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Of Patriarchs... and Matriarchs, Too.

Susan McClary Assesses the Challenges and Contributions of Feminist Musicology Author(s): Susan McClary Source: The Musical Times, Vol. 135, No. 1816, 150th Anniversary Issue (Jun., 1994), pp. 364369 Published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1003224 . Accessed: 12/06/2013 17:55
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Musicology

today I

OF AND
What Susan

PATRIARCH

TOO MATRIAR
musicology, considers its aid why do we need it? contributions and challenges.

is feminrist McClary

Reproduced

Roll, MODEL 1: CHARITY, by Lucas Cranach the Elder by courtesy of the Trustees, The National Gallery, London

unison choir of female voices enters over a drone, subdued .. at first, with a line that coils around the drone in close intervals. Initially, the melody's phrygiansecond degree (i.e. only a half step above the drone) suggests that it might not be able to rise freely from that base, that it may be confined permanentlyto this low register. But then the line begins to ascend - not in the standardstepwise motion of monophonic liturgical chant, but in ever-larger intervals that vault over the ceiling imposed by the phrygian degree. Beginning with cautious moves by thirds, the line gains confidence and surges upwards through rapid successions of open fifths and fourths until it rises a full octave and a sixth above its lowest pitch. There, in that rarefied space, the melody revels in ecstatic melismas, occasionally cascading down to regain contact with its point of origin only to scale the heights exuberance. again with ever-greater Nothing in standardstudies of medieval music preparesone for the shock of hearing Hildegard von Bingen's 'De Patriarchiset prophetis' for the first time. Not only is her name absent from most textbooks (even those specialising in chant), but her music flagrantlyviolates many of the stylistic norms routinelyenumerated by medievalists- especially the commonplacethat musiciansin the Middle Ages did not concern themselves with responding to their verbal texts in their musical settings. Yet Hildegard's 'Of Patriarchs and prophets'clearly presentsa musical analogueto her equally astonishingpoem, in which she encapsulateswithin a mere 12 lines the divine trajectoryfrom the Old Testament fathers to John the Baptistto Christ. O vos, felicesradices, cumquibus opusmiraculorum, et nonopuscriminum, iterperspicuae est. umbrae pertorrens plantatum Eto tu,ruminans igneavox, limantem praecurrens lapidem, subvertentem abyssum,

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in capitevestro. gaudete in illo, Gaudete in terris multi quemnonviderunt ardenter vocaverunt. quiipsum in capitevestro. Gaudete andnotof crimes roots,withwhomthecropof miracles [Oyou,happy - andyou, was planted on the burning path,in lucidforeshadowing andfieryvoice heralding the whetstone,demolishing contemplative the abyss,rejoicein himwho is yoursummit!Rejoicein him,whom many did not see on earth,thoughthey called for him ardently. in himwhois yoursummit!]1 Rejoice To find a similar effect, we would have to project forward five centuries to the beginning of Milton's Paradise lost ('Of Man's FirstDisobedience... Sing, Heav'nly Muse... '). Yet as breathtaking as Milton's opening gambit is, we expect that kind of dynamic energy in culturalartefactsfrom the 17th century- the period that also gave us goal-oriented tonality and the calculus. But in the works of an obscure 12th-centuryRhineland abbess? Moreover, Hildegardwrote not only her lyrics, but also the searing music that takes us from what she presents as the clairvoyantfaith of the patriarchs,throughthe audaciousanticipationsof the prophets,to the triumphantcertaintyof the Christianmystic. ROLE MODEL 2: A YOUNG WOMAN STANDING AT A VIRGINAL, by Johannes Vermeer When I began graduatetrainingin musicology 26 years ago, no Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees, The National Gallery, London women appearedin the curriculum. It never even occurredto some of us to wonder why there were no women in the histories of music startlingly modern accounts of many ailments and also reveal we studied;if we asked, we were told that there had not been any knowledge of female anatomy and midwifery that far surpasses in at least none worthremembering. But with the rise of the Women's accuracy - not to mention empathy - the standardtreatises of her Movement in the early 1970s, some courageous musicologists day. As a musician, she composed an extensive collection of male as well as female scholars the arduous task including highly individualistic responsories and sequences, and also the began of recoveringthe women who had participated the westOrdo virtutem, the earliest liturgical drama designed to be sung throughout ern art-music tradition. This work has brought to light an everthroughout. The story of Hildegard's career is quite literally miraculous:the growing numberof remarkablemusicians who had fallen into varyof Ruth Crawford Lili result not only of aristocraticprivilege, but also of papal and even ing degrees obscurity: Seeger, Boulanger, GermaineTailleferre,Ethel Smyth, Cecile Chaminade,Amy Beach, divine interventions. As a member of noble family, Hildegard Clara Wieck Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Elizabethhad opportunities denied most women, including the coveted Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, Isabella option of life in a convent, where At a time when academic Leonarda, Barbara Strozzi, Francesca exempted from the duties of childbearing - she could receive a liberal education and Caccini, the Countess of Dia.2 At the head of this illustrious group, rise within the hierarchy of her monastic to make threatens analysis order. Yet even nuns were constrainedby however, stands Hildegard, the longmatriarch and of St Paul's injunction that women remain women's music inaccessible forgotten appear prophet music. Musicologists were not the first to silent in the church: their sphere of influclaim to ence medieval to all but the most lay highly Hildegard: stopped at the convent walls. Unlike literary historian Peter Dronke judges her poetry to most of her sister nuns, however, be comparable only to that of Abelard; her trained specialists, Hildegard was subject to visions. The idiosyncratic theological writings (which pope ordered a thorough investigation of not only glory in female figures such as the criticism feminist-oriented Hildegard's mystical experiences and Blessed Virgin and Sophia, the allegorical eventually granted her official clearance of in in to speak and write about whatever she perbut also the earth it to other and Wisdom, symbol opens people the fecundity of nature) are being adopted ceived. Her remarkably prolific output and circulated once again by priests such as to reveals the extent to which she exercised music thus fields, adding Matthew Fox; the vivid illuminations that licence. As her fame spread through executed under her supervision add the interdisciplinary study Europe, she engaged in correspondences new with theologians such as Bernard de dimensions to medieval unexpected and her Clairvaux and political leaders such as medical studies of offer cultural history. iconography;

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FriedrichBarbarossa. Her music, plays, theological writings, illuminations, medical handbooks, memoirs, and letters were copied and carefully preservedin her convent, where they may be studied today. How could this woman - an extraordinary figure by any standard - have vanishedfrom culturalmemory? Withoutdwelling too long on ancient iniquities, suffice it to say that the historicalrecord has been composed almost exclusively by men, and it has tended to trace a genealogy of deeds by men.3 Recall that in Hildegard'sday women wishing to write requiredexpress permissionfrom the pope, respondingto what he regardedas God's commands. Not too surprisingly, few women have received such direct ordination;their stories remaineduntold. And despite miracles and papal decrees, even Hildegardherself was soon forgotten. Later periods saw the spectacular appearance at the court of of the concertodi donne, a virtuosowomen's ensemblecredFerrara ited with having inspired a whole range of Renaissance avantof Barbara or the cantatapublications Strozzi,a 17th-century gardes;4 Venetianwhose expressiverange rankswith that of her best-known or the harpsichord suites of ElizabethJacquetde la contemporaries;5 Guerre,a woman at the court of Louis XIV whose Italianatesuites sound like sudden infusions of technicolor into the staid world of Frenchdance.6 For each of these women there were special conditions (less dramaticthan Hildegard's divine intervention,but only professionallyin musicslightly so) that permittedher to participate for for there are also reasons each, subsequent neglect - reamaking; sons thathinge not so much on the qualityof the work as on cultural biases thathave excludedwomen fromconsideration.

eminist-orientedmusicology necessarily poses these sometimes unpleasant questions. Yet the goal is not to instill music available. Until guilt, but ratherto make this extraordinary the commercial recording industry hesitated to collaborecently, rate in this recovery project; but with the increasing market demand for music by female composers it has become possible to find many first-rate performancesof compositions by women. If this new branch of musicology had accomplished nothing more than bringing the music of Hildegard, Strozzi or Jacquet de la Guerreto a listening public, it would have justified its existence. But just as feminist scholarship in other disciplines has gone beyond locating women in history to raise more fundamentalquestions, so feminist-based musicology has broughtnew perspectives to the study of the standardrepertory. For the addition of women (or any other formerlymarginalisedgroup) to a canon immediately calls attentionto the fact of the canon's constructedness,its dependence on changing social values. Moreover,dealing seriously with newly discovered repertories often entails having to reconsider standard criteria for assigning value. For instance, traditional musicologists have tended to downplay or even deny the 'content' of music in favour of formal description. Yet women composers (Hildegard, for instance) sometimes choose to write music with imagery that deliberately engages with cultural concerns such as elegender. Is their music alone in foregroundingrepresentational ments? Or might music in general be understood as a cultural practice - a practice that bears traces of many aspects of social experience, including gender ideologies?

If we look at societies outside those of Europe and North America the answer is an unequivocal 'yes': ethnomusicologists routinely acknowledge and analyse the ways in which the musical practices of most cultures simultaneously reflect and reinforce gendered divisions of labour and codes of behaviour.7 But it has been more difficult to broach these topics within the prestigious realm of western art music, for advocates of this repertoryhave long held that it transcends representation, especially the representation of such mundane matters as gender or the body. Yet feminist-oriented musicologists have begun to assess the many ways in which social constructionsof gender have organised these musical practices as well: not just the music by women, but the music of the standardcanon itself. A few scholarshave perceived these new lines of inquiryas hostile - for reasons easy to explain, given the emphasis on autonomy in western music aesthetics since early romanticism. But if such questions refuse to honour the canon's claims to radical autonomy or 'pure' musicality, they offer in exchange a view of music as a central participant in history and culture. If music no longer appearsto exist in a separatesphere,free from the contaminationof everyday life, it becomes a site where we learn about and internalise our culture's ideals concerninga vast arrayof vital concerns includinggender,feelings and the body. The genre most obviously engaged with gender is, of course, opera, and many recent studies of opera focus on the politics of gender representation. Yet the insights of feminist-orientedcriticism are far from monolithic: conclusions vary widely depending on the opera in question and the critic. Thus while Lawrence Kramerexamines Strauss's Salome as one of a cluster of fin-desiecle artefactsthat articulatefears of women's sexuality, Carolyn Abbate views Salome as a figure of female empowerment.8 Likewise, Carmen may be interpreted as a femme fatale, but Bizet's characteralso turns out to have been embraced as an icon of sexual freedom by lesbian singers and listeners at the turn of the century. 9 The principal issue is not to decide on one verdict or another, but ratherto develop a greater sense of how music participatesin central cultural debates and to gain a better understandingof the impact of music on the lives of those engaged with it. At a time when academic analysis threatensto make music appear inaccessible to all but the most highly trained specialists, feminist-oriented criticism opens it to people in other fields, thus adding music to the interdisciplinary study of cultural history. These new forms of scholarship even address the opera fan, for they often seek to validate the (formerly unmentionable) practice of listening for pleasure.10 Admittedly, feminism's overriding concern for making connections between culture and life does subject favourite works to political debate; but at the same time it takes music out of the seminar room and invites music-lovers of all varieties to participate in the kinds of discussions that will generate the culturalmeanings of the future. If opera is the genre most explicitly involved with gendered issues, other kinds of music have attractedthe attention of feminist-based musicologists as well. Instrumentalmusic of the 18th and 19th centuries would seem to be impervious to inquiries concerning gender, yet many of us remembera time when the principal themes of sonata movements were still called 'masculine' and

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..........

'feminine'. Reference books (e.g. The Harvard dictionary of music or Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart) often offer rationales for these labels: 'masculine' themes are active and assertive, 'feminine' ones passive and lyrical. Moreover, these same sources inform us that the theme identified as 'masculine' turns out to determine the key and thus the form of the movement, while the other qualifies as an encounter along the way.'1 Some have arguedthat such terms are but remnantsof a now-discreditedattemptat describingmusic in words;they concede thatthe vocabularymay be unfortunate,but contend that the 'music itself' remains innocent. Yet these words, their music-dictionarydefinitions, and the structuresthey articulate sound oddly familiar: as feminist critics of film and literaturehave demonstrated,such characterisations and their attendant narrative schemata have long organised much of western culture. Indeed, such constructions already appearin their paradigmaticform in the 18th-centurysymphonies of Johann Stamitz, which are famous for their opening hammerstrokes, rockets and Mannheim steamrollers, contrasted with sensitive, sighing, appoggiatura-laden second themes. in gendered Although no one wrote explicitly aboutthese structures terms until 19th-centurytheorist, AB Marx, they had alreadybeen flourishingquite intelligibly for decades.
But again, as in opera, the actual meanings of such structures are

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far from obvious. For much of the 18th-century repertory,gendercoded contrastsseem to exist largely for the sake of eventualreconciliation: movements typically conclude by resolving differences in a kind of marriage. Moreover, despite the availability of such schemata, not all composers of the time found gendered polarities useful to their compositional strategies. Haydn, for instance, frequently has his opening theme stampits identity at the beginning of the second key area as well, creating movements that trace the development of a multi-faceted but ultimately unified self. And althoughMozart often trafficksin active/passive contrasts,his contrastsdo not necessarily signal a man/womandichotomy:more frequently his lyrical passages seem to open on to some inner quality of sensitivity that was an especially valued component of males at his moment in history. In other words, like the contemporaneous novel, Mozart's instrumentalmusic can be heard as contributingto the projectof producingthe ideal self. 12 As romantic ideologies increasingly emphasised the split between the aggressive public self and private subjectivity, the codes traditionally associated with 'masculinity' and 'femininity' both got appropriatedunto the male subject. The definition of 'genius' in the 19th century celebratedprecisely this laminationof 'masculine' strengthand rationalitywith 'feminine' depth of feeling.13 Over the course of the 1800s, as tensions and anxieties over gender erupted, some pieces - instrumental as well as the many operas featuring the femme fatale - presented these polarities as antagonistic,with the 'feminine' side made increasinglymonstrous. Yet here too, there is no single explanation:critics who agree that gendered coding appears in such pieces often differ radically in theirinterpretations of what they signify. Even more than in opera, the introductionof these kind of questions into the realm of instrumental genres opens up the repertoryto culturaldebate and the exchange of a wide range of readings. Nor is genderitself the only focus: musicologists working from feminist perspectives may also addressmusical constructionsof pleasure or

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ning to uncover, for instance, the ways in which 19th-century audiences were encouraged to exalt [German]instrumental music above the 'effeminate' Italian and French genres that still involved words;'4 or the degree to which critics (including Schumann, Hanslick, George Grove and others) were obsessed about the relative virility of various or the extent to which gencomposers;'5 dered considerations have influenced many of the major turning points in musical style.'6 Because such work emerges from the intersections of many disciplines, feminist-based musicology tends to incorporate questions and even repertoriesusually absent from more standardscholarship. For instance, references to world musics abound, since researchersfrequently find it useful to compare beliefs about music across cultures. Similarly, books devoted to feminist essays often include studies of contemporary popular music, in which women's contributionsprove more difficult to ignore. The mere fact of taking gender as a startingpoint opens all these repertories to the same questions and causes artificial categories such as 'high art' and 'popular culture' to seem less
tenable. 17

Reproduced

ROLE MODEL 3: A YOUNG WOMAN SEATED AT A VIRGINAL, by Jan Vermeer by courtesy of the Trustees, The National Gallery, London

desire, the narrativedimensions of instrumentalmusic, and images of exoticism or arcadianserenity. For too long, music studies have privileged the formal aspects of music. Feminist-orientedcritics strive to bridge the gap between austere structural descriptionsand affective an private responses by positing interpersonalterrainin which music operates as a cultural practice. Far from proceeding from a position of cultural nihilism, however, these new inquiries seek to reveal and even celebrate the power of music as it influences our most inwardperceptionsof ourselves.

uch inquiries, however, require data concerning ranges of perceptions, and thus reception histories (studies of critical responses, past and present) have become extremely important. For not even the greatest symphony can determine how it will be assessed or the kind of impact it will have on the world: its postcompositional life and (in some crucial sense) its meanings depend on the kinds of responses circulated about it in publicity blurbs, newspaper reviews, programmeguides and textbooks. As we explore this public yet little-researchedterrain, we are begin-

Yet the various repertoriesstudied also retain their specificity of time, place and aesthetic priorities - elements that often disappearwith the universalising agendas of autonomous criticism. Thus scholars such as Daphne Duval Harrisonor Hazel blues who the y study queens of the 1920s (Ma Rainey, Bessie attention both to the particularsongs composed by i, etc.) pay women and to the conditions within which these women hed the genre that later gave rise to Delta blues, urbanrhythm les and rock 'n' roll.18 Similarly, Suzanne Cusick's study of 17th-centuryopera composer FrancescaCaccini presents her as inextricably bound up with the court society of its time, though she also argues that Caccini manipulatedthe convenof music-theatresubstantiallyin keeping with the tastes of her e patron and her own preferences.19 And I regularly apply ame method of addressingboth social contexts and composichoices to works by Bach or Brahms - not so as to reduce somehow to the same level as these other musicians, but in to reveal the ways in which they too (no less than, say, Bessie i or Francesca Caccini) articulatein their music some of the fundamental ideals of their historicalmoments.20 in other disciplines that have learned to accommodate femiiewpoints in the last twenty years, musicology is finding that ireatposed by such approachesis rathershort-lived, that the lening of perspectives offered by these methods more than

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compensates for their destabilising effects. And, of course, the music by women brought to light by feminist-oriented musicologists has already begun to enhance the cultural experiences of us all, male and female alike.

et it is not only for the sake of the past - for adding longforgotten matriarchs to our roster of canonic patriarchs that feminist-based musicology now seeks to tell new histories. To be sure, the erasure of women such as Hildegard from our cultural memories has long deprived us of the richness of their music. But even more regrettable is the fact that the absence of women from concert programming and curricula has sent a strong signal to many talented young women that they need not apply for the position of 'composer'. As a result, countless numbers of potential artists have over the centuries from venturing into been discouraged professional music-making. The same generation responsible for bringing feminist methods to musicology, however, has also produced dozens of prominent women composers. If the purpose of history is not simply 'to set the record straight', but also to provide narratives of the past that enable both present moment and future, then feminist musicology has contributed far more than the addition of some unknown figures to a timeless canon. Recall that Hildegard did not dwell on ancient glories in her 'Of Patriarchs and prophets', but rather traced a trajectory towards future events, even more glorious in her estimation. By telling stories that resemble the one sketched so vividly in 'Of Patriarchs and prophets', feminist-oriented musicologists are pointing forward to a summit in which women may participate as actively as men in the entire spectrum of musical activities. And that is indeed cause for rejoicing.

women musicians in sixteenth-century Italy' in Bowers and Tick, edd.: Women making music, pp.90-115. 5. See Ellen Rosand: 'The voice of Barbara Strozzi' in Bowers and Tick, ed.: Women making music, pp.168-90. 6. See Julie Anne Sadie: 'Musiciennes of the Ancien Regime' in Bowers and Tick, edd.: Women making music, pp.191-223. 7. For instance, see Ellen Koskoff, ed.: Women and music in cross-cultural perspective (Urbana, 1987). 8. Lawrence Kramer: 'Culture and musical hermeneutics: the Salome complex' in Cambridge Opera Journal, no.2 (1990), pp.269-94; Carolyn Abbate: 'Opera;or, the envoicing of women' in Ruth Solie, ed.: Musicology and difference: gender and sexuality in music scholarship (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1993), pp.225-58. 9. See Susan McClary: Georges Bizet: Carmen (Cambridge, 1992). For more on empowering readings of standard opera by lesbian literary figures, Elizabeth Wood, 'Sapphonics', in Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood and Gary C. Thomas, edd.: Queering the pitch: the new gay and lesbian musicology (New York and London, 1994), pp.27-66. 10. See, for instance, Catherine Clement: Opera, or the undoing of women, trans. Betsy Wing (Minneapolis, 1988); Wayne Koestenbaum: The queen's throat: opera, homosexuality, and the mystery of desire (New York and London, 1993); and Mitchell Morris: 'Reading as an opera queen', in Ruth Solie, ed.: Musicology and difference:gender and sexuality in music scholarship, pp.184-200. 11. See a discussion of these issues in Susan McClary: Feminine endings: music, gender, and sexuality (Minneapolis, 1991), especially chapter I. 12. See McClary: 'Narratives of bourgeois subjectivity in Mozart's "Prague" Symphony' in Understanding narrative, edd Peter Rabinowitz and James Phelan (Columbus, forthcoming). 13. See Christine Battersby, Gender and genius: toward a feminist aesthetics (London, 1989); Anne K. Mellor: Romanticism and feminism (Bloomington, 1988); and Jean-Jacques Nattiez: Wagner androgyne, trans. Stewart Spencer (Princeton, 1993). 14. See Sanna Pedersen: Enlightened and romantic German music criticism, 1800-1850 (PhD. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1994). 15. See Jeffrey Kallberg, 'The harmony of the tea table: gender and ideology in the piano nocturne' in Representations, no.39 (1992): pp.102-33; David Gramit, Schubert: music, biography, and cultural vala Victorian 'Constructing ues', in 19th-Century Music, no.17 (1993), pp.65-78: and McClary 'Constructions of subjectivity in Schubert's music' in Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood and Gary C. Thomas, edd.: Queering the pitch: the new gay and lesbian musicology, pp.205-33. 16. For instance, see Suzanne Cusick: 'Gendering modern music: thoughts on the Monteverdi-Artusi controversy' in Journal of the American Musicological Society, no.46 (1993), pp.1-25. 17. See, for instance, the following collections: Pendle, ed.: Women and music; Cook and Tsou, edd.: Reclaiming Cecilia; and Brett et al. edd.: Queering the pitch. See also Gillian Gaar:She's a rebel: the history of women in rock & roll (Seattle, 1992). 18. Daphne Duval Harrison: Black pearls: blues queens of the 1920s (New Brunswick and London, 1988); Hazel Carby: ' "Itjus be's dat way sometime": the sexual politics of women's blues' in Unequal sisters: a multicultural reader in United States women's history, Ellen Dubois and Vicki Ruiz, edd. (New York and London, 1990), pp.238-49. 19. Suzanne Cusick: 'Of women, music, and power: a model from seicento Florence', in Solie, ed.: Musicology and difference, pp.281-304. 20. See, for instance, 'The blasphemy of talking politics during Bach year' in Richard Leppert and Susan McClary, edd.: Music and society: the politics of composition, performance and reception (Cambridge, 1987), pp.13-63; and 'Narrative agendas in "absolute" music: identity and difference in Brahms's Third Symphony' in Ruth Solie, ed., Musicology and difference, pp.326-44.

Notes 1. From the Symphonia harmoniae caelestum revelationum ('Symphony of the harmony of heavenly revelations'). Score in Hildegard von Bingen: Lieder, ed. PrudentiaBarth, M. ImmaculataRitscher and Joseph Schmidt-G6rg (Salzburg, 1969), pp.64-66; translation by Peter Dronke, liner notes to recording by Sequentia, Symphoniae. For an extraordinary analysis of Hildegard's musical imagery, see Bruce Holsinger: 'The flesh of the voice: embodiment and the homoerotics of devotion in the music of Hildegard von Bingen' in Signs no.19 (1993), pp.92-125. 2. For a few of the landmark studies in the history of women in music, see Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, ed.: Womenmaking music: the western art tradition, 1150-1950 (Urbana and Chicago, 1986); James R. Briscoe: Historical anthology of music by women (Bloomington, 1987); Aaron Cohen, ed.: International encyclopedia of women composers, second edition (New York, 1987); Karen Pendle, ed.: Women and music: a history (Bloomington, 1991); Ruth Solie, ed.: Musicology and difference: gender and sexuality in music scholarship (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1993); Kimberly Marshall, ed.: Rediscovering the muses: women's musical traditions (Boston, 1993); Susan C. Cook and Judy S. Tsou, edd.: Reclaiming Cecilia: feminist perspectives on gender and music (Urbana and Chicago, 1994). 3. For a thoughtful investigation of these issues, see Marcia J. Citron: Gender and the musical canon (Cambridge, 1993). 4. See Anthony Newcomb: 'Courtesans, muses, or musicians? Professional

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