Author Topic: Motivic working, Bach, Beethoven, Strauss  (Read 1451 times)

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Motivic working, Bach, Beethoven, Strauss
« on: October 02, 2015, 03:04:01 AM »
Recently wrote up my notes, covering some philosophy and observations of these three figures. You'll love it... ;D

Motifs, Bach, Beethoven, Strauss

Life is based on intuition rather than the intellect. Although the mind may be highly directed and teleological it’s not architectonic or pre-planned and doesn’t need an advance understanding in clear reasoned terms of how anything can be done from beginning to end. Instead forward movement is made step by step as the mind makes silent reference to its evaluative consciousness, source of thought or Self rather than to other thought in superficial levels of mind. This base of aesthetic rather than calculated potentials is expressed in art, particularly music its greatest form, and most clearly when freed from architectonic formal framing, symmetries and pre-given or principled terms of proceeding.

Aesthetics as the primary dynamics issuing from consciousness has purest expression in music when form is aesthetic alongside and in congruence with melodic content. With form as motivic working and juxtaposition the material’s inherent nature and dynamics rather than longer closed melodies and wider conceptual consideration or Apollonian imposition determines how it moves and develops. Motifs deconstruct melody into their intervals’ essential transcendent effects to provide an authentic constructive process.

The interconnections retained across the work provide overall holistic coherence, rather than departures and returns of material for misguided demarcation of perspicuous structures to please and reinforce closed minds socialized into existing norms. The maintenance of underlying thematic union instead compares with the coordinated mind’s connection with its pure consciousness and intuitive or irrational thought first arising from it, and with not getting lost in outward levels of thought away from truth.

Arches are dualist in having two halves with points of confused reconciliation whereas holism is unitary and homogeneous. Holistic music aligned with the intuition or Dionysiac field as the initial expression of absolute truth in the relative mind involves reduction of background-foreground textural contrast, overwhelming the listener in elimination of critical distance or a sense of separation in terms of greater or lesser importance within the structure. Yet there is no parallel subject-object relation with reality involving arbitrary schematic reference but only a subject-subject immanent relation where truth is possible.

Holistic formal designs in art compare with life in the indecipherable interrelatedness of reality and its components’ resistance to isolation, foregrounding and determinate analysis. Holistic art is autonomous in its independence from preconceived form but heteronomous in evoking the same inner dynamics of life- it has absolute and relative in union. The basis of relative life as underlying the interrelation is hence the immanent absolute and with all knowledge already structured in holistic consciousness so that both the process of understanding and all worldly achievements are possible.

Moreover consciousness includes the entire material world in that it reaches out to its objects of perception- relativity and absolute mind have the same substrate and there is no epistemological gap to be bridged between the awareness and information about the outside world via the senses. There are no intellectual or theoretical grounds to knowledge to be found, only truth already given but hidden beneath the mind’s surface; life is open-ended with emergent aesthetical and ethical imperatives not reducible to principle. Art then enlivens the mind’s capacities by focusing on sub-intellectual and real rather than conceptually contrived dynamics, critical distance thus becoming an inward process of access to truth rather than attention to outward and changing relative relations with objectivity detached from subjectivity.

Motivic working explores a rich array of related possibilities but in an expressive domain narrowly defined by the initial material; rather than a cerebrally manufactured and distracting order the onward movement and linearity issue from wider stasis in parallel with the material’s evolving aesthetic content on the melodic level. Intuitive reference rather than arbitrary intellectual architectonic couching provides for genuine teleological forward drive from the connotation of the whole in every part seeking its expression; inward relations define both form and content and draw in the attention naturally.

Frameless motivic working as pure aesthetics has inexhaustible fascination comparing with other ever-fresh Dionysian phenomena including sexuality, social interaction and spirituality, as well as constantly varying similar sunsets or birdsong in the natural world. The unfolding indeterminate vistas moreover compare with various Hindu texts and forms of God as angles of understanding on the transcendent divine that grounds life’s basic interconnection.

Traditional thematic development is analogous to linear thought only based on reason and affected relations with a final goal whereas motivic working is non-fruitive, moving forward within a sense of the whole. There is potential for absolute conviction, inevitability and righteous movement forward yet intimately coupled with unpredictability and inscrutability on the level of conceptual reconciliation- motivic working and subtly related ideas operate in the exact moment with reference to no intellectual schemes beyond.

Motivic working is not subject to final analysis, Apollonian conception and attempts at determinate reconciliation being subsumed by the primary holistic Dionysian or aesthetic base of the mind and reality; Apollonian rationale at most parallels Dionysian immediacy and if put before provides a foolish dream state. Calculation is employed in motivic working but is subservient to and isn’t intelligible in the intuitive listening experience, while music is essentially the melodic movement of sound but not melody funnelled into shapes under fixed principles and ideas. Moreover up to the 18th century the calculating scientific revolution had yet to displace spirituality in the culture and the relative and absolute retained somewhat greater union- Western humanity’s basic relation was with God rather than with itself as in the Enlightenment and later modern period.

Intuitive motivic working as the juxtaposition and irrationality of unforegrounded and intellectually disconnected interconnection parallels the mind’s pause and reference to the intuition and truth in order to move forward in all situations regardless of their lack of conceptual or informational clarity. There can always be forward movement in life, there being no reason not to take a cautious step towards the Hindu example of a rope on the ground in twilight to discover that it’s not a dangerous snake to run away from and perhaps then cause a real accident. Indeed the nature of experience is a focus in the moment flanked by disappearing past and future and their secondary theorizing; life is led by lines of isolated lights with an assured if indecipherable reference to the mind’s entire scope of perception, and as celebrated by the Hindu festival of Diwali.

The blurring of conceptual perspicuity through layering of perfected contrapuntal detail indeed parallels post-foundational epistemology with the same understanding that there is no psychological experience of a distinct present moment in time. The attention is never isolated in a moment or in Apollonian articulation of any kind but intimately connects backwards and forwards with the rest of experience in holistic reality; the Self or core consciousness is timeless and universal, not particular.

Rationality giving way to discrete insights into intoxicating aesthetic truth via motivic working is variously exampled by Ockeghem, Bach, Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner and the Germanic ruthless note by note technique, Bruckner, Strauss, Webern, Bax, Stravinsky, Messiaen, Glass, Reich and Eno. Folk music includes Hindustani Gandharvaved and Suprabhatam, and Scottish pibroch while Western popular music has become less melodic and more motivic.

Motivic material presented with immediacy rather than gradually developed further reflects action in seduction and life cutting through outward relative relations- the mind has ex nihilo creativity and self-effulgent intuition. There are only immanent or hermetic dynamics of transcendent rather than outwardly principled justification that unify relative life and absolute truth. Art as with the mind may need an articulated surface organized with space and poised distribution and placing but beneath descends into murk in parallel with the Dionysiac field and source of thought.

Hence Bach’s counterpoint although clear and transparent is chromatic with indeterminate interest and overall relentlessness, providing a greater lack of closure on levels of syntax as well as semantics in the listener’s internalization or familiarization process of repeated listening to access the aesthetic content. Motivic music with intuitive reference in the construction extending to the large scale remains at a higher level of freshness and compulsion than architectonic music; indeed its realm of meaning can be so involving and totally sublimate the score that there is the sense it couldn’t be reified or written down rationally.

Such ceaseless and intense through-composition with beginning, centre, peroration and cadence minimized can superficially seem stifling but only the false critical frame imposed from without and the groundless thinking mind is drowned out, and instead the music finds its own logic and inner critical distance. Bach is the greatest of musical architects but intellectual structuring is secondary to and confounded by refined holistic references of all kinds across the work; aesthetic as well as ethical and ultimately reason-based experience is intuitively but not intellectually clear.

The lack of reliance on external structure further means that motivic composers’ voices are stamped on every bar like no others, and accordingly that interpretations need to let the music speak in its own terms without affected emotion issuing from ideas about closure or individual perspectives in ignorance of the music’s or sets of music’s holistic nature. Whereas Bach’s motifs or long extended melodies inform the whole work in a stasis of pure being, timelessness, infinity and freedom, and thus acknowledge the immanence of God, for classical and much romantic music the issue becomes transformation via dialectic interaction of opposing themes to a new area of formal frames but which are similarly groundless. These express the modern period’s historical succession of overall cultural sense-making narratives prior to postmodernism’s relativism and more immanent critique.

Bach the intellectual had the confidence to prioritize holistic and intuitive interconnection over his great structural powers and technical command. Architectonic pillars have finality only in reference to their own fanciful relative relations rather than transcendent truth, and motivic composers only use them at most as a trellis for more absorbing constructions with neither affected clinching moments nor loss of the moment elsewhere.

Bach avoids the mawkish simple-mindedness of unitary melody, linear argumentation and closed reasoning although the quality or aesthetic content of the motifs at least in much of the keyboard music isn’t as high or compelling as in Wagner or elsewhere, depriving the convolutions here of the last degree of intuitive grounding. Rather than the intellect entirely imbued by and in parallel with the dynamics of visceral emotion in holistic form it is left partially exposed and unfulfilled.

The counterpoint has an arbitrary element informed by renaissance modal polyphony that doesn’t fully understand the centrality of tonal consonance, bringing stylized short term harmonic digression over attention to melodic line emerging from the whole. Bach’s endless reconstruction of related material is more convincing and less calculated in the vocal works, and indeed in the solo cello and solo violin music where counterpoint is restricted to provide some of the greatest artworks in humanity’s possession.

Holism and inscrutability defying full internalization for the listener in Bach reflects the early and pre-modern religious ascendance in the understanding of certain intellectual knowledge about the world as beyond human reach. Bach expresses immanent truth and normal intuitive life experience not dependent on reasoned clarity; experience is a unified totality with a constant present rather than a conceptually delineated set of parts with an overall scheme. Epistemology however was established in the early 17th century as the central expression of modern philosophy and developed in the Enlightenment with its indulgence in rational account independent of spirituality. Classical period music and its affected ideas of poise, decorum and sentiment provide symmetrical balance, transparent harmonic architecture and shorter closed melodies.

The vast sixty-hour block of Bach’s sacred cantatas is his major achievement in holistic interconnection, heart and head or insight and rigour in balance in an extraordinarily rich detailing of a defined aesthetic area. The cantatas are designed as a whole with minimal individual conception, indeed most being written on an ongoing basis for an audience in three successive annual cycles in 1723-6 and comprising one of the largest sets of music in one genre by a composer. The divinely infinite and superabundant perspective of scale overshoots any confused attempts at overall grasp, determinate shaping or intellectual account- as with other motivic or intuition based works or sets of works.

The invention in the cantatas seethes all as the dynamic silence and coruscating potential of pure consciousness or the Self, this vast monolith sprung latent with all future developments of music. The attention looking ever further inward moreover compares with the attention in a Hindu temple to the idol in its narrow enclosure to provide an isolated self-referential loop and deepening vortex of impressions, supplications and re-evaluations returned to the observer. Indeed the Bach masterpieces outside the cantatas as three eighths of his output in terms of hours compare with momentary departures from the unified Dionysian field, or with the Hindu god Vishnu blinking so not to see clearly for just a moment.

Everything in the cantatas is a holographic encapsulation of everything else with no original forms and only unbounded ex nihilo variations and melodic lines referring back to themselves in endless proliferating complexity. Motivic working with its focus on aesthetic content per se through removal of boundaries then reorients individual artworks’ critical reflectivity of life toward interconnected life itself.

The cantatas’ monstrous human achievement of sustained insight exudes not only triumph but Bach smirking to himself in the knowledge that never-ending approaches are for life while those in art only have counterbalancing relevance in an Apollonian environment that has lost its real sense of infinity and the transcendent. The limitless, fabulous recombinations and recontextualizations that access a supra-musical area across works are dispatched with too much genius, confidence and self-awareness for a level of attention only within art.

The complete cantatas recording under Pieter Jan Leusink with the Netherlands Bach Collegium, Holland Boys Choir and soloists is the best available. It was uniquely recorded in 15 months in 1999-2000, a similar timescale to the composition to provide a parallel consistency while other available cycles took decades and inescapably subject the works to incongruous changes in approach, personnel, voice and technology.

Leusink doesn’t record cantatas in single takes and instead saves greatly on organizational time by performing successively in the same sessions the movements of different cantatas involving the same forces, so that other performers don’t have to be present. Some cohesion is lost on the individual level but hugely gained across works, avoiding wrongheaded distinctions and over-characterization. Performance requires a well-defined stylistic focus to access the music’s phenomenal interlocking wealth of minimalist variety, aligned with a sustained listening programme after the listener gets to know the works.

In most repertory box sets are not the way to get to know music because they undermine timescales needed for the listener to assimilate works’ individuality, different recordings, live performances, and make comparisons with related contemporary works and across music history, as well as researching backgrounds and talking with others. For instance it took me 25 years to get hold of all 28 Verdi operas, a similar amount of music to the cantatas.

But sets of music of singular purpose and strategy succeed in a unified presentation, especially those before the romantic and later notions of individually conceived artworks, such as the Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas, Haydn piano trios, and to some extent the Schumann keyboard works. Moreover the Leusink recording as a product of postmodernity with its brainless critique of the aesthetic category parallels the holistic nature of such music as leading away from framed art and onto unbounded life.

Leusink brings thorough understanding of the idiom, refinement of judgement in clarity and balance of texture, and phrasing and tempo, along with contrapuntal dexterity and metrical accuracy helping focus the attention inward. His forces are rich yet transparent, no-nonsense and robust, with the boys’ choir singing straight free of expressive baggage adults may bring from studying music of later periods, and who take instructions without big egos to argue with. All is couched in Dutch clear-headedness and freshness that let the music breathe for itself and issue its writhing inner content and Dionysian blur more effectively than the competition. The recording is excellent, microphone placing enhancing the terracing and definition of lines and instrumental groups; some of the fragmentary cantatas are included under other performing forces.

In other recorded surveys Rilling brings wayward tempos with dated sound while Leonhardt-Harnoncourt have substandard boy soloists and are likewise insufficiently historically informed and heavyweight. Among newer recordings Gardiner has incongruous English performing style, Koopman is precious and decorous, and Suzuki likewise affected and dirgeful despite technical expertise. Partially complete surveys include Richter with gravity and sophistication but again a dated perspective and sound, Kuijken with opaque counterpoint, and Herreweghe with dubious notions of Christian spirituality beyond the music.

Other examples of motivic working and its sub-intellectual hazy processes are in the first movement of Beethoven’s Eroica symphony that converts traditional argument into an intellectually opaque yet fabulously compelling visceral structure. It’s a key reminder of the mind’s basis in the Dionysiac with its blood and passion, the aesthetic achievement being the relation of material to the field of primary impulses and immediate intuitive perception rather than any reconfiguring of conventions for a further set of fake Apollonian critical terms; great interpretative sophistication is again required. The process and its spirituality and humanity is furthered by Wagner at the centre of art history.

Also in the early piano sonatas Beethoven finds his way around the form intuitively while the late sonatas and quartets again dissolve wider rational framing and dialectical process for connection with deeper impulses, and which include his finest works. In the Grosse fuge linear argument is grounded in dynamics issuing from the whole with the motifs’ placing analytically irreconcilable; the end provides superbly peremptory and ruthless statements, as at the ends of Wagner’s acts with the accurate selections out of yet larger arrays of possibilities.

Moreover the length of the Fifth symphony peroration is sustained by the music’s momentum and power over any formal considerations. Holistically conceived music that more weakly issues linear imperatives and has more arbitrary movement however is exampled by the indulgent and mawkish elements of the late string quartets’ slow movements, and Wagner’s early Das Liebesmahl der Apostle.

Strauss’s tone poems are some of the greatest rhapsodic music with riotous invention and richly elaborate thought finding unexpected logic and self-unfolding structure. The operas with similar superb contrapuntal motivic working and characterization are of further merit if where the intricate lines of argument tend to stay open indefinitely for more far-fetched logic and weaker aesthetic inevitability. They chart a neoromantic breakdown of music in parallel with serialism, both leading away from Wagner and the period of the greatest exposition of tonality, music’s only harmonic system.

Strauss’s extremely sophisticated yet wholeheartedly unserious recontextualization of and play with older musical forms and devices, particularly from Wagner, issues from the Bach cantatas’ rib-nudging humour but points to postmodern hyper-criticality in terms of nihilism and loss of belief in meaning. His final opera Capriccio moreover looks at the question of the primacy of music or the literature it sets, ending with only a call to dinner indicating that life and not art is important; with art itself as the subject matter Capriccio relates to nothing worldly or useful, in reflection of art having little else to say. The music’s character is faded, autumnal and valedictory, Western art’s neutralization expressed with angelic wisdom. There is also a parallel with minimalism as one of music’s final cul-de-sacs in the repetition of sequences for resolution under their own dynamics at their own pace, as at several of the tone poems’ ends.

Particularly in the operas Strauss creates supra-tonal cumulative organization which, rather than being out of date chromaticism as thought at the time, further prefigures the late 20th and early 21st century bankrupt style of second-order tonality working around tonal centres as neither one thing nor the other. The ecstatic flow of reoriented material is a degree self-conscious and arbitrary, the for-itself moment not entirely underwritten by wider aesthetic logic; there is blissful anarchy and untroubled warmth within high technique rather than the strongest aesthetic experience, though the sense of maturity parallels Wagner’s theme of redemption through love.

The richness of complexity of Zerbinetta’s aria Grossmachtige Prinzessin in Ariadne auf Naxos examples the overriding of Apollonian architectonic reference through indication of meaning’s real location in the moment- there is only self-effulgence and self-justifying bliss. Zerbinetta accordingly mocks the formal framing of moral norms around seduction while Ariadne along with Feuersnot and Wagner’s Das Liebesverbot, Tristan and Parsifal are among works concerning enlightenment though sex and lived spirituality- rather than through thought or abstracted art.

Die Agyptische Helena is another the high-water mark of exhilarating organized technicolour chaos with material euphorically emerging and cutting off other material over the place. The freedom, openness and messiness compare with sexuality’s ascendance in Wagner’s Liebestod, Strauss at the brink of rationality before the last of Apollonian framing is relinquished for the Dionysiac’s pure truth. Art has to be superfluous and given up for authentic life.

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Re: Motivic working, Bach, Beethoven, Strauss
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2015, 03:07:42 AM »
Recently wrote up my notes, covering some philosophy and observations of these three figures. You'll love it... ;D

Motifs, Bach, Beethoven, Strauss

Life is based on intuition rather than the intellect.

Nice to see you start out with your trademark black-&-white.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot