Alban Berg's Wozzeck: Revisiting a Historically Sedimented Metaphor

  • Bertha Spies North-West University, South Africa


The binary opposition between music text and reader can be transformed into a dialogue when the text is allowed to "speak back". A dialogue approach helps to provide an answer to the question of two different interpretations of the meaning of circularity in Alban Berg's Wozzeck. Although the circle is traditionally regarded as a symbol of the wholeness and perfection of the psyche, in this opera it can be regarded as metaphor for entrapment, i.e. for the inability of the downtrodden to escape their plight. Thus within the social context of the opera, the systematic erosion of the circle during the work can be interpreted as symbolizes the systematic disintegration of Wozzeck's psyche. Thus there is a conflict between the historically sedimented view of circularity on the one hand and the representation of the systematically eroded circular figures for Wozzeck's physical and psychological destruction on the other.

South African Journal of Musicology Vol.22 2002: 47-61

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eISSN: 0258-509X