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Feminine Endings

Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality

SUSAN MCCLARY With a New Itroduction
Copyright Date: 1991
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Feminine Endings
    Book Description:

    When it was originally published in 1991, Feminine Endings was immediately controversial for its unprecedented intermingling of cultural criticism and musical studies, an approach that came to be called "the New Musicology." The now classic work features a new introduction that discusses the critical reception it received and the debates it has inspired.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9505-8
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Feminine Endings in Retrospect
    (pp. ix-2)
    Susan McClary
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction: A Material Girl in Bluebeard’s Castle
    (pp. 3-34)

    In the grisly fairy tale of Bluebeard, the new bride, Judith, is given keys to all the chambers in her husband’s castle with strict instructions that she is never to unlock the seventh door. Upon opening the first six doors, Judith discovers those aspects of Bluebeard that he wishes to claim—his wealth, strength, political dominion, love of beauty, and so on. Bluebeard offers a form of symbolic self-representation in these chambers: he reveals himself as the man he wants Judith to adore. But throughout her explorations—behind every door—she finds traces of something else, something hidden that sustains...

  6. Chapter 2 Constructions of Gender in Monteverdi’s Dramatic Music
    (pp. 35-52)

    One of the great accomplishments of seventeenth-century culture was the development of a vocabulary by means of which dramatic characters and actions could be delineated in music. The techniques for emotional and rhetorical inflection we now take for granted are not, in fact, natural or universal: they were deliberately formulated during this period for purposes of music theater. Monteverdi’s descriptions of how he invented the semiotics of madness forLa finta pazza Licorior of war for theCombattimento di Tancredi e Clorindareveal how very self-consciously he designed methods for “representing” affective states.¹

    The achievements of thestile rappresentativo...

  7. Chapter 3 Sexual Politics in Classical Music
    (pp. 53-79)

    Sexuality is one of the most intensely pleasurable and yet troubling aspects of human experience. It is at the same time the most personal of realms and also the realm most carefully constrained by social order. It is the terrain where the imperatives of biological survival meet the treasured belief that we humans differ from animals by virtue of our ability to transcend demands of the body. One of the functions of social discursive practices (law, religion, art) is to moderate that gap, to translate into terms of culture the exigencies of the physical.¹

    Literature and visual art are almost...

  8. Chapter 4 Excess and Frame: The Musical Representation of Madwomen
    (pp. 80-111)

    From Monteverdi’s experiments in thestile rappresentativoor Donizetti’s tragic heroines to Schoenberg’sErwartungand beyond, composers have long been attracted to the dramatic subject of madwomen. Opera audiences obviously share their fascination: many operas of this genre maintain positions of honor within the standard repertory, and there are even specialized commercial recordings that contain nothing but Mad Scenes, all conveniently excerpted and packaged together so that the listener doesn’t have to endure any of the boring stuff between the “good parts.” Nor is the musical madwoman confined to operas with explicitly mad characters: Ethan Mordden’s book on the phenomenon...

  9. Chapter 5 Getting Down Off the Beanstalk: The Presence of a Women’s Voice in Janika Vandervelde’s Genesis II
    (pp. 112-131)

    Once upon a time, there was a young composer who received a commission to write orchestral music to accompany the dramatic narration of “Jack and the Beanstalk” for a children’s concert. Like most beloved fairy tales, “Jack” deals with very basic life issues: the beanstalk is accidentally planted when Jack’s mother callously rejects his newly acquired magic beans. Overnight the beanstalk becomes erect, grows very big, and penetrates the clouds, permitting Jack to ascend and conquer the Giant/Father. A more obvious oedipal situation is difficult to imagine.

    The music for “Jack” was produced in accordance with the abstract principles of...

  10. Chapter 6 This Is Not a Story My People Tell: Musical Time and Space According to Laurie Anderson
    (pp. 132-147)

    In her composition “Langue d’amour”—just after she has retold the Adam and Eve story and just before she moves into the ecstatic stasis that ends the piece—Laurie Anderson says:

    This is not a story my people tell. It’s something I know myself.

    And when I do my job I am thinking about these things.

    Because when I do my job, that’s what I think about.¹

    She thus casually evokes a typical ethnographic situation, in which a native informant delivers authentic folklore to an anthropologist.²

    The ethnographic reference here is deliberate. In the book version ofUnited States,the...

  11. Chapter 7 Living to Tell: Madonna’s Resurrection of the Fleshly
    (pp. 148-166)

    A great deal of ink has been spilled in the debate over pop star Madonna’s visual image and the narratives she has enacted for music video. Almost every response in the spectrum has been registered, ranging from unambiguous characterizations of her as “a porn queen in heat”¹ or “the kind of women who comes into your room at three a.m. and sucks your life out,”² to formulations that view her as a kind of organic feminist whose image “enables girls to see that the meanings of feminine sexualitycanbe in their control,canbe made in their interests, and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 167-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-220)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-221)