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FEMINIST

THEORY,

MUSIC THEORY, AND THE

MIND/BODY PROBLEM

L7T7Ü

SUZANNE G CUSICK

ONE OF THE FIRST intcllcctua] rituals a

pcrson cncountcrs on

bccoming

a

fcminist is thc ritua ofsclf-idcntification.

It is undcrstood now-as it was

not

twcnty ycars ago-that cach of us

a uniquc

spcaks for surc only for hcrsclf

of

multiple idcntitics laycrcd

cthnicity, rcligious

us spcaks from

rcadcrs: cvcry

idcntity

cach of us from

Situation born

cach on thc othcr—-class, racc

gcndcr, scxuality,

bclicfs and so forth. Further it is undcrstood

a Situation that is

partly

dcfincd

communication is thc

acting out of

of thc momcnt is

to havc with othcrs. A

that cach of

by our listcncrs or

a rclationship, in which our

partly dctcrmincd by thc rclationship wc havc or scck

cloqucntly claboratcd

by Donna Haraway in hcr

Knowlcdgcs,” fcminist cpistcmology assumcs

partial knowlcdgcs,

dctcrmincd by

gcncrally

situatcd

thcy dcvclop into morc

“convcrsation” among

now-classic cssay “Situatcd

that all knowlcdgc claims bcgin lifc as

thc Situation of

thc knowcr and that

uscfi1 knowlcdgc claims as thc rcsult of

Feminist Theory. Music Theory

9

knowcrs It is from Lhis idca-that uscfu knowlcdgc

convcrsation among

from

sclf in

cmcrgcs

my

situatcd knowcrs-that I want to

siruatc

you, with music and with fcminism by rcvcaling thc

an invitation from my collcaguc Frcd Maus

what a fcminist music thcory might

think of how I a musicologist/organ-

rclationship

Original

That

with

impctus for this papcr.’

Original impctus

was

to considcr thc problcm of imagining

bc likc Frcd’s invitation lcd mc to

ist/choir dircctor, usc music thcory:

picccs that I nccd to know about,

for mc it is a tool for undcrstanding or that movc mc It furthcr lcd mc to

all fcminist thcory-

it onto thc cxisting root stock of music

acknowlcdgc that my thinking wasnt inucnccd by

and thcn graft

t0 assimilatc it all

thcory would bc an impossiblc instcad to think honcstly about it to

and vanity-flaunting task. I havc sought

thc thcory I was rcally rcading

my thought

about music

and how I

What I want to

was rcally trying to

tions about how

apply

of

do hcrc is focus on onc point

music thcory, a point

of intcrscction bctwccn fcminist thcory and

intcrscction that raiscs somc intcrcsting qucs-

wc think about music

My

intcrcst in using fcminist thcory

to illuminatc music thcory ariscs

from an intcrcst in undcrstanding why music has not bccn particularly

susccptiblc to gcndcr-dccoding tcchniqucs and thcorctical paradigms

borrowcd from thc

imprcssion

fcminist criticism

of litcraturc and art. It has bccn my

stratcgics wc havc tricd to borrow

that thc various critical

from thosc disciplincs havc not takcn us nearly

scholars in thcsc

othcr ficlds; worsc, I think

as far as thcy havc takcn

thcy havc takcn us to oddIy

paralyzing

rathcr than cmpowcring

conclusions about gcndcr; pcrhaps

worst of all, I fcar that thcsc borrowcd critical stratcgics arc justiably

us to intcllcctually intcrcsting but ultimatcly

placcs that makc us bcgin to

hate what wc oncc

most lovcd in thc world.

own work) what has fclt to mc likc a

somc music criticism lcd mc to rccon-

criticizcd as bringing

unmusical placcs, or to

profoundly

Contcmplating (somctimcs in my

unmusical quality

to

sidcr thc “situation” that is

thc ccntral corc of my own scnsc of musical-

Thc Centra corc of my musicality

imaginc

is

ity

pcrformancc, an idcntity so

musica idcntitics pcoplc

strong that I can barcly

(cspccially

myscIf

critics) might

and not from

supposcd

wcrc

what othcr

havc. A I bcgan to think from thc pcrformcr in

in

her I fclt acutcly

that I was not

suspcct that thcn:

thc musicologist

I

to bc thinking that way.

bcgan, filrthcr, to

rcasons rclatcd to

gcndcr {hat my musicological sclf had bccn pro-

my performing

sclf. A a per-

formcd to bc diffcrcnt from

fcssionally

formcr, I act on and with what wc ordinarily call music with my body; as

on (and with?) what wc ordi-

narily Cal music with my mind and onIy with my mind Thus, my musi-

a musicologist

I havc bccn formcd to act

cological habitus inclincs mc to think about music’s xcd,

tcxtlikc

I0

Perspecuves o New Musoc

qualitics, an inclination that is

forming sclf inclincs to think about

turn to music

pcrpctually at odds with thc way my pet-

and rcspond t0 music And whcn l

hclp mc understand a piccc I nccd t0

thcory as a tool to

find

know about, I

tcxtlikc

xcd, tcxtlikc

{hat its habitm too, inclincs to focus on music‘ xcd,

qualitics. Could it bc I havc wondcrcd, that thc focus on musids

qualiticsa focus that somctimcs sccms

contrary to my

implicatcd in our disciplinäs failurc to dcciphcr

own musicality——is also

vcry much of thc gcndcr coding wc can assumc to bc part of our musica

traditions?

bcgan

I

to think that it could bc so,

Fanny

HcnscPs Trio

for ycars,

partly bccausc of an old

in D

minor

op.

problcm

of minc rcgarding

Il. I havc bccn

thinking

lovcs

to cxplain how gcndcr

about this Trio

thinking

about it as a musician who

may

bc diffcrcnt from

thc piccc and

with

litcrary

thinking about it as a

fcminist critic who would likc

is cncodcd in thc work. For I assumc, from anal-

criticism, that thc work ofwomcn

mcn and womcn diffbrcnt

ogy

thc work of

that this should bc so, sincc

mcn in its

to

givc

cncoding of gcndcr: indccd it sccms scIf-cvidcnt

gcndcr

is a

systcm ofpowcr rclationships that

cxpcricnccs

of lifc

Thus, I

cthnically

Icw-

work in

is

dcsigncd assumc that thc

cxpcricncc Hcnsc had as a middlc-class,

ish woman in

ninctccnth-ccntury Europc may havc informcd hcr

rate in

any

analyzablc-ways.

is

that assumption Thc

audiblc-or at

But to admit

fact in

prior hearing of thc

To

my

not cntircly honcst, for it is not thc a

my thought.

originating prcmisc in my thought is a

thing

idcntify thcsc

qualitics——which

of thc violin and

rumbling of thc

with its har-

work-

piccc (Examplc 1).2

car, thc

immcdiatcly striking

its

opcning gcsturc. I

about HcnscPs trio is thc

I

rcmarkablc in thc work of a woman-with

drama and force of

’ccllo

piano

monic

having

I

part,

admit to

thc upward, angular, tonic- and modc-dcfining lcaps

rst hcard as

idcntify thcm, sccondarily,

which

providcs

thc

with thc furioso

bold

strings’

opcning thcmc

grid.

is thc

support and

with a microcosmic rhythmic

striking

parts

still

To my

out

car, howcver what is morc

of thc rclationship among

hardly

thc

rests from its

long-tcrm

ing

is

in thc first movcmcnt. That

dcmanding passagc-

thc

strings; yct not thcmatic givc

up

a

thc piano part

playing

tcchnically

work,

last turn

and takc with thc

at a much highcr tcchnical lcvc than do

to rccapitulation docs it

strings,

and

with

unti thc

participatc in

its

only

Strings and piano

thcn do

that is

in its

companions takc

thcmc it has introduccd

worlds, worlds

scparatcd

craturc as I know

might as wclI livc in separate

unparallclcd in thc trio lit-

a rigidity

piano

it. Yct thc

ccasclcssly Supporting

part

in

rolc has

both thc most difficult part and

thc most crucial

articulating thc

tonal plan of thc movcmcnt’s sonata form.

Feminist Theory, Music Theory

Vivlioo.

Violunnllo

1'310.

EXAMPLE 1

I’. Kabinen Bunt op. l l

Perspectives o New Music

EXAMPLE 1 (CONT.)

FenumstTheoryafiusaeTheory

|3

Itisaveryoddpicceinthatwaygwhile notsooddinmostothaways.

itself remarkable. Nor do die nature

readings

of

Its tonal plan, for instance, is not by

of the

themes seem promising

as gendered

essayed:

sonata form

McClary have

candidates for the kinds of

discourse that Marcia Citron and Susan

thcme is not very different from the

leaping, stylisdcally

“masculine.” A

a second “maseuline” theme

che sccond

first,

best one

and is certainly no less angular,

might argue [hat the presence of

one ought to

where a “feminine”

temporary A.B. Marx) construes the discourse

havc been (according to HensePs con-

as

having

no room for the

feminine (or no room for the feminine side of an actual woman com-

poser’s thought)‘

But the

similaxity

of thcmes

could as easily be

explained as a manifestation of Hensel’ concem for organic unity a con-

cern revealed in countless details of this work. Indeed,

fcminist critics have found, formal and

as I think many

tonal analysis by themselvcs seem

composem, or their

not to reveal anything much about the gender of

experience of difference. Becausc I incline to think that a composes

experience ofdifference will show up-if

tricity, I havc thought for years that the weird relationship of the piano

in roles that is

and the

it does at all—in a work’s eccen-

stxings, amounting to a really striking imbalance

recapitulation,

resolved at the

been inscribed, described, or

is somehow the site where difTerence has

reconciled.

I havc encountcred

highly

skcptical states when I have tried to take this

conversation. I now think that Lhe

thc piece

t0

potential

was not

position

skeptical

fiom a

in classes or professional

stares have been the

situation that is not

result of my having rcspondcd

professionally

have I

sanctioned,

why

understood

that of

piano player. Only recently

profcssionally sanctioned;

fcminist

thcory

could

occupation

and

syntax of pitches

idca:

I

Here is my

that situation

and only recently have I had an idea of how

around

music

theory’s

apparent

pre-

help mc get

with thc tcxtlike nature of music that is with the grammar

and durations.

relationship among parts a5 the

drama) lay Therc arc

exploring

analogies

and

to each othcr

life playcd

srylistic

was interestcd in the

gcnder

place where

various ways

between the

the roles women and

this work’s

subtext (and rea

I could makc

roles thc piano

men in

a historica argument

and strings play in relation

ninctcenth-century middlc-class

analogies

in relation to each othcr. I could relate those

norms of nineteenth-century trios, and to

piano and strings

that

is

part

argumcnt by

wanted

to

piece;

why

to thc

the shifting balance bctween

history.5 But I thought an

might

be

prerty

wcak. I

how

they changcd,

of the genre’s

analogy to social relations by itself

analytical

about

prcciscly

be more

thcse particular roles in Hcnscl’s

and

and I wantcd a way to explain

their

changing might

count as

thc reconciliation of tension onc

cxpccts at thc

recapitulation of a sonata form.

|4

Perspectives o New Musnc

Sincc music thcory a I havc known it is almost

I

didn’t think it could

cxclusivcly

about

“pitch Syntax,”

hclp mc But a combination of

argumcnts from fcminist

In hcr

cssay

thcory sccmcd likc it could.

“Gender: A Uscx

Catcgory of Historica Analysis,” his-

torian Ioan Scott argucs

that gcndcr is a systcm of mctaphors about thc

powcr rclationships bctwccn and among ccrtain kinds of bodics.° Scott

contcnds that

public and

things about

mctaphors for

gcndcr arc practically

cvcrywhcrc in our

private discoursc, and that oursclvcs and about how

tracking thcm tclls us intcrcsting

apparcntly

gcndcr intcrsccts with

ungcndcrcd parts of lifc

If

gcndcr mctaphors

logica

coursc, it sccms

etys music—in thc

actually da circulatc throughout a socictys dis-

that

gcndcr mctaphors arc

circulating in a soci-

ways pcoplc hcar

composcrs choosc, in thc

thcy makc with thcm.

gcndcr mctaphors in thc oddcst

docs not

by

itsclf

hclp mc to important

sounds

thosc sounds and in thc associations

Scott’s thcorctical liccnsc to look for

placcs and thc strangcst transformations

ground my hcaring

thinkcr for

my

of thc Hcnsc Trio’s drama. A morc

nccds is

philosophcr Iudith Butler In hcr 1991 book Gen-

thc Subvention o

Idcntity Butler argucs thc

der Traublc: Feminism und

initially astonishing proposition that gcndcr is all an act.7 That is both

what fcminists havc takcn

bodics) and what wc call

t0 Calling scx (thc biologica configurations of

gcndcr (thc power relationships cxpcctcd of

(obscssivc) repctition

ofthc

acts which con-

corc sclf which

exprcsses

is thc

implications of thc idca that

drag shows, I want to

Butlcr’s thought

those bodics) rcsult from thc

stitutc idcntitics For Butler thcrc is no originary

idcntity by socially rccognizablc acts; rathcr thc gcndcrcd self

cumulativc rcsult

ofperfornmnccs.

Lcaving asidc thc

troubling or libcrating

littlc morc than

countlcss actions

all our idcntitics arc

claboratc

focus on what I takc to bc thc most salicnt clcmcnt of

for any pcrson cngagcd

performcd through

thc

in a pcrformancc art: that gcndcr is pcrformcd; is

thc aggrcgatc of which bccomcs

systcm of relation-

rccognizablc both to thc pcrformcr and to hcr social companions as gen-

dcr, as

rolc she will play in a continually contcstcd

ships among bodies.

If

gcndcr

is constitutcd by bodily pcrformanccs, and mctaphors of

through discoursc,

of

might not clcmcnts

gcndcr cvcn whcn

gcndcr arc constantly circulating

of all

bodily pcrformanccs

bc rcad as

mctaphors of othcr

thcy sccm to bc pcrformanccs

can bc both constitutivc

things? If bodily pcrformanccs

thcn wc

o gcndcr and mctaphors fbr gcndcr,

who study thc results of bodily pcrformanccs likc music might protably

look t0 our subjcct a a sct of scripts for bodily pcrformanccs which may

may bc rccogniz-

actually constitutc

gcndcr for thc performcrs and which

Femmist Theory, Musuc Theory

l5

able as metaphors of gender for those who urimess the performers‘ dis-

plays.

hcard

as cast and whose role I

Here thcn, is an intellectua

role of the piano

gendered

heard as

ground

from which I might tell my

story

about the

in Hensel’s Trio, a role which I initially

feminine in relation to the theme-declaring strings,

gendered masculine.

physica]

Is there evidence in the

actions and interactions of the parts

of

that gcnder is I-IensePs score?

either metaphorically or actually enacted by performers

I tried to answer this

question by concocting an analysis

that was hope-

lessly boring

to read, but that considered

right for reading

of

the movement’s tonal, the-

matic and relationa scripts

ever that I had been

in tandem. I became more convinccd than

the tonal and thematic scripts of

role gave me a narrative

places that the music moves

the movement mm the situation

the piano’s

the

that moved me in just the way and just

me.

But what had I really done? I had started from a feminist

me to think about bodies,

about textural roles

as metaphors

that

performers bodies, and I had instead

theory

urged

slipped into thinking

for social roles.

Although I had conrmed for myself the intuition with which I began

(and

thus I am onc step closer to writing

a cntical essay on Hensel’s

Trio

someday), I had not actually got much farther than I could have done by

using

essays of T71: Composcr: Voico-teaches us how to identify various parts of

a musica whole

the work of Edward

implications

Cone, who in various writings—notably

for human agency.8

the

as agents or personne, metaphors

of Butler’s and Scott’s

But the

thought do not necessarily

I at fixst arrived at

long-standing mental

to bor-

lead me to this

familiar Situation for critical knowledge.

allowed

application

a Cone-style analysis as the result of having

habits to prevent a systematic

of the ideas I proposed

row For the implication

to have been thinking

of Butler’s theory, in particular, is that I ought

roies. Indeed, that is

partly what I did to

the dropping of that thread, a difficult onc to pick up again, which

about actuul bodies, not social

conrm my intuitions about the social roles; it was

argument unti I

caused me to think I should withhold that part of my

can do it well. Whcn I write an essay on Hensel’s Trio, I will want to

argue that Hensel’s script

the inextricable

for the metaphorical

is

social actions that resolve

imbalances in her sonata-form movement

edges

only readable if onc acknowl-

of the body in music—a presence both

focus on the intentions and the

texts of

Indeed, I suspect that Hcnsc wrote so

presence

musicology’s and music thcory’s

composers

much

of

scrupulously

into

this story

denies.

(as opposed to writing it into

because she

the relationship among physically enacted parts

the

relationship

among notes or themes)

surrounding her role as a woman

undcrstood the tension

I6

Perspectives o New Music

composer to bc as

much metaphorical as it was real: it was metaphorical

composer is implicitly always gcndercd masculinc.

because the role of the

Thc composcr is masculine not bccausc x0

many individual who live in

thc

category an biologically male, but bccausc thc composer has come to

of sounds to

mind assign meanings.9 Thc rclationship of notcs to each

bc mind-mind that creates

pattcrns

be understood to

which other

other, bccausc

contain HensePs

phorical woman

theory

bccausc it is a

susceptible to apprehcnsion a: mind

story as I hear

it, the story of a

b mind could not biologica and meta-

Nor could music

l thought I heard,

the

composer

a

both

seeking

cntry into masculine discoursc.

help me tell the

story

as I have known it

discipline that

identics nearly totally with

mind and which

identifics music

as mind Identification of

composer and music as mind may bc our

Donna

Haraway

calls

encompassing,

and thus

Music an art

which self-evidently

and/or receive it, is

Thus, when we think

describe practices of the

mind

discipline’s

version of what

the “god tnck,” the epistcmological illusion of all-

objective, knowlcdge.

does not cxist unti bodics make it

for the sake of

meaning to the

communi-

thought about as if it were a mind-mind gamc.

analytically about music what we ordinarily do is

(thc composefis choiccs)

minds (who will assign

informing the practices of other

resulting sounds). W locate musica

cation of onc

creating

meaning in the audible

mind to a cocreator,

onc whose highly attcntive

listening is in effect a shared tenancy of the composcfis subject posi-

tion.“ We end

nonpractices

has

by ignoring the fact that thcse practices of the mind are

bodily practices they

call

for—about which it

without the

become unthinkable to think.

That is we have

changed

an

art that exists only when,

only

the Word.

so t0 speak, the

Metaphorically,

which

Word is made Flesh, into

we have denied the very

gives

I think there are

denying the bodily

taken a position

enduring philosophical

Surely

Body

musicologists ignore

an art which is

thing that makes music music the thing

it such cnormous symbolic and sensual power

moral and dass

theological,

deniaJ of the esh in an art which cannot cxist without

implications to this

thc flesh, but my

job today is to explore the feminist

actions involved

implications of this delusion.”

In

in any music’s existence, we have

on onc of our civilization’s most fundamental and

Mind/Body problem. In

effect, we have rescued music for inclusion in the realm of the privileged

position.

dilemmas, the so-eallcd

no onc needs to be rcminded how the elements in the Mind/

duality are gendered. Metaphorically, when music theorists and

the bodies whose

ignore

performative acts constitute thc

We erase her from us cven at

thing callcd music we

the

the feminine.

price of mctaphorically silencing the music

Feminist Theory, Music Theory

I7

How could it ever

be possible to

operate

“hear” (or read) the gender meta-_

a paradjgm that has so fundamen-

gender metaphors are

Perhaps

the

which, through

forth music for our

phors in a music if we

tally emsed the metaphorical feminine?

out of

must richly therc, prccisely there in the work of bodies

years of discipline and

pleasure;

minutes of intense labor

bring

preciscly there in the silenced metaphorical feminine, in the per-

formative acts.

Thus have I

thought myself into an unthinkable

theory must include

especially a feminist music

position-the idea

that a feminist music

ing with great

ticcs of minds And

about the practices of

theorizing about (and analyz-

care) the practiccs of bodies (rea ones) a well as the prac-

theory would theorize

most likely

itself

to enact

performing bodies, the bodies

gender, or the relationship

metaphors of gender or to enact the constitution of gender

What would such a

knowledgc of music or

theorizing

First l think such a

be like? Would it add anything to our

between them?

which are

Feminist theory,

theorizing would be more like feminist theory

theory,

for traditional music

hypotheses

than it would be like traditional music

theory consists

understood to be

more of answers-descriptions of practices