Once parallel arts forms, the symphony and the novel have diverged

Posted on: October 6, 2011

In Wednesday’s (10/5) Guardian (London), Will Self compares the symphonic form to the novel. “The search for motifs, or themes, the creation of an alternative world in words, the struggle for authenticity of narrative voice, the counterpointing of different protagonists’ views—these are key artistic objectives shared by the novelist and the symphonist, and not to anything like the same degree by other musical and literary practitioners. Indeed, I’d go further: the symphonist and the novelist have more in common with each other than they do with others working in their own respective art forms. … That both forms reach their apogee in the 19th century—and in very similar ways—seems to me a function of their sharing the same artistic aim: to simultaneously enact the most complete possible world-in-words (or world-in-notes), while also actualising the creative personality itself. … At the twin peaks of the 19th-century novel and symphony there is an overarching confidence about what the forms can do, a sense of their totalising capability.” But while modernist composers have sought out new musical forms, Self says, the novel still remains the dominant form of fiction.

Posted October 6, 2011