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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Allegorical

The ideas I am finding in musicology for relating music to larger "human meanings" are turning out to be rather crude and intellectually naive.  The association of Western tonality itself with male dominance, or the idea that movement in fifths is straight and movement in thirds gay.  There are plenty of people in musicology itself who have called bullshit on this kind of thing, with the reintroduction of essentialist thinking that it entails. I'm sure you could teach a listener to identify certain kinds of musical resolution as misogynist, but many do / would not otherwise experience this. What good is a semiotic code for interpreting music if nobody knows how to hear music this way unless they are taught to do so on a very self-conscious level.

In contrast the seemingly naive belief that music has no meaning at all seems attractive--if this kind of allegorical reading is the only alternative.

This kind of ideological reading is also deeply ahistorical and anachronistic, in that it ignores the way people would have thought of this music at the time of its creation.

2 comments:

Leslie said...

Yes, once again, the reason I refused to study art or music.

When I was 17 and a freshman my parents really wanted me to be a musician or artist. They did not understand, of course, that I could not even audition for those majors, lacking a portfolio to apply with, so my only choices were musicology/music history or art history/criticism. I looked into them and decided they were complete b.s. fields, with some exceptions of course. The humanities were *far* more scientific, I realized.

Jonathan said...

My dad thought I should study classics at Oxford or Cambridge. I love classics, but I couldn't see myself teaching ablative absolute my whole life.

My sister started musicology grad work at Stony Brook but didn't last in it. She went into church music instead. One of the lowest paid professions imaginable. Probably the lower status musicologists are better than the ones who get famous through extravagant claims.