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Berlioz frequently explored other worlds in his writings, from the imagined exotic enchantments of New Zealand to the rings of Saturn where Beethoven's spirit was said to reside. The settings for his musical works are more conservative, and his adventurousness has instead been located in his mastery of the orchestra, as both orchestrator and conductor. Inge van Rij's book takes a new approach to Berlioz's treatment of the orchestra by exploring the relationship between these two forms of control – the orchestra as abstract sound, and the orchestra as collective labour and instrumental technology. Van Rij reveals that the negotiation between worlds characteristic of Berlioz's writings also plays out in his music: orchestral technology may be concealed or ostentatiously displayed; musical instruments might be industrialised or exoticised; and the orchestral musicians themselves move between being a society of distinctive individuals and being a machine played by Berlioz himself.
In his final years, Berlioz's name became entangled in debates around Wagnerian ‘music of the future’; but Berlioz was also engaged with conceptions of the future in a much more literal sense throughout his life. An examination of texts such as Euphonia which treat futuristic settings helps us to identify three main technological tropes by which the future is characterised in Berlioz's writings: the industrialisation of space and time; the discourse of gender; and fears around agency. Applying these tropes to the contemporaneous La damnation de Faust enables a new reading of genre in Berlioz's ‘légende dramatique’, which is revealed to dramatise the dialectic of technology and gender on a meta-diegetic level. Performances of La damnation de Faust that stage it as opera or as Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk may blind us to the innovative aspects of the work, for these aspects are most visible when it is the orchestral ‘machine’ that is placed literally centre stage. This new reading of La damnation de Faust through the lens of Euphonia helps us to resituate Berlioz as a musician of the future in a manner that provides an alternative to the more familiar Wagnerian aesthetics.
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