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Lebewohl

Reconstructions of Death and Leave-taking in Music

Barbara Barry
March 15, 2013

297 pp.

3 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576472361

Paperback 6x9 $48.00


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Confrontation; victim; journey – these are the three perspectives that form the basis of the book ‘Lebewohl’. Its sections – farewell, absence and return – follow the titles of the movements of Beethoven’s ‘Lebewohl’ piano sonata, and project stances of death and models of mortality in music. As narrative reconstructions, the chapters examine how musical techniques are inflected by the theme, or subtext, of mortality, and through those reconstructions trace the dynamics of desire and trajectories of loss. The book presents these three sets of perspectives about death and mortality in music as case studies in the technique of structural poetics: how instrumental compositional techniques are inflected by the poetic subtext of mortality; and conversely, how operatic writing about conflict and death, underpinned by literary or dramatic substructures, projects existential predicaments that are mirrors of human experience. In the book’s final chapter of return, these explorations are seen as Faust narratives – as Everyman’s search for meaning in the multiple worlds of space-time, real time and musical time. At a time when contemporary society’s glamorous images are largely, if not entirely in denial about death, ‘Lebewohl’ reconfirms our humanity through powerful and persuasive musical representations of death and leave-taking; and in coming to terms with our own mortality, enriches the journey through the transformative power of music.
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.

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