In Beethoven’s last symphony one encounters a prototype in which music serves as a powerful catalyst for literature. It is his music that transported Schiller’s poem “An die Freude” (“Ode to Joy”) beyond its temporal, linguistic, and geographic origin. If one dubs this phenomenon “world music literature,” it implies that three domains are essential for it: first, creating a literary text; second, setting the text to music; and third, having access to both and enabling the composition to circulate within large networks and groups around the globe. Within this context Schiller’s text and Beethoven’s musical setting of it are unique in that text and music thematize and joyfully celebrate the very notion of access as the liberating act of a unifying group identity. Höyng describes a performance of the choral work as documented in Kinshasa Symphony (2011), reading it as a prime example of access to and circulation of Beethoven’s monumental music, then outlines how Beethoven’s access to literature serves as a paradigm of gaining access within a network of friends and discovering the liberating force of literature.
Peter Höyng; “The Gospel of World Harmony”; Or, Beethoven’s Transformation of Schiller’s “An Die Freude” Into World Music Literature. Modern Language Quarterly 1 June 2013; 74 (2): 261–276. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-2073016
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