Arts of Incompletion

Fragments in Words and Music


Volume Editors: and
Incompletion is an essential condition of cultural history, and particularly the idea of the fragment became a central element of Romantic art. Through its resistance to classicist ideals it continued being of high relevance to the various strands of modernist and contemporary aesthetics. The fourteen essays in this volume, based on the 2017 Stockholm conference of the International Association for Word and Music Studies (WMA), for the first time address incompletion in a wide range of literary and musical texts, from Baudelaire and Flaubert through Tolstoy and Henry James to Bachmann, Jelinek and Janet Frame, from Nietzsche and Chopin through Russolo and Puccini to Rihm and Kurtàg. Two further essays deal with topical general issues in the field of word and music studies.


Delia da Sousa Correa, The Open University, United Kingdom.
Peter Dayan, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Ivan Delazari, HSE University in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Rolf J. Goebel, The University of Alabama, USA.
Michael Halliwell, The University of Sydney, Australia.
Christin Hoene, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.
Ruth Jacobs, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Lawrence Kramer, Fordham University, USA.
Bernhard Kuhn, Bucknell University, USA.
Margaret Miner, The University of Illinois Chicago, USA.
Beate Schirrmacher, Linnaeus University, Sweden.
David Francis Urrows, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong.
Laura Vattano, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Erik Wallrup, Stockholm University, Sweden.
Werner Wolf, University of Graz, Austria.

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Walter Bernhart is retired Professor of English Literature, University of Graz; he was long-term President of the International Association for Word and Music Studies (WMA) and is executive editor of Word and Music Studies (WMS). His collected essays on literature and music were published in 2015.

Axel Englund is Professor of Literature and Wallenberg Academy Fellow at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University. He is the author of Deviant Opera: Sex, Power, and Perversion on Stage (2020) and Still Songs: Music In and Around the Poetry of Paul Celan (2012).
List of Figures
Notes on Contributors

PART 1: Arts of Incompletion: Fragments in Words and Music

SECTION 1: Musical Philosophy of Incompletion

1 Philosophy at the Keyboard: Nietzsche’s Music Box
Lawrence Kramer
2 Infinity in an Instant: The Paradox of Timeless Fragments in the Work of György Kurtág
Ruth Jacobs

SECTION 2: Fragments and Artistic Innovation

3 Drumming Out Art: Nielsen, Huelsenbeck, and Improvised Interruption
Peter Dayan
4 Russolo’s “Il risveglio di una città”: A Fragment for an Aesthetics of Noise
Laura Vattano

SECTION 3: Fragmentariness as a Creative Force

5 The Fragmentary and the Musical: Baudelaire’s Bits and Pieces
Margaret Miner
6 Variations on the Theme of Dying: Ingeborg Bachmann and the Music of This World
Axel Englund
7 A Fragment of the Whole: Musical and Literary Incompletion in Kirsty Gunn’s Book The Big Music
Christin Hoene
8 Skizzen’s Sketches, Els’s Tweets: Streams of Incompletion in Two Musicalized Novels
Ivan Delazari

SECTION 4: Lyric Fragments in Narratives

9 Singing Words and Sticky Music: Fragmentary Lyrics and Acts of Violence
Beate Schirrmacher
10 Fragmented Music, Fragmented Minds: Janet Frame’s Faces in the Water (1961)
Delia da Sousa Correa
11 Otto Dresel’s “Loose the sail, rest the oar”: A Study of (In)completion
David Francis Urrows

SECTION 5: Opera and Fragmentation

12 Operatic Fragments in Fiction and Film
Michael Halliwell
13 The Challenges of Completing a Plurimedial Fragment: Text, Music, and Scene in Berio/Pountney’s Ending of the Opera Turandot
Bernhard Kuhn
14 Fragment and Flow: On Wolfgang Rihm’s Dionysus Opera
Erik Wallrup

PART 2: Word and Music Studies: Surveying the Field

15 Sound Studies and Musical Hermeneutics: Bridging the Interdisciplinary Gap
Rolf J. Goebel
16 ‘Make It Old’: Retro Forms in Western Literature and Music since the Eighteenth Century
Werner Wolf
The essays are of interest to musicologists and literary scholars, including opera lovers, as well as readers interested in the philosophy of art and word and music studies in general.
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