Music in Beckett’s Nacht und Träume: Vocality and Imagination

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The influence of music upon the work of Samuel Beckett is frequently commented on, and Schubert is the composer to whom the author alludes most frequently. Specific compositions are invoked alongside those of Beethoven, particularly in some of the early stories, and in the radio play All That Fall and the television play Nacht and Träume we hear extracts of Schubert’s music. Moreover, Beckett’s particular musical choices and the specific ways in which he employs the music are significant within his broader exploration of subjectivity, authority and the imagination. Understanding this is revealing with regard to the self-conscious preoccupations of Modernism and beyond.

This chapter examines how Beckett’s use of Schubert mirrors the ambiguities of image, agency, action and identity in Nacht and Träume . Here music is used as a means of trying to imagine the unimaginable; the emphasis is on the productive imagining and re-imagining of release, transcendence, absolution. Beckett exploits music’s ability to carry consciousness without specific subjectivity, invoking presence and agency without grounding.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeckett and Musicality
EditorsNicholas Till, Sara Jane Bailes
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781472409652
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2014

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