Feminist Aesthetics in Music

Feminist Aesthetics in Music

Feminist Aesthetics in Music

Feminist Aesthetics in Music

Synopsis

Adapts the resources of contemporary feminist and poststructural theories to forge an original, critical investigation into the processes of gendered subject positions in the social and political practices of music.

Excerpt

There aren’t many women in this book, and most of the ones I do include are teach
ers…. Do I dislike women because I dislike écriture feminine—or bad écriture fem
inine?

—Kevin Kopelson, Beethoven’s Kiss

Taking my cue from Kopelson, I could begin by stating the obvious. There aren’t many men in this book, and most of the ones I do include are theorists. Kopelson’s book is an exploration of gender and sexuality (with an emphasis on homoerotic desire) in relation to pianism in the Romantic period. The women whom he includes are “maiden” piano teachers; a number of the men whom he includes are virtuosos. He asks why he does not write about female virtuosos—for example, “Martha Argerich, who’s sexier than Horowitz and whose Tchaikovsky Concerto is the best on record” —and concludes that it is because he (Kopelson) is “phallocentric.” He says, “I prefer men—in bed. And yes, I’m phallogocentric. I prefer to argue—in print. But does that make me misogynistic?”

On reading a book that boasts about being “a vivid (and startling) example of the ‘new musicology,’ ” I admit to being unnerved by Kopelson’s up-front declaration about his preference for men, his apparent dismissal of women (with the implication that he is being misogynistic), and what seems like his loathing of l’écriture féminine (women’s writing). My book wants to celebrate l’écriture féminine. It wants to celebrate women’s music. Yet if I were to begin this book by adopting a tone similar to Kopelson’s—declaring, for example, that I prefer women, that I am gynocentric (or “gynologocentric”), and that I dislike masculinist aesthetics (for want of a better complement to the term / l’écriture féminine)—it would be more than likely that I would alienate the vast majority of my readership, feminists included.

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