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The Philosopher's Stone

Essays in the Transformation of Musical Structure

Barbara Barry
2000

256 pp.

1 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576470107

hardback $60.00


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The Philosopher's Stone is a collection of case studies in compositional process, not so much about how the music was arrived at through its sketch stages but more a construction of issues of form as the defining features of a genre and structure as the individual realization in a particular work. Great musical movements and works are seen as highly creative solutions to problem-solving. The contexts of the works differ considerably. Some were written against the background of a specific precedent or model, as with Mozart's Haydn quartets via Haydn's Op. 33 set. In other cases, as with Beethoven's middle period style, the composer reconsiders a comprehensive range of implications about style and construction, of how, after earlier successes now outworn, to make a new and significant contribution to the genre without duplicating earlier solutions. The essays are grouped into three sections: on Beethoven studies, Mozart in retrospect, and nineteenth-century music. All the movements and works in these chapters pose in their different ways these issues of structural reinterpretation and re-formation, where the reworking of the form leads to a distinctive and higher level transformation. In ancient and Medieval alchemy, as the agent of transmutation from base metal to gold, this was what the philosopher's stone was all about.
Barbara Barry:

Professor of Musicology at the Conservatory of Music at Lynn University. She has five degrees in music – two in piano performance from Trinity College of Music, London, and three in music history and theory from the University of London, including PhD awarded ‘magna cum laude’. Prior coming to the United States, Barbara Barry was on the music faculty of the Music Department at University of London Goldsmiths’ College and Chair of Music History at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, one of Europe’s foremost conservatories in the Barbican Arts Center in London. She has been Chair of Music History at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA, and taught at Clark University, New England Conservatory of Music, the Radcliffe Seminars and at Harvard University. A trained pianist in the Leschetizky tradition, Barbara Barry is the author of five books, as well as many articles on music history. She has been awarded two Fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fran Steinberg Memorial Prize for outstanding non-fiction, and was the first recipient of the Kathleen Cheek-Milby Endowed Faculty Fellowship at Lynn University. She is also a noted writer of young people’s fantasy fiction with the books The Firestone and Mephisto’s Revenge.