Presentation on theme: "Introduction to the History of Western Music Dan Grimley"— Presentation transcript:
Introduction to the History of Western Music Dan Grimley
Lecture 4. Identities. Gender, sexuality, and the musical canon Sir Edward Elgar ( ) Videmus nunc per speculum in ænigmate; tunc autem facie ad faciem. Nunc cognosco ex parte; tunc autem cognoscam, sicut et cognitus sum. [Corinthians 12:12] For now we shall see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known Letter to C. A. Barry, 19 June 1899, ‘The Enigma I will not explain—its “dark saying” must be left unguessed.’
Elgar: Ardent Imperialist or Swooning Decadent? As a Roman Catholic, as a musician, and as a tradesman’s son without the benefit of either public school or university degree, Elgar felt himself an outsider looking into the closed world of Victorian middle-class society. To mitigate his feelings of exclusion, Elgar modeled his public persona on the popular image of the ‘English Gentleman’: his bearing was rigid and quasi-military; he strove for emotional reticence in society; his politics were Tory and staunchly Imperialist; his clothing was immaculately tailored; and at times he disavowed any knowledge of, or interest in, his own unfashionable musical profession. [Byron Adams, ‘The “Dark Saying of the Enigma”’p. 223] Gerald Cumberland [Charles Kenyon], Set Down in Malice (1919): ‘[Elgar’s] curious fastidiousness of style that is almost finicking … and [his] innate and exaggerated delicacy, an almost feminine shrinking’.
Masculinity and the Beethoven Paradigm A B Marx, Die Lehre von der musikalischen Komposition (1845) – The second subject [Seitensatz] serves as a contrast to the first, energetic statement, though dependent and determined by it. It is more of a tender nature, flexible rather than emphatically constructed—in a way, the feminine as opposed to the preceding masculine. A B Marx, Ludwig van Beethoven: Leben und Schaffen (1859) – Music, the Eternal Feminine, in Beethoven has become man— spirit [Geist]. … Beethoven’s mother was a man. Schumann, On Music and Musicians – Beethoven plainly said: ‘Music must strike fire from the spirit of a man; emotionalism is only meant for women’. Few remember what he said; the majority aim at emotional effects. They ought to be punished by being dressed in women’s clothes.
Beethoven: Hero? Alfred Heuss, Beethoven: Eine Charakteristik (1921) And now... the hero looms before us as a giant, fully in tune with himself, both inwardly and outwardly a heroic character of hugest proportion. Daniel Chua, Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (1999) The Eroica stands as a monument to its own universality. It is absolute. Indeed, it scratches out the name Napoleon that it might name itself as the public identity of the human spirit, trampling over all privatised, feminised bodies from which it may have been born, in a stance that conflates the moral and political worlds as an absolute, masculine gesture. [pp ]
A heroic counter-example: Ruth Crawford 1901 born Ohio, 3 July, daughter of Methodist minister 1921 moves to Chicago, trains as piano teacher; begins to compose 1929 promoted by Paul Rosenfeld ‘foremost woman composer of her generation’ 1930 first woman awarded Guggenheim Fellowship for composition; moves to New York to study ‘dissonant counterpoint’ with Charles Seeger Visits Europe, 3 Sandberg Songs performed at 1933 ISCM Festival, Amsterdam 1931 returns to New York, marries Charles Seeger 1935 move to Washington DC, federal relief agency 1936 devotes energies to folksong revival, less time for free composition 1953 dies, 18 November
Gender, Musicology, and the Musical Canon Suzanne Cusick, ‘Gender, Musicology and Feminism’ Patterns of exclusion and marginalisation: – 22 February 1930, founding meeting of American Musicological Society: Ruth Crawford excluded from male- only room. – Charles Seeger: excluded Crawford ‘to avoid the incipient criticism that musicology was “woman’s work”’ Some Conclusions: Gender usually conflated with biological sex, but actually a system of assigning social roles, power, and prestige Sustained by web of metaphors and cultural practices associated with ‘the masculine’ and ‘the feminine’ Judith Butler: gender not fixed identity, but performative: embodied practice
Queering the Pitch: the Schubert Controversy #1 Maynard Solomon, ‘Schubert and the Peacocks of Benvenuto Cellini’ (19 th Century Music, 1989) Schubert’s music conventionally figured ‘feminine’ Grove, Dictionary of Music (1882) Another equally true saying of Schumann is that, compared with Beethoven, Schubert is as a woman to a man. For it must be confessed that one’s attitude towards him is almost always that of sympathy, attraction, and love, rarely that of embarrassment or fear. Here and there only … does he compel his listeners with an irresistible power; and yet how different is this compulsion from the strong, fierce, merciless coercion, with which Beethoven forces you along and bows and bends you to his will. Contemporary accounts of Schubert’s character [Johann Mayrhofer, 1829] suggest dual personality: hedonism vs creativity
The Schubert Controversy #2 Solomon’s evidence : – Failed courtship with Therese Grob, c – No evidence of other romantic interest in women in Schubert circle, Kreissle von Hellborn: ‘Schubert was somewhat indifferent to the charms of the fair sex’. – Lodged with Franz von Schober, Autumn 1816—1824; correspondence reveals richly homosocial order of Schubert circle (Benvenuto Cellini: allegorical figure of ‘peacocks’, young attractive men dressed as women) – Clandestine homosexual subculture common in European cities in early nineteenth-century – Schubert’s ‘true’ nature has remained ‘hazy, shadowy, and unfocused’.
The Schubert Controversy #3 Rita Steblin, ‘Schubert’s Sexuality Reconsidered’ (1993) – ‘Aversion to Marriage’: product of unease surrounding promulgation of 1815 Ehe-Consens Gesetz – Members of Schubert circle associated with 1817/8 Beyträge zur Bildung für Jünglinge, manual devoted to Socratic male brotherhood – Homosexuality not as heavily legislated or discriminated against as later in 19 th century – Schubert maintained close relations with number of female members of circle including actress Sophie Müller; singers Nanette Schechner, Fanny von Hügel. And evidence of infatuation with daughter of aristocratic patron, Karoline Esterházy, – Bird symbolism (Cellini’s peacocks): cure for venereal disease, caught in open air. Quack remedy but no coded reference to young men.
The Schubert Controversy #4 Susan McClary, Response to Steblin (1993) – Context for opening up of debate in 1970s and 80s (Gay rights); right-wing shift in early 1990s. – Debate reflects two areas of concern: biography and music criticism – Do we really need to know about a composer’s sex life? Does this kind of knowledge matter? – ‘As musicology begins to break away from the ideology of music’s autonomy, we are likely to encounter more and more evidence of how is production and reception were shaped by matters connected with sexuality.’ – BUT there is no essentialist link between sexual preference (or gender, class, or ethnic identity, for that matter) and modes of cultural expression.
The Schubert Controversy #5 Philip Brett, Schubert and the Performance of Gay Male Desire (1993) – The domestic space that Schubert so typically occupied is also the sphere of the feminine in the West, and part of the power of a homoerotic Schubert is focused in the incoherent nexus of ideas that connects gender liminality with deviant sexuality. Robert Schumann, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik Schubert is a more feminized composer compared to the other [Beethoven]; far more loquacious, softer, broader; compared to Beethoven he is a child, sporting among the giants. … To be sure, he brings in his powerful passages, and works in masses; and still he is more feminine than masculine, for he pleads and persuades where the man commands. ‘homoerotic’ reading of Grand Duo [slow movement of Sonata in C, D. 812] Piano duet playing: performative site of homoerotic pleasure and desire