Romain Rolland projects the hero’s battle as a battle jointed between two souls, figured roughly as the will and the heart. And the fighting will go on continuously between one’s “ego of love” and the “ego of will” as the self continues growing up. Even the formalists who tend to eschew any programmatic interpretation exploit the dual nature of the contrasting elements in Eroica to give a reading in terms of structural downbeat orientation versus structural upbeat orientation. As we have seen, a narration centers around a metaphoric hero’s or self’s growth, conflicts, struggles, conquer and finally victory seeming to be the basic paradigm for all sorts of interpretation of Eroica, or even of the mid-style works of Beethoven.

To more or less, using programmatic interpretation to understand Beethoven’s music relates to the rising importance of the concept of idée in 19th century Romanticism. In fact, the power of idée, or idea, in symphonic works is its ability to override formal musical considerations if necessary. Forms, harmonies, and other musical parameters are subjective to idée. When thinking the main theme of Eroica as an idée representing a human hero, the development of this theme is typically characterized as a spiral process in which the hero goes forth, suffers a crisis of consciousness, overcomes certain obstacles, experiences “death” for eternal glory, and finally returns enriched and renewed. Scott Burnham, a contemporary scholar, agrees with the importance of reading Beethoven’s music as a hero narrative and furthers claims that the value of such programmatic reading lies in our “continued subscription to the subject-laden values of the so-called Goethezeit, or Age of Goethe”. According to Burnham, the worldview of the Goethezeit is an “ennobling and all-embracing concept of self”. The emerging forms of the Romantic imagination are based on the “scenarios of the individual self, such as birth and death, personal freedom and destiny, self-consciousness, and self-overcoming”. Due to the unique on-going musical process set in Beethoven’s works, it is hardly surprise that Beethoven’s heroic style merges the Goethean enactment of becoming with the narration of consciousness. And this accentuation of the dramatic process of “becoming” comes along with many German dramas of the Goethezeith, which are usually expressed as the heroic quest for freedom as the underlying idea.  

True, it is the idea “freedom” that brings us closer to Beethoven’s symphonic works. In fact, according to Daniel Chua, Beethoven’s middle period works are no longer confined to be interpreted as philosophical heroism, but has elevated to represent a form of humanistic quest for total freedom. Chua borrows Theodor Adorno’s word to explain how the idea of “freedom” can be expressed in Beethoven’s music by saying that “the musical processes of Beethoven’s heroic works articulate the very structures of freedom.” But this is a particular form of freedom, not the cliché slogan of freedom, say, political freedom, of one commonly thinks of nowadays. Indeed Beethoven’s own voice of “freedom”, which can be derived from the German Idealist thought, is a kind of freedom to be articulated by the zero equation between the subject and its actions, which is capable of enabling humanity in two ways: first, “zero, as the origin of human self-creation and generates everything from nothing; second, nothing is the frictionless condition where the will is free from all determination.” Here, the keyword that brings us closer to the understanding of the idea of Beethovenian freedom is “nothing”, that is, in Adorno’s sense, nothing is signified, and “nothing” does anything. Of course, for the philosopher, zero-origin of creation that articulates the freedom of void does not simply mean an empty sign of music. What Beethoven does is to turn the empty sign into a symphonic procedure. It is zero origin because nothing is found at the origin of the creative act in Beethoven’s symphonic music.

Take the opening of symphony no. 9 as example. According to Adorno, the music heard in the initial measures just signifying nothing. This absolutely nothing is due to the nothingness of the programmatic element of this work that refers to. And the music goes on a “continuum of nothing” mainly because the symphony merely begins with an alien two-note gesture leaping downwardly in a bare, hollow sound of open fifth without showing any sign to articulate the forthcoming materials. Its appearance here is just like a free act over which no material has precedence. True, nothing is narrated here. As the music goes on, it still contains nothing and becomes nothing. From this sense, the idea of Beethovenian “freedom” is said to be articulated in the freedom of the void, which is only imaginable in the context of aesthetics, not in the reality. 

From the above discussion, Beethovenian scholars seem favor of using programmatic narration to interpret Beethoven’s mid-style works, viewing his music as a representation of a hero’s growth. The success of using this paradigm in many musical interpretations, to more or less, I believe, is because of the revolutionary milieu that makes the fin de siècle Europe well-prepared for accepting of such a “hero” come, and the power of the so-called motivic variation technique, which is largely demonstrated in numerous Beethoven’s works for its fitness for such paradigm. On the contrary, since the political-cultural milieu and Beethoven’s compositional language have been greatly changed in his late period, the paradigm of interpretation thus turns inwardly to the individual side of Beethoven’s personal psychological and aesthetical states, rather than the socio-cultural side. That is why the concept of self-consciousness and irony are well fit for explaining the music of late Beethoven. However, for the far-reaching and overwhelming power of Beethoven’s music, whether it is Beethoven’s mid- or late style works, thinking his music as a philosophical idea is always possible. Daniel Chua’s exploration on Beethovean freedom is undoubtedly a typical example of illustrating this.


David Leung (theory david)
2011-03-11 (re-published)