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10 “Willst zu meinen Liedern deine Leier drehn?”: Intermedial Metatextuality in Schubert’s “Der Leiermann” as a Motivation for Song and Accompaniment and a Contribution to the Unity of Die Winterreise [2001]

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Chapter Summary

Owing to the emergence, over the past few centuries, of ‘aesthetic’ art, the motivations for, and functions of, individual works of art in Western culture are commonly no longer defined by specific, pragmatic contexts or situations. In some cases the work of art itself compensates for its pragmatic uncertainty by means of meta-aesthetic or metatextual elements. However, in music only forms which involve text, such as songs and song cycles, can easily do so. This essay shows that in this respect Schubert’s Die Winterreise is an especially interesting example, as the concluding “Der Leiermann” does not only motivate the text of Müller’s poem cycle metapoetically at its very end but also appears to explain the fact that in Schubert’s Die Winterreise a singer is accompanied by a musician. Thus the implied answer ‘yes’ to the final question in “Der Leiermann” cited in the title of this essay has an intermedial relevance, for on a meta-level this self-reflexive question refers both to the text of the song cycle and to the second medium present in Schubert’s work: music. The intermedial metatextuality of the last song also opens up a possibility of reading Die Winterreise on a fictional level as a ‘duodrama’ of wanderer and hurdy-gurdy man and at the same time creates a special, cyclical unity: by retrospectively suggesting a fictional origin of the performance of singer and piano player, the last song reveals the self-begetting structure of Die Winterreise and invites a re-reading of the entire cycle as a re-enactment staged by both wanderer and hurdy-gurdy player. 



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