An article by a University of Arkansas - Fort Smith professor will be published as the lead article in the Autumn 2012 edition of “The Musical Times,” the oldest continuously running journal in the field of Western musicology.
The article by Dr. Stephen Husarik of Fort Smith, professor of humanities and music, is titled “Musical direction and the wedge in Beethoven’s high comedy, Grosse Fuge op. 133.”
Husarik said the journal began publication in 1844 and has included some of the most important musical criticism over the past century and a half. His article uncovers for the first time in almost 200 years the meaning of Beethoven’s most esoteric work, Grosse Fuge, op. 133.
“Over 70 analyses of this work by the best scholars in the world have failed to unscramble what critics call Beethoven’s ‘Chinese’ puzzle,” said Husarik. “Most scholars have assumed that this work was a serious dramatic composition typical of other tragic compositions by the famous composer.”
However, Husarik presents arguments to show that Grosse Fuge is an example of high comedy -- a serious work in a humorous vein -- in which Beethoven spoofs stereotyped musical figures by his contemporaries. Husarik locates quotations from Beethoven and his friends to explain the musical comedy and illustrates for the first time how the music is constructed from a wedge-shaped collection of notes identical to a melody from Gluck’s “Dance of the Blessed Spirits.”
The project, which took many years to complete, involved a National Endowment for the Humanities College Teacher grant to Harvard University and travel to Krakow (Poland) and Vienna (Austria) in order to see sketches and manuscripts associated with this work.
Husarik has a life-long interest in the music of Beethoven. His article on “How Beethoven’s Works Contributed to the Growth of Musical Terminology” received a finalist award from the International Humanities Conference in 2009.
“I’m grateful to the Awards Committee of the UAFS Faculty Association for awarding me a travel grant to read a preliminary version of my Grosse Fuge paper at Glasgow Caledonian University (Scotland) in September 2011,” he said. “They provided the opportunity for evaluation by musical experts that led directly to the publication of this article.”
Husarik is pursuing additional Beethoven research this year along with a group of UAFS students in a special humanities course offering in Austria, “Beethoven and Classical Music in Vienna.”
Husarik said Beethoven lived in more than 70 different residences in Vienna, and four student assistants will travel with him to photograph these places and create an accurate catalog. Residences destroyed over the years will be reconstructed in PowerPoint using overlays of historical engravings, etchings, photographs, three-dimensional dioramas of Vienna and even 3Ds Max and other virtual reality techniques.
Husarik donated the cash award from the Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Award he received from UAFS in April to help fund scholarships for the four students who will travel with him. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences donated additional funds to help the effort.
The ultimate goal of this research is to produce a PowerPoint presentation titled “Beethoven’s life in Vienna,” showing the composer’s residences through photographs and reconstructions of his residences to a UAFS audience in August 2013. Husarik plans to donate the PowerPoint to the Austrian State Library Map Division in Vienna that provided help in locating the residences.