Vox Populi, Vox Dei

Stephen Rumph

in Beethoven after Napoleon

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780520238558
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930124 | DOI:
Vox Populi, Vox Dei

Show Summary Details


This chapter provides an account of the works of scholars who suggest that speech and song together press to fulfill Beethoven's drive toward immediacy of communication. This evokes a tantalizingly musical metaphor, i.e. voice. Voice here signifies authorial presence, as questioned by post structuralism. It is the aura of the Ninth Symphony, the over-determinacy of Beethoven's intentions, that lifts the work above ideology and into the realm of transformative art. The chapter examines the twin claims of vox populi, vox dei, a flow of popular voices, ebb of authorial voice, by focusing on the finale of the Ninth Symphony. The “Ode to Joy” enshrines Beethoven's most famous populist melody, and also has another transcendent voice that speaks through the recitative in the lower strings. Both voices trace their source back to 1809, winding through a rich intellectual landscape. By retracing this development, the chapter clarifies what Beethoven's “voices” are saying.

Keywords: Beethoven; musical metaphor; voice; vox populi; vox dei; Ninth Symphony

Chapter.  10498 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.