by Elizabeth Sayrs
1An earlier version of this article was presented at the May, 1994 meeting of Music Theory Midwest, in Bloomington, Indiana.
2Kelly Oliver, Reading Kristeva: Unravelling the Double Bind (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993): 2.
3Susan McClary, Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).
4The earliest academic review was Pieter C. van den Toorn, "Politics, Feminism, and Contemporary Music Theory," The Journal of Musicology 9/3(1991): 275-299. See also Ruth Solie's response, "What Do Feminists Want? A Reply to Pieter van den Toorn," The Journal of Musicology 9/4(1991): 399-410. More recent academic reviews include Elaine Barkin, "'either/other,'" Perspectives of New Music 30/2(1992): 206-233; see also McClary's reply, "A Response to Elaine Barkin." Perspectives of New Music 30/2(1992): 234-239; Ruth Solie, review of Feminine Endings,Journal of Modern History 65:3 (September 1993). 575-577; Leo Treitler, "Gender and Other Dualities of Music History," in Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship, ed. Ruth A. Solie (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993): 23-45; Paula Higgins, "Women in Music, Feminist Criticism, and Guerrilla Musicology: Reflections on Recent Polemics," 19th-Century Music XVII/2(1993): 174-192; Jenny Kallick, "Review," Journal of Music Theory 37/2 (1993): 391-402. Higgins's review is an especially thoughtful essay-by-essay response; Kallick's review is especially notable for situating McClary's work within the critical tradition in general and for discussing several important issues related to gay criticism.
5Higgins, "Women in Music," 179.
6Higgins, "Women in Music," 179.
7In fact, there no single feminist theory of music, as can be seen by a quick glance at the table of contents of Musicology and Difference, ed. Ruth Solie, or the very different essays in Perspectives of New Music 32/1(1994):7-85, under the heading "Toward a Feminist Music Theory: Introduction"; including Suzanne Cusick, "Feminist Theory, Music Theory, and the Mind/Body Problem"; Marion Guck, "A Woman's (Theoretical) Work"; Marianne Kielian-Gilbert, "Of Poetics and Poiesis, Pleasure and Politics--Music Theory and the Modes of the Feminine"; and Susan McClary, "Paradigm Dissonances: Music Theory, Cultural Studies, Feminist Criticism." In addition, despite McClary's claim as the "first feminist critique," her work is only one step in a long tradition of feminist theory and music scholarship that often encompasses competing orientations and agendas. Higgins quite perceptively points out how McClary's own book marginalizes this earlier scholarship: first, by almost complete silence in the text of Feminine Endings itself; and second, by providing only authors names instead of complete citations for feminist musicologists/theorists. Male authorities, especially from other fields, always receive full citations. Higgins provides the missing citations, as well as possible reasons for these omissions, in "Women in Music," 175, 177-178.
8McClary, Feminine Endings, 13.
9McClary, Feminine Endings, 9.
10McClary, Feminine Endings, 13.
11Carolyn Abbate has raised several important questions concerning narrative and music in her Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), and McClary has promised a reply.
12McClary, Feminine Endings, 14.
13McClary, Feminine Endings, 15.
14McClary, Feminine Endings, 23.
15McClary, Feminine Endings, 14.
16See Jane R. Stevens, "Georg Joseph Vogler and the 'Second Theme' in Sonata Form: Some 18th-century Perceptions of Musical Contrast," The Journal of Musicology 2/3 (1983): 278-304.
17Riepel also identified "pleasing, diverting" [=feminine] moments as part of the first theme group, as a "second theme," or within a cadential section. See Stevens, "Georg Joseph Vogler," 303.
18The essays in Feminine Endings were written over a period of several years, and republished largely without revision, so this tension could be seen in part as a result of her changing thought over time. Yet McClary's most monolithic portrayal of sonata form and tonality is in the introduction to the book, which appears to be written most recently since it describes all the other articles. Similarly, her analysis of Brahms in Musicology and Difference is more recent than Feminine Endings, and engages a strong normal/deviant binary.
19Susan McClary, "Narrative Agendas in 'Absolute' Music: Identity and Difference in Brahms's Third Symphony," in Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship, ed. Ruth A. Solie (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
21McClary, Feminine Endings, 69.
22McClary, Feminine Ending., 127.
23Teresa de Lauretis, Alice Doesn't: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984): 134.
24McClary, Feminine Endings, 4.
25McClary, Feminine Endings, 16.
26McClary, Feminine Endings, 54-55. Many of the issues explored in the following section are raised by Ruth Solie in her review of Feminine Endings, Journal of Modern History 65:3 (September 1993). 575-577.
27McClary, Feminine Endings, 112-113.
28McClary, Feminine Endings, 68.
29McClary, Feminine Endings, 125.
30McClary, Feminine Endings, 126.
31McClary, Feminine Endings, 131.
32I should point out that in her response to Elaine Barkin, McClary denies that she thinks that pre-tonal music is somehow "more feminine." But I quote from Feminine Endings: " Before the crisis of the late sixteenth century, European culture was shaped by ideals of harmony, balance, stability. It is no coincidence that Genesis II's clockwork is reminiscent of medieval music: both are marked by relatively noncoercive modal techniques that delight in the present moment, rhythms that are grounded in the physicality and repetitiveness of the dance (119)." These are the same qualities that McClary identifies as feminine throughout the book. Even if McClary thinks that pre-tonal music is not more feminine, it is clear that she believes it contains images of feminine pleasure that "lost" when male tonality "won out," and need to be recovered.
33The French feminists, by the way, are neither French nor call themselves feminists (but that is a different story). The "Holy Trinity" of French feminists are Hélène Cixous, a Jew who was born and raised speaking German in French-occupied Algiers; Luce Irigaray, who was born in Belgium with a Basque name; and Julia Kristeva, who was born and raised in Bulgaria, and moved to France as an exile from Soviet-Bulgarian communism. See the discussion in Oliver, Reading Kristeva, especially Chapter 7.
34Luce Irigaray, Le Corps-a-corps avec la mere. (Ottawa: Editions de la pleine lune, 1981). Qtd. in Domna C. Stanton, "Difference on Trial: A Critique of the Maternal Metaphor in Cixous, Irigaray, and Kristeva," in The Poetics of Gender, ed. Nancy K. Miller, Columbia University Press, 1986: 169-170.
35McClary, Feminine Endings, 124.
36McClary, Feminine Endings, 146. I must add that the piece doesn't lack narrative; it simply lacks the specific structural narrative that McClary has presented, somewhat misleadingly, as the only narrative.
37Not all agree that the "French feminists" are essentialist. They differ widely on many points, and at different times each writer's work seems to be essentialist to a greater or lesser degree. In many of the later works, it is becoming clearer that it is possible to view the pre-Symbolic (imaginary) as just as constructed as the Symbolic. Whether it is constructed or not, the questions remain the same: can it be recovered, and do we want to recover it? I am also guilty, of course, of lumping together all of the French feminists, when in fact there are many important differences between them. For example, Irigaray and Cixous reject the Oedipal complex; Kristeva does not. The French feminists are often even further lumped together, especially by American feminists, under the issue of "l'écriture féminine" which Kristeva explicitly rejects. See the discussions in Oliver, Reading Kristeva (especially the Introduction and Chapter 7); Ann Rosalind Jones, "Writing the Body: Toward an Understanding of l'Écriture féminine ," in The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature and Theory, ed. Elaine Showalter (New York: Pantheon, 19485); and Stanton, "Difference on Trial."
38Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990), 29.
39Butler, Gender Trouble, 30.
40Butler, Gender Trouble, 95.
41Butler, Gender Trouble, 3.
42Butler, Gender Trouble, 5.
43McClary, Feminine Endings , 131.
44The strict separation of male and female leads to some odd analyses. McClary writes, "An earlier, taped recording [of Vandervelde's Genesis II] conveys far more successively a sonic metaphor of childbirth, in part because in refusing to accelerate to its conclusion it avoids the impression of excitement and desire."(footnote 16, p.198). In fact, childbirth does accelerate, from contractions every 15-20 minutes to contractions every 1-2 minutes; and it has a definite climax in birth. The need to keep the male/teleological and the female/non-teleological strictly separate requires the rewriting of actual women's experiences.
45McClary, Feminine Endings, 147.
46Butler, Gender Trouble, especially chapters 3 and 4.
47Although McClary writes that,"Meaning is not inherent in music," she means this in the semiological sense. Just as the relationship between the signified and signifier is arbitrary (there is no "natural" reason c-a-t should refer to a small furry creature), the relationship between musical constructs and meaning is also arbitrary. And like Saussurian linguistics, McClary also seems to believe that this relationship is stable.
48Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987): 3; qtd. in Elizabeth Paley, "Session Response" presented at Music Theory Midwest 5/13/94. In this respect, Paley draws an interesting parallel between McClary's and Schenker's use of narrative to convey meaning.
49This strongly reinforces the subject/object split prevalent in much music analysis, although I think McClary tries to mediate this by often including her own perception of the piece being discussed.
50McClary, Feminine Endings, 77.
51See R. Ruth Linden, Making Stories, Making Selves (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1993), especially "In the Name of the House of Orange," and "Reflections on 'In the Name of the House of Orange.'"
52I am retaining the word "spectator" instead of changing it to "listener" in order to keep the analogy between film and music theory clearer. I am also leaving out the (masculine) gaze of the camera.
53This same approach can be seen in Charles Ford, Così: Sexual Politics in Mozart's Operas (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1991). Ford reads Così fan tutte as a straightforward representation of Enlightenment philosophy's identification of women as the absolute otherness of nature, as opposed to the masculine realm of freedom and autonomy of consciousness. But this precludes any investigations of the "scandals" that occur both between duty/reason and feeling/nature, and those that occur within reason itself.
54Jackie Stacey, Star Gazing (London: Routledge, 1994): 29.
55Higgins, "Women in Music," 181.
57McClary, Feminine Endings, 7.
58McClary, Feminine Endings, 9.
59McClary, Feminine Endings, 14.
60McClary, Feminine Endings, 68.
61McClary, Feminine Endings, 173, n35.
62McClary, Feminine Endings, 161.
63Marilyn Frye, Willful Virgin (Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1992): 72-73.
64See, for example, McClary,"Paradigm Dissonances: Music Theory, Cultural Studies, Feminist Criticism," and "A Response to Elaine Barkin."
65 I, of course, am often writing with the voice of authority. I quote other authorities, and I use words like "really," "in fact,""monolithic," "deviant,""essentialism," and "hegemonic," some of which can be seen as coercive, while others have specific feminist connotations (e.g. "monolithic" = "bad"). The issue of authority is especially difficult in feminist pedagogy, where at most colleges and universities, it is difficult to deny that a power differential exists between student and teacher. See, for example, Maureen Ryan, "Classroom and Contexts: The Challenge of Feminist Pedagogy," Feminist Teacher 4:2(1989): 39-42; and Kathryn Morgan, "The Perils and Paradoxes of Feminist Pedagogy," Resources for Feminist Research 16/3 (1987): 49-52.