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Beyond Structural Listening?: Postmodern Modes of Hearing

EDITED BY Andrew Dell’Antonio
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 343
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Structural Listening?
    Book Description:

    In a highly influential essay, Rose Rosengard Subotnik critiques “structural listening” as an attempt to situate musical meaning solely within the unfolding of the musical structure itself. The authors of this volume, prominent young music historians and theorists writing on repertories ranging from Beethoven to MTV, take up Subotnik’s challenge in what is likely to be one of musical scholarship’s intellectual touchstones for many years to come. Original, innovative, and sophisticated, their essays explore not only the implications of the “structural listening” model but also the alternative listening strategies that have developed in specific communities, often in response to twentieth-century Western music.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93702-4
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Andrew Dell’Antonio
  4. INTRODUCTION: Beyond Structural Listening? Postmodern Modes of Hearing
    (pp. 1-12)

    Beyond structural listening?It may not be entirely to our advantage to idealize a listening stance that leaves structure in its wake, as Martin Scherzinger observes at the close of his essay. Yet inasmuch as the “structural listening” model—as described by Rose Subotnik first in the Meyer Festschrift and later in herDeconstructive Variations—is a disciplinary commonplace in the academic study of Western art music, and a pedagogical staple of undergraduate education in music history and theory, the essays in this collection follow Subotnik’s lead in questioning the universality of that model as a yardstick of aesthetic (and...

  5. ONE The Disciplined Subject of Musical Analysis
    (pp. 13-43)

    Allen Forte’s essay “Schenker’s Conception of Musical Structure” comments on a graphic analysis by Heinrich Schenker, in order to exemplify Schenker’s approach to tonal music. In a typical remark, he paraphrases Schenker’s sketch: “Schenker then shows how this initial prolongation is followed by a restatement.”

    Then he does something odd. In the next sentence, Forte writes: “To recapitulate, there are two prolongational classes shown in this background sketch” (12–13). The odd part is the echo between “restatement” and “recapitulation,” and the way the words resonate across the obvious distinction between the music and Forte’s own text. The music, interpreted...

  6. TWO Musical Virtues
    (pp. 44-69)

    Musicological tempers were short in the ’90s, and only recently seem to have settled into a sullenness that still occasionally flares into rancor. Many thoughtful and serious scholars hold incommensurate points of view with great conviction and vehemence, and find little success in persuading opponents or often even in eliminating smaller disagreements between their own positions and those of their philosophical allies. Journals, newsletters, internet sites, even some of the (quasi-)mass media, all register this intellectual conflict, and AMS presidents and others have frequently spoken out in attempts to reconcile the various segments of the field, or at least to...

  7. THREE The Chosen One’s Choice
    (pp. 70-108)

    In her critique of what she calls structural listening, Rose Subotnik departs from the premise that music can be defined in terms of a binary opposition between rational, abstract structures and sound or style, which in her account includes aspects of music as diverse as medium, history, and corporeality.¹ She argues that structural listeners have focused too adamantly on the structuralist pole of this key binarism, thereby neglecting crucial aspects of musical experience. With the expression “structural listeners” she is referring in particular to Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, and Theodor Adorno, whose extensive theoretical writings she does not aim to...

  8. FOUR Beethoven Antihero: Sex, Violence, and the Aesthetics of Failure, or Listening to the Ninth Symphony as Postmodern Sublime
    (pp. 109-153)

    “She must surely be one of the most misquoted musicologists in history.” The lament is Suzanne Cusick’s, on behalf of her feminist colleague Susan McClary. The sobriquet appeared in a recently published essay assessing the growth and prospects of a feminist musicology, in a section entitled “The Use and Misuse ofFeminine Endings” (Cusick 1999, 488, n. 30). By “misquoted” Cusick meant that the passage of Beethoven criticism most often attributed to the author ofFeminine Endings(McClary 1991), the passage reproduced above as the first of this chapter’s epigraphs, does not actually appear in that book at all. The...

  9. FIVE Passion/Mirrors (A Passion for the Violent Ineffable: Modernist Music and the Angel/In the Hall of Mirrors)
    (pp. 154-172)

    The educated and ‘proper’ view of the more difficult musical products of modernism is that they represent experiments in organization, transformation, and sound. However, even the educated and sympathetic listener is frequently struck by an unavoidable impression of violence, chaos, and attempts to stretch human perception. The widespread denial of this sonic violence suggests that it can be seen as a cultural symptom and, in fact, as a distinguishing characteristic of modernist music at the point where it looks into the abyss of the future. In a context where subjectivity might be acceptable in a scholarly discussion, it is plausible...

  10. SIX Uncertainty, Disorientation, and Loss as Responses to Musical Structure
    (pp. 173-200)

    What I like best about the problematic notion of musical “structure” is the attention it can direct to theconstructednessof musical identities. By the identity of a musical thing, I mean principallyhow it sounds;by saying that such an identity is constructed, I mean that how a musical thing sounds is engendered by relationships in which we understand that thing to participate. And by relationship I mean any kind of juxtaposition, contrast, or affinity—that is, my idea of musical relationship is not constrained by connotations of orderly or logical progression. An unprepared departure from what a passage...

  11. SEVEN Collective Listening: Postmodern Critical Processes and MTV
    (pp. 201-232)

    Structural listening strategies imply a model of one-to-one communication: the listener, in understanding the structural development of a musical text, is made privy to the composer’s creative processes. Under this model, the composer’s intentions are tied up with an individual’s understanding of the unfolding of a musical work. This is the kind of authorial presence and individual interpretative engagement that modernist critics such as Adorno, Horkheimer, and Jameson have bemoaned as lacking in popular music.

    Semiotician Umberto Eco has instead argued for an “intention of the text”: the text itself, providing clues as to how it “wants” to be read,...

  12. EIGHT One Bar in Eight: Debussy and the Death of Description
    (pp. 233-251)

    It starts, appropriately enough for Debussy, with a dream. The way I remember it now, some years after dreaming it: I was interviewing to be hired by a congregation of a church as their minister. This interview was really a sort of audition, in that I was to give a sample sermon. It took place in a paneled room with mullioned windows, a very solemn and official place, containing a large table surrounded by chairs—like a seminar room. Various church elders were in the chairs; I was at the head of the table. I felt discomfort because I am...

  13. NINE The Return of the Aesthetic: Musical Formalism and Its Place in Political Critique
    (pp. 252-278)

    In the late twentieth century, the landscape of musicology witnessed many new cultural and historicist approaches to music. These approaches challenge the institutionalized priorities of a field of studies that tended to reflect a formalist emphasis on the self-referential aesthetic autonomy of music and its independence from other forms of social discourse. The new critical stance has produced a heightened awareness of the ideological dimensions of the latter “purely aesthetic” paradigm and a renewed interest in the heterogeneous and much contested cultural arena that is its condition of possibility. Various traditionally excluded categories, such as race, class, gender, sexuality, and...

  14. AFTERWORD: Toward the Next Paradigm of Musical Scholarship
    (pp. 279-302)

    Diagnosing the present is a lot like predicting the future, only riskier. Both require the deciphering of clues laid down in the past. Both require the passage of time for an assessment of their accuracy. But tellers of the future (including astrologers, weather forecasters, and economists) are frequently absolved of their miscalculations; everyone understands that although such people look toward the future, they cannot actually see it. Diagnosticians, by contrast, look toward the past, asking not only where we are but also how we got there. Working with their backs to those of us who come after, they distract us...

    (pp. 303-318)
    (pp. 319-322)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 323-336)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 337-337)