Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Transcendence of form

Beethoven's music is Hegelian philosophy: it is at the same time truer than this; i.e., it contains the conviction that the self replication of society as something identical is not enough, indeed, that it is false. Logical identity as the esthetic and produced domination of forms is at once practiced and criticized by Beethoven. The seal of its truth in Beethoven's music is its suspension: the transcendence of form, through with form for the first time achieves its inner meaning. The transcendence of form is for Beethoven the portrayal — not the expression — of hope.
— T.W. Adorno, as quoted in Hegel — Purpose, Results and the Philosophical Essence, by Scott Hornton, in Harper's Magazine.

I've just finished another online course, this one exploring Beethoven's piano sonatas. I've learned quite a bit about the structure of Beethoven's music, and about the historical context for all the rules he was stretching to breaking point. And I've come to some understanding about some of the elements that attract me, about why I love Beethoven so much (even though I wasn't especially familiar with his sonatas before taking up this course).

I got to realizing just how modern Beethoven is, and it got me thinking about Kierkegaard and the crisis of modernity, and I started drawing connections, and recognized an ironic stance in Beethoven's work, how self-reference can only come from self-awareness, how he could be said to be composing metamusic. Beethoven of course precedes Kierkegaard, but Hegel would've been all the rage, and Kant: "The moral law within us and the starry heaven above us!" — which Beethoven had scrawled in a notebook. The music is becoming. And Beethoven is infinite.

And in writing my final assignment, I found scattered across the internet evidence that others have thought as I have. A reassuring thing.

And I am reminded to pick up Thomas Mann again. I must read Doctor Faustus.

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