Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: "the throttling murderous rage of a rapist"

Here’s a book I don’t want to get for Christmas: Feminine Endings, by Susan McClary.

From Wikipedia:

The publication of Feminine Endings (now in its second edition) is considered to have been a significant step in the acceptance and proliferation of feminist musicology within academia. Largely because of this influence, McClary was a 1995 winner of a MacArthur Fellowship.

In Feminine Endings, McClary describes, among other things, how sonata form may be interpreted as sexist or misogynistic and imperialistic, and that, "tonality itself - with its process of instilling expectations and subsequently withholding promised fulfillment until climax - is the principal musical means during the period from 1600 to 1900 for arousing and channeling desire." She analyzes the sonata procedure for its constructions of gender and sexual identity. The primary, once "masculine", key (or first subject group) represents the, always in narrative, male, self, while the secondary, "feminine" key (or second subject group), represents the other, a territory to be explored and conquered, assimilated into the self and stated in the tonic home key.

What’s more:

A sentence by McClary which has been very widely quoted is given below. Here, "the Ninth" refers to Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

"The point of recapitulation in the first movement of the Ninth is one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling murderous rage of a rapist, incapable of attaining release. "

Come Armageddon, come Armageddon, come...


Peter Burnet said...

You've found some good fodder for a contest here, Brit. Best example of mindless pseudo-intellectual drivel. Here's my (first) entry.

Brit said...

Oh Peter - thank you. That. Is. Gold!

It's too funny to be a pastiche, so it must be genuine.

Some personal highlights:

"There is a quiet power in the printed word. As such, some players perceive Paper as a subtle attack"

"Records from a tournament in 1923 mention a player who wiggled his toes before throwing Rock."

"Proponents of the "Chaos School" of RPS try to select a throw randomly."

"Meta-strategies" go beyond selecting your throw"

but wait, here's the kicker:

"Playing RPS won't make you rich."

Harry Eagar said...

A girl's gotta peddle her book. Name one other contemporary musicologist.

Her fame may fleet. I've already forgotten the topless cellist.

Duck said...

They made a musical of Eraserhead?

Duck said...

Here's my entry:

Ever since George Romero’s genre-creating Night of the Living Dead in 1968, and especially since Romero’s overtly political 1978 masterpiece Dawn of the Dead, highbrow revolutionary theorizing has stalked this graveyard of lowbrow pleasures. In his 1979 study The American Nightmare: Essays on the Horror Film, the esteemed cineaste Robin Wood declared that the zombie’s cannibalism “represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism.” J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum’s 1983 study Midnight Movies called Night of the Living Dead “a remarkable vision of the late sixties, offering the most literal possible depiction of America devouring itself.” In a later reappraisal, a Village Voice critic explained that “the zombie carnage seemed a grotesque echo of the conflict then raging in Vietnam.”

The film historian Sumiko Higashi went completely around the bend in a 1990 essay, declaring, “There are no Vietnamese in Night of the Living Dead.…They constitute an absent presence whose significance can be understood if narrative is construed.” As subsequent genre pictures, trailing titles like Zombi 2 and Zombie Flesh Eaters 3, ate their way through America’s VCRs, Wood elaborated his original claims, averring in his 1986 book Hollywood From Vietnam to Reagan that the living dead “represent, on a metaphorical level, the whole dead weight of patriarchal consumer capitalism, from whose habits of behavior and desire not even Hare Krishnas and nuns…are exempt.” Take a bite out of that.