'Headaches Among the Overtones': Thinking Through Music in Beckett.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


It is now 10 years since the publication of Samuel Beckett and Music, edited by Mary Bryden, the first substantial exploration of that relationship. Previously, references to the musicality of Beckett’s language were abundant in writings on his plays, prose and poetry alike, with critics often following Beckett’s own practice by employing musical terminology or loose analogies with musical forms or practices in discussing his work. However, there was very little consideration of quite what this meant or why it should be of interest. Bryden’s book changed things, and the intervening decade has seen a growing body of work examining the three aspects of the relationship: the musicality of Beckett’s language and of his approach to sound and structure; the use of actual music and the ‘idea’ of music – or sometimes of music as a metaphor – in his work; and composers’ responses to the work. This has formed part of a deepening understanding of Beckett’s relationship to his artistic heritage – visual, musical, theatrical and literary – but also to contemporary developments in fine and performance arts.

This paper examines aspects of developments in the exploration of Beckett and music, focusing on two related areas: the relevance of recent manuscript study (“genetic Beckett”) to an understanding of how Beckett thinks through music, either philosophically or materially; and secondly, Beckett’s relationship to developments in contemporary music.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009
EventSymposium: Beckett and Music - , United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Feb 2009 → …


ConferenceSymposium: Beckett and Music
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period23/02/09 → …

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