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Bach's Cycle, Mozart's Arrow

An Essay on the Origins of Musical Modernity

Karol Berger (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 432 pages
ISBN: 9780520257979
October 2007
$34.95, £28.00
Other Formats Available:
In this erudite and elegantly composed argument, Karol Berger uses the works of Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven to support two groundbreaking claims: first, that it was only in the later eighteenth century that music began to take the flow of time from the past to the future seriously; second, that this change in the structure of musical time was an aspect of a larger transformation in the way educated Europeans began to imagine and think about time with the onset of modernity, a part of a shift from the premodern Christian outlook to the modern post-Christian worldview. Until this historical moment, as Berger illustrates in his analysis of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, music was simply "in time." Its successive events unfolded one after another, but the distinction between past and future, earlier and later, was not central to the way the music was experienced and understood. But after the shift, as he finds in looking at Mozart's Don Giovanni, the experience of linear time is transformed into music's essential subject matter; the cycle of time unbends and becomes an arrow. Berger complements these musical case studies with a rich survey of the philosophical, theological, and literary trends influencing artists during this period.
List of Illustrations

PRELUDE. L'Orfeo, or the Anxiety of the Moderns

1. The Arrested Procession
Appendix: St. Matthew Passion, opening chorus, full score
2. A Crystal Flying Like a Bullet
3. There Is No Time Like God's Time

INTERLUDE. Jean-Jacques contra Augustinum: A Little Treatise on Moral-Political Theology
The Birth of Autonomy
The Christian and Modern Outlooks Compared
The Emancipation of Time
From Cosmos to History

4. Mozart at Play
5. The Hidden Center
6. Between Incoherence and Inauthenticity: Don Giovanni and Faust
7. Die Zauberflöte, or the Self-Assertion of the Moderns

POSTLUDE. Between Utopia and Melancholy: Beethoven and the Aesthetic State

Works Cited
Karol Berger is the Osgood Hooker Professor in Fine Arts at Stanford University. His books include A Theory of Art (2000) .
“[A] tautly constructed and thought-provoking new study.”—Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
“Exceptionally interesting and full of insights.”—Marina Ritzarev European Legacy
“[A] formidably learned and wittily expressed book.”—Mary Hunter Modernism/Modernity
“As an explanation of the tenets of modern music’s reception history . . . Berger’s thesis may be accepted as hard music historical fact.”—Canadian Journal Of History
“Rich tapestry of cultural history.”—Journal American Musicological Soci
“Opens new areas for musicological exploration and is certain to be at the center of intellectual discussion for years to come. Essential.”—Choice
“Far reaching. . . . Shrewd and spirited.”—Hopkins Review
“Handsome, painstakingly produced book.”—Musical Times
"Karol Berger may have gone further than any other scholar before him—and very successfully so—in teasing out the historicity of music in a way that makes his discoveries convergent with the historicity of other media and art forms. In its argumentative brilliance, Berger's approach enhances our aesthetic pleasure in listening to music."—Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Albert Guérard Professor in Literature, Stanford University

"This is a major work by a major scholar. Berger is unique; there is something uncanny about his powers of synthesis and his quality of insight. No one else can relate, as he does, the closest technical analysis of music to the broadest questions of philosophy."—Richard Taruskin, author of The Oxford History of Western Music

"This book is an event. The musical styles of Bach and Mozart are admirably contrasted to illustrate an epochal shift in the cultural construction of time occurring around 1750. Berger combines careful musical analysis with grand perspectives on the plane of cultural theory and the history of ideas. The intellectual world has long been waiting for musicology to open up to the "cultural turn" that other disciplines of the humanities took long ago: here is a book which can serve as a model."—Jan Assmann author of Die Zauberflöte: Oper und Mysterium

Marjorie Weston Emerson Award, Mozart Society of America

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