Le Confident

Ideas tête-à-tête

Death and the Maiden

The Idea of this post comes from the wonderful string quartet opus 7 n°3, D. 531 of Schubert of 1824 : “Der Tod und das Mädchen”. This music is for me a mystery because it is so hard to explain what I feel ; what happens in the sensory part of my brain. I will try here a little analyse, nearly an auto-psychanalysis of myself as the music speaks to the unconscious and sensitiveness. I am sure that, over the only taste aspect, finding what someone loves as Music is also learning a little bit about his personality : from the painful romanticism to the combattant march, passing by the festivity operetta… Music as painting, drawing or writing… is a means to bring up and provoke a sensitive reaction. That is maybe the more underhand art because it seems innocent. A human being seems to better understand that seeing something can produce a sentiment (because it is a direct perception) ; than that hearing something can produce this same effect (because it is indirect and asks an intellectual association between a sound, an accord, to an idea).

I would like to introduce, with this quartet of Schubert, how the music, throughout unconscious, creates an indirect way to the emotion. As it is more abstract and requires a kind of introspection, music is certainly the art that can provoke the greatest emotion. Identify yourself with what you here is like hearing the song of your soul, to awake to your intimate nature.

First here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrvINYO3Q2M

And feel :

The Allegro, like an introduction of the theme, a flight. Trying to avoid the death and the destiny. You still don’t know what will happen. A doubt, something is coming. That’s like a game (cats and mice). Just a hope maybe, a time to implore. But the theme comes again. A presence over you, a vertigo, heavy ; an ill-defined scare.

The Andante inspired of the Lied of Matthias Claudius. The emphasis in solemnity like a surrender, a conscience. And then the sweetness in pain, the dialogue between the maiden (hight-pitched strings) and the death (deep strings). A seduction of the death, an apaisement :

Das Mädchen:
 Vorüber! ach, vorüber!
 Geh, wilder Knochenmann!
 Ich bin noch jung, geh Lieber!
 Und rühre mich nicht an.

Der Tod:
 Gib deine Hand, du schön und zart Gebild!
 Bin Freund, und komme nicht zu strafen.
 Sei gutes Muts! Ich bin nicht wild,
 Sollst sanft in meinen Armen schlafen!


The Maiden:
 "It's all over! alas, it's all over now!
 Go, savage man of bone!
 I am still young - go, devoted one!
 And do not molest me."

 "Give me your hand, you fair and tender form!
 I am a friend; I do not come to punish.
 Be of good cheer! I am not savage.
 You shall sleep gently in my arms."

The Scherzo, short and energetic. Lot of contrasts like an uncertainty but a shooting movement like an evil.

The Presto, like a run to the end, a fall in love with the death. The time is to the confusion of a macabre dance. The tension is to her paroxysm. The mice is traped and there is no way out. Everything accelerates. Just a trouble, a suffocation. Last breath !

You can also see this danced representation :



This theme of the death and the maiden is a perfect romantic and expressionist theme as it opposed the beauty, somtimes erotic, and the ugliness, the tenebrae to the light, the joy and the pain. Romantism is always built on drama. That’s the weight of the paradox that fascinates and obsesses. Life, love, death are the obsessions of human beings because they live it but cannot understand and control what happens. This theme as a way of taking control of the eternity.


Freud speaks about the combination of Eros and Thanatos. Begin and end without contradiction.


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This entry was posted on June 11, 2012 by in Art, Music and tagged .
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