Η παρακάτω εισήγηση με τίτλο: "Inside the borders of sonata form: Alfred Schnittke’s reversal structural thought and its apocalyptic perspectives" (Εντός των συνόρων της μορφής σονάτας: Η αντίστροφη δομική σκέψη του Άλφρεντ Σνίτκε και οι αποκαλυπτικές προοπτικές της) πραγματοποιήθηκε στο 21o Συνέδριο της IMS (International Musicological Society), Αθήνα 21- 26 /8/2022.
Το κείμενο αυτό αποτελεί εξέλιξη του διδακτορικού, επερχόμενων άρθρων και εισηγήσεών μου, όπως το "Purifying through failure, uniting through defeat" (Musica Theorica, 6/1, 2022)
Αν και συνιστά μια ερμηνεία της συνθετικής λογικής του Σνίτκε σε σχέση με μια ιδιάζουσα χρήση της μορφής σονάτας, αποτελεί ένα ανάγνωσμα που δεν προαπαιτεί μουσικές γνώσεις. Αφήνω εδώ ένα μικρό απόσπασμα της περίληψης:
“Προφητικές αντανακλάσεις σχετιζόμενες με τα όρια μεταξύ ολότητας και ομογενοποίησης, πλουραλισμού εξισωτισμού και ρευστότητας, κινητικότητας και σταθερότητας, νομαδισμού και ανήκειν, εξετάζονται μέσα από προσεγγίσεις των Bauman, Agamben, Baidrotti κ. α προκειμένου να προταθεί πως οι σονάτες του Schnittke μετατρέπονται σε συμβολικά πεδία από-ανθρωποποίησης. Εντός τους, ο πλουραλισμός αναδεικνύεται σε ένα φασματικό εφέ εγγεγραμμένο σε υλικά και διαδικασίες, που αποκαλύπτει στην «μη βίαιη ενότητα του πολλαπλού» ή του «αρμονικού όλου», πολιτισμικές αντιφάσεις τόσο σύγχρονες του συνθέτη όσο και του κόσμου του 21ου αιώνα.”
(vocal performer, μουσικολόγος (ph.d Τ.Μ.Σ Αθήνας), ανεξάρτητη ερευνήτρια)
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Inside the borders of sonata form:
Alfred Schnittke’s reversal structural thought and its apocalyptic perspectives
(by Katerina Maniou)
In this presentation I extend my theorization of Schnittke’s forms as sonata-based frameworks, analyzed under the notion of failure, to engage with issues of dehumanization, concentration camps’ logic and technology-human relation problematized by the posthumanities field. To do so, I combine his sonata logic with a metaphorical sense of borders, organizing it in a hermeneutic triptych: The peripheral whole-embracing borders of bourgeois mentality, the borders that hide the concentration camps and the liquid borders of 21st century societies. Based on bare life notion I focus on his thematic treatments and insert an interplay between subject (theme) and object, to support that his sonata forms record processes of sonic destruction, which reflect human thingness production. I propose the concept of hauntology introduced by Jacques Derrida, to suggest that sonata for Schnittke is a preconceived idea, a spirit that haunts his works to speak about his past, present, and future, able to uphold various approaches in connection with issues of dislocation, time alteration and disembodiment.
Today, it is commonplace that musical structures reflect the relations, hierarchies and ideologies of the societies producing them, along with Attali’s argument that music foreshadows the coming politico-societal taxonomies (Attali apud Panopoulos, 2004, 228). In my previous work, I theorized the overall structures of Schnittke’s solo concertos from 1978 onwards as hidden paraphrased sonata forms, wherein stable series of substitutional treatments, and inverse trajectories enhance the re-organization of material, processes and gestures through a familiar sequence which fosters cultural failure. I supported that both two-and three-dimensional aspects of sonata form associated with thematic structuring, functionality’s remobilization, developmental processes and climax points, open a negative space where nothing is as it seems, enhancing sonata’s revitalization instead of resurrection. Valorizing pivotal patterns of western thought, connected with the sonata-tonality dyad, such as Idea of progress through Leonard Meyer’s analysis (Meyer 1994, 329-333), the Bourgeois harmonious whole conceptualized by Panagiotis Condyles (Condyles 2000, 63), the romantic quest from literature theory (Bloom, 105)linked to the hero-quest archetype, as well as alterity logic, and various versions of binary thinking by musicologists such as Lawrence Kramer, Suzan McLary, and Jim Samson, I passed from Enlightenment and modernity to focus on Schnittke’s geo-historical present, dealing with issues of decadent soviet rhetoric, late capitalism dream-like aesthetics and emerging sonic realities. By inserting Adorno’s concept of failure, interpreted in conjunction to authenticity by Max Padisson, I suggested that beyond the representative aspects of Schnittke’s work, mutilation is inscribed in each compositional parameter uncovering ‘dissonance that shows the truth about harmony’ (Adorno 1958, 110) and wholeness’s deceptiveness, further supporting that Schnittke’s hidden sonata frameworks strengthen a personal language, able to sustain a nexus of music, world and truth, intensely concerning the composer, to express with immediacy a crisis of meaning.
Sonata for Schnittke is not only a natural choice within the soviet legacy, or “a form of commanding position”, after Schoenberg’s estimation (Strang; Stein 1967, 213), but an inescapable reality’s perception, ordering, and evaluation, which endorses contradictions incorporated in individual and societal consciousnesses. Extending Rosen’s conceptualization that sonata nurtures a propulsive positivity mirroring Enlightenment’s drama, this form embeds a mechanistic linear temporality “of just in time production”, codified by Deleuze as “Chronos” (Deleuze 1994, 122) and a future-oriented mentality engaged with Christianity (Meyer 1994, 321) further encouraged by the scientific, geographical discoveries, technological advancements, and Enlightenment’s noble goals. Becoming a time sculpture of modernity’s time/self constitution, sonata reflects a naturalized way of thought, provides a platform of collectively recognizable meanings, and maintains as a key- position of reference and controversy. In this presentation sonata is conceived as an independent mechanism which leads to the same dead-end condition and brings forth the issue of linguistic decadence as human value decadence. Associated with Schnittke’s concept of “shadow-sounds” and “shadow-world”, an intangible hyper-space of musico-temporal co-existence, sonata is gradually exhibited as a shadow-form that possesses his structures.
Cyclic continues structures are harmonized with Shostakovich’s legacy. However, Schnittke’s solo concertos such as violin concertos no3 and no4, viola concerto and violoncello concerto no2 consist in fact of single-movement works, wherein the same main material is shared, imposed to common practices within a three-sectional ternary structure outlining an acme shape with characteristic cornerstones and identical meteoric ends. I briefly describe the composer’s common treatments by focusing on the thematic factor, as this encourages a personification useful to the following metaphors. Schnittke’s thematic material resides between sound and music, bearing a mutilated, residual both haunted and haunting quality. In my Ph. D and a series of articles, the ways Schnittke reduces his subjects into elementary motivic cells and revitalizes tonality through stylistic dissonance have been analyzed. The main preconditions of thematicism; autonomy, prevalence, evolutionary potential are enforced by sound’s polysemantic, connotational, visual and world-structuring attributes. Schnittke’s writings inform us about his early awareness concerning the inherent sonic symbolism along with the unprecedented potential of contemporary music quotation to convey “an intonational block with an enormous range of emotional, stylistic, and historical associations” (Schnittke 2002, p. 216) supportive of a novel thematicism. Through motivic brevity the composer evades issues of originality, facilitates economy and highlights sonata’s functional aspect. Thematic material’s reduction into sonic remnants reflects a differentiated self-formation dependent on sound’s incoherent omnipresence; In-between time and style capsules his signal-subjects attain a sense of personification and the distinctiveness of a sound object, converting the compositional process into an endeavor towards inner hearing’s taxonomy.
The intermediate movements of the referred works correspond to a large corrosive area. Based on the analysis of Berg’s motivic treatments and Shostakovich’s polyvocal additive surfaces, by Kholopov, Whittal, Adorno etc., an identical splitting and multiplying gradation of ostinati quasi-vocal lines, deaf to one another, which produce a “mixed sound without mixing” (Adorno 1968, 66) is notified. By pouring them into a unison Schnittke’s developmental logic, echoes, enriches and intensifies the above compositional models. At the same time, in tonal-allusive works, like his concerto for piano and strings and the violin concerto no4, polystylistic variation areas are introduced, imposing his material to fragmental paramorphic deepening. Issues of synchronic time, egalitarianism, constant mobility, adaptation are reflected, mirroring Baudrillar’s remark that “a precipitation towards the inside is what remains: in a space increasingly constraint due to the mobility of everyday reality”. (Baudrillar, 1987, 57). The huge collapse gesture constitutes a negative culmination point, inviting the main material’s shadowy reappearance. Both catastrophe and redemption, collapse’s dramatic force stops chronos, revealing ambivalent temporalities. Meteoric finale questions the preceded vicissitudes’ worth and stares towards undecipherable futures.
Each compositional parameter is self-negating; the rich sonorous effect is built on ambiguous reversal practices. The thematic material’s stylistic immediacy is augmented by its confinement. Multiplication equals total division and developmental procedures equal disintegration. Culmination is collapse and the end lingers ambiguously. As if staring Dorian Grey’s portrait behind the mirror, material processes and the sonata form itself reveal the idol’s monstrousness, by not being what they seem to be, inscribed in musical language itself.
Schnittke’s desire to “embrace his whole musical periphery” (Schnittke apud Ivashkin 1996, 121) adheres to the first concept of sonata as an all-inclusive protective border of brotherhood and his ideal to “trail the common through the dissimilar”, resonates with accessing “the plural fold of the origin”, from Nancy’s being singular plural (Nancy 2000, 94). Schnittke engages with practices which aim to reveal the universal roots of heterogeneity in search of purity; a zero-point that would allow cultural restart. I raise similarities between the composer’s ideal with director’s Tadasi Suzuki belief that “the activation of trauma is a source of universal human potential” (Suzuki apud Terzopoulos, 2021). Ecumenical trauma corresponds to birth itself, conceived as the pre-individual we-ness separation, and the very beginning of presence, uniqueness, and difference. However, sonata is proved as a trauma-covering framework; dichotomizing, normalizing and alienating from pluralistic dynamic. Schnittke’s skilled operations not only prove sonata’s ‘wholeness as untrue’ (Adorno), but highlight the form itself as meaning-lessening, providing evidence that “means determine the goals”. Instead of purification, sonata provides perfection in Bauman’s sense. This sustains an expressionistic dimension which is provoked by the chasm between the composer’s intentions and his forms' results.
According to Bauman, “Modern era outlined increasingly a journey to perfection and for the same reason it was an era of destruction.… “the story of modernity and particularly of the 20th cent. was a chronicle of destruction.” (Bauman & Lyon 2013, 81) Along with Bauman many theorists notify that the policy of modernization and the policy of destruction were intimately connected to the Nazi policies, aiming at redrawing the political, ethnic, and social map of Europe (Bauman & Lyon 2013, 83). Uncovering a process of essentialism Schnittke’s treatments open access to the second concept of sonata; the invisible space of destructive practices, bordered from societal visibility.
I briefly expose the concentration camps’ logic, collected by original testimonies, (Levi, Amery, Frakl etc) linked with the homo sacer condition by Giorgio Agamben.Abstraction (Levi 2000, 159), exhaustion, death choice practices, chaotic irrational mechanisms, floating responsibility, limitless authority, and ceaseless prohibition (Levi 2000, 166) compose the grey zone; the hidden procedural space beyond good and evil wherein “what could remain from our common world of ethics, behind the wire mess” (Levi 2007, 104) was tested. Based on Hitler’s vision of volkloser raumen (namely: lands without people) (Agamben 2015, 102) camps constitute a non-topos, whose worldly materialization opens an irreversible trauma on human history, reflected on linguistic antinomies. Largon, a peripheral slang language, based on irrational syntax, animalistic phonemes, and echoes of polyglossia was founded in the camps: “Obviously violence against people was followed by violence against language” (Levi 2000, 102). Codified by Heidegger as a machinery of corps production, the concentration camps fashion a negative womb that methodizes de-formation, signaling that from now on death would not just happen. Death should be born.
Beyond dark symbolisms, Agamben associates procedural death to the reduction of human properties “not to bring about life or death, but the grey zone in-between them: survival”. (Agamben, 2015, 189). “The goal is to invent the non-human as human and highlight it as a proof that the non-human can survive of the human, as if it were his very essence. (Agamben, 2015, 190) Human thingness is inseparably bonded to survival. Through Derrida’s approach, “the thing is neither dead nor alive, it is dead and alive at the same time; it survives (Derrida,1993, 192). One may assert that a total crash of human resistance would be materialized by the time the non-human would be founded as human essence.
If the highest ambition of biopower is the production within the human body, of the total separation between the living creature and the speaking being, between life and bios, non-human and human, (Agamben 2015, 186) Schnittkean processes separate sounds from their allusive traces, their thematic face, and their synthetic ability. Excluded from the outside, his cut off themes are gradually imposed to an exile from their own constitution. Schnittke’s fragmental polyphony, technical collectivity, sonic incarceration and reversal treatments regenerate a linguistic deconstruction, which alludes to camp’s peripheral slang, making the story of the sediments audible. Fallen estranged in a non-topos of methodized de-formation, his thematic materials endure thorough decolorization and get drained from their very stylistic essence, ending up in non-sounds. Silence is fundamental for the materialization of the non-sound. Long pauses, sparse orchestration, low dynamics make silence a guest presenter blended with sonic audibility, alluding to different dimensions linked to Schnittkean shadow-sounds. Silence becomes sound’s spatial endorsement and shadowy pair. It reminds of intangible dimensions, upholds a mourning quality and regenerates a precarious state. Above all it bears the heaviness of the unspeakable. The composer’s themes survive in-between music, sound, and silence, and presage a collapse of time-space-self boundaries towards their conversion into units of a huge white noise” … the signifier of our civilization” (Aranovsky apud Medic 2008, 217). Limits of materiality recede letting sounds to become shadows, alluding to soul, to incarnate extra levels of thingness. Quoting Hilary Putman: “a soul is a thing that thinks” (Putman 1978)
By raising issues of disembodiment, time-space melting, and noematic lessening, Schnittkean frameworks foreshadow an immaterial turn bonded with “a technology that goes somewhere that has never been before” (Winner apud Don 2004, 128). I engage with the third aspect of liquid borders, produced by an increasingly naturalized technological ecosystem.
Liquid borders’ conceptualization rests on Bauman’s pun of the “ban-opticon era”, where technologies of surveillance at distance spot, immobilize, and incarcerate targets, aiming at social exclusion (Bauman& Lyon 2013, 92). Distant ethics, automation, and fragility politics regenerate indirect bare-life situations, and perpetuate precarious ontological states that encourage self-prioritization, de-personified ethics, linguistic evacuation, amnesia and cruel adaptation. According to Baidrotti “The point of a posthuman position is that it envisages the subject as transversal, tras-idnividual, trans-species, trans-sexes. In short it is a subject in movement”. (Baidrotti, 2019, 72). Is a … trans-functional subject, really a subject? Timeless technological time (Castells), immaterial labor (Lazzarato) and radically transforming technologies cause a fundamental change to the time-space-body constellation and challenge the traditional understanding of life and death dyad. Schnittke’s developmental treatments reflect issues of sacking bodily data and self-evacuation within fatigue societies. His lingering finales echo pneumatization which presages self-fulfillment’s suspension and human experience absorption, redirection and projection onto unearthly realities, gradually feeding a technological pseudo-collective unconscious. Extending Haraway’s remark that “burn out individuals fuel increasingly fresh technological artifacts” (Harawai apud Baidrotti, 2019, 15) an ambivalent dipole is captured: Technologies are fresh, apparently unlimited, rational, objective, and clean. Human is limited, subjective, irrational, unclean. Could human per se become the ‘other’ within the technoscientific neurons?
Schnittke’s thematic material is the other within his sonata contexts. His edifices constitute a chronicle of limits’ diffusion and an instant endeavor of borders’ preservation. Different scales of reality haunt one another in an infinite spiral that renders materiality itself ambiguous. The thematic factor is set in internal conflict and at the same time in struggle to a compositional territory allusive to a haunted consciousness. A battle towards the externalization of a singularized voice through the voice of the solo instrument is figured, that crashes on a leveling orchestral block. “The subject is not a part of the world, it is a limit of the world” says Wittgenstein (Wittgenstein, 2010, 111). Under the third scope of sonata, the traditional dichotomies of self/other, subject/world, inside/outside precipitate into a trans-sensorial space. By fusing the boundaries between the perceived and the perceiver, Schnittke’s music prefigures forthcoming frequency politics (Goodman 2019). In conjunction to the solo concerto genre, issues of voice as self-realization, eponymous praxis and logos, primary human attributes, and the passage from ceaseless atomization to homogenization are remarked upon.
Schnittke’s reductionistic processes resonate with Taruskin’s reduction of the word postmodernism into postism, when referring to the composer’s work (Taruskin, 2005, 464). To survive slippery grounds, his themes become less-sounds. To provide their own aesthetic embeddedness they become vacated. To access their common essence, they become idealized. From being haunted, they become ghosts themselves. The similar ends of his works are eloquent; distorted themes arrive in an ambiguous area between end and departure, starring towards “civilizations without boats, where dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates..”(Foucault 2012, 270)
Sonate que me veux tu?
The famous Formanelle’s query, could be addressed to a spectrum. Its usage by Pierre Boulez in his homonymous article and the open form of his third piano sonata, could be theorized as a precursor that “time is out of joint”. This quote from Hamlet was valorized by Jacques Derrida, to capture a “radically dis-jointed time without certain conjunction” “in order to maintain that which does not hold together” in “the dislocated time of present” (Derrida 1993, 21). Jointless temporality is linked to the ghostly dislocated state of being, whereon Derrida builds his definition of hauntology. “Even if it is not actually present, a ghost affects and bereaves in advance. To haunt does not mean to be present, and it is necessary to introduce haunting into the very construction of every concept, beginning with the concepts of being and time. That is what we would be calling here a hauntology” (Derrida 1993, 201-202).
From a vococentric view, sonata is a spiritual voice that bereaves in advance and affects Schnittke’s solo concertos to talk through the voice of the soloist. Schnittke’s treatments reflect a time-exile, where perceptive boundaries are put out of joint, accelerated towards an endless end; “End is always longer than the historical facts themselves” highlights Axelos (Axelos, 1991). Drawing from world-human-language ontological concepts, “being is pure dynamic” of becoming .. shaped, shared and witnessed in the world of the existing things through ceaseless material and immaterial formations. Exiled from determinate formation, Schnittke’s material is withdrawn to an exile of eternal becoming/never being, a ghostly situation, foreshadowing a being/becoming cycle increasingly substituted by re-appearance and return spirals, echoing the concept Hauntology, as a novel ontology.
By the discussed works’ ends, his subjects are converted into demystified tons incapable of confessing anything more than their mere substance, testifying a passage from hauntology to tautology. For tautology there are no truth conditions, as it is true anyhow (Wittgensten 2010, 83). For Wittgenstein, the phrases of logic are tautologies; They do not say anything (Wittgensten 2010,114). Fallen in the compositional terrain, Schnittke’s themes outline a second fall towards the mundane, human’s second fall after Heidegger (Baudrillar 1987, 112). On the other hand, by stably revealing a shadowy stream as a scream that feeds the brightness of the visible societal surfaces, the sonata spirit “makes us rediscover the world we live but are always prone to forget”, (Merleau Pauntie). “It is not me who is impatient and indifferent. It is the world who is indifferent” (Baudrillar 1987, 126); It is not Schnittke who is indifferent but Sonata’s spirit that disarticulates the composer’s language, erodes his goals and methodizes the survival of the non-sound, stressing dehumanization.
The dark question arises. What endures then? Tautology is a border that makes humanly and worldly realities crash onto the mystery of the name, re-signaling the metaphor as essence by itself. Doubly functioning as a non-idealized human-essence relied on structural fantasy and as a civilization’s immaterial turn towards being a metaphor of its own, infinite paradoxes arise, to give evidence to Schnittke’s simple state that; “life is a mystery that will remain a mystery” (Schnittke apud Ivaskin, 148).
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 Grounded in the Aristotelian division between life and bios, the distinctive political life, Agamben conceptualizes Homo Sacer as the cornerstone on which power is diachronically founded. A paradoxical figure residing in legally non-tangible spaces between city and oikos, inclusion, and exclusion, ready for killing but impossible to be sacrificed, homo sacer becomes a threatening idea, leaning on human’s primordial fear of becoming less-human and a thing -linked to victimization, anonymous death, chance-. This threat perpetuates the division between sovereignty and vulnerability, converting human body itself into the power’s special object. Linked to bare life, homo sacer is connected with the concentration camps logic, as well as with territoriality, rights, and communication’s deprivation, to describe migrant and slave situations. Perpetually, the claim of human qualities fuels the battle against power’s inclination to reduce bios into anonymous life. Based on Aristotle again, Agamben interrogates: do human properties have the necessity of being politicalized, or is the political element endorsed in them their most precious core? (Agamben, 1995, 31)
 Hauntology is extensively linked to postmodern and 21rst century concepts. The term “dyschronia” coined by Simon Reynolds, characterizes sonic hauntology, a situation “where past and future is subject to ceaseless recomposition” (Fischer, 2013, 7). Dyscronia describes a doubly-saturated present by forms of the past and unfulfilled or suspended futures, reinforced by a past-futurity sense, through “echoic implanted memories” (Shaviro, 2019, 46) produced by the exploitation of the unsound. Colonized by different temporal dimensions present-time collapses to be replaced by eternal duration, Hell’s situation after Dante. Sound, technology and hauntology are inseparably connected. Since the beginnings of the last century the first “ghosting media” such as recording technologies and radio (radio frequencies where believed as a literary gate for the supernatural) are seen as precursors of hauntology. “In the phonographic realm of the dead spirits are always present” (Kittler 1999, 72).