Living and Music: the Grosse Fugue and the/anti/synthesis

I’ve been thinking a lot about a conversation I had with a friend last semester about thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. We both agreed that after a year of many changes, I was at the time undergoing “antithesis.” I have often thought about this conversation since that talk and maybe once a week I try to evaluate where I am in the process (still on the way to synthesis.) One day, I would love to study the following in-depth, but for now, just some speculations I see connecting the triad and Beethoven’s op. 130 and Grosse Fugue. It’s interesting to think about all these possibly unrelated things and how they can relate to each other and to me in my time of antithesis.

I’ve always thought the way the first movement of op. 130 opens with a descending unison half-step before blooming out of it is indicative of the greatness and/or violence to come at the end of the piece with the Grosse Fugue. The first fugue motive is one (often starting on the same notes as the piece) which starts with  repetition of the first note (insistent!) and then an ascending half-step. So is the Fugue the antithesis of the thesis of the beginning half-step motive? The reaction to the first movement’s proposition? Or is the whole piece a moving of thesis to antithesis? And is this then a game of half-steps?

Or what about the beklemmt (choked) section in the 5th movement, Cavatina. The first fugue subject remnisces on the beklemmt a couple times..so is the Fugue the antithesis of the Cavatina thesis?

Or is just the Great Fugue itself an exploration of the triad? Sonata form, Fugue, and Theme and Variations…three forms for three kinds of thesis? The thesis of the one subject…the sudden introduction of a second as antithesis which is violent, confusing, pretty, and finally synthesis of the two subjects at the end?

I really don’t know. And of course, it’s more than entirely possible the triad has nothing to do with this piece.

And is all this just fate with a capital F? I’m mean now but this is a good thing because the “thesis” wasn’t that I was nice. The “thesis” was that I was afraid. I wonder what synthesis will look like…and if I will stroke my chin and be all, but of course! There was never another way for me to end up? Thinking about all of this reminds me of a favorite Elliot Smith song, “Independence Day.” The lyrics “Stay who you are, don’t go too far…” And I just think…

what if it’s too late Elliot?

but I digress,

Ling Ling

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