Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology

By Parker, Mara | Notes, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology


Parker, Mara, Notes


Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology. By Elisabeth Le Guin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. [374 p. ISBN 0-520-240170. $39.95.] Illustrations, music examples, compact disc.

Instrumental music of the second half of the eighteenth century is, by nature, an abstract art form. Barring a specific reference by a composer linking his or her work to a text, image, or idea, the analyst has traditionally turned to an objective approach in studying a work. One reason Jan LaRue's Guidelines for Stylistic Analysis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1970) has worked so well for so many is that it provides a common and straightforward vocabulary which can be used to discuss a composition. Small-, medium-, and large-scale levels with regard to texture, harmony, melody, surface rhythm, and the like can be distinguished, and comparisons with other compositions by the same composer as well as others are imminently possible.

In her Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology, Elisabeth Le Guin offers a different methodology. Drawing from cultural ideas of the eighteenth century, and incorporating theories and concepts from the fields of art, dance, and theater, the author proposes an approach which relies heavily on the subjective and physical nature of performance, one which she refers to as a performance- and body-oriented musicology. Boccherini's Body is a personal statement of the author's approach to Boccherini, informed as much by the physicality of the act of performance as the intellectual thought of the day. To complement the book, Le Guin has included a compact disc, filled with beautifully performed selections, some entire movements, some just snippets, so that the reader can hear all the written music examples.

Le Guin's basic premise, as outlined in her introduction, is that one can attach meaning, in the form of a physical response, to an instrumental composition by applying images, movements, and texts from art, dance, and theater, as well as infusing these with theories, either from the eighteenth century or the present day. The problem, of course, is in convincing one's reader of the viability of this approach and in making those connections work. From the very beginning, Le Guin "assert[s] the centrality of performance" (p. 2) and in fact, one finds that nearly every discussion relies on the physicality of performance. The author argues that the concept of kinesthesia, or fundamental feeling, is essential when examining Boccherini's works. Physical comfort and discomfort become primary means of explaining passages and even entire movements. Individual embodied experiences take precedence over communal music making or considering "what can I communicate to the listener?" By the end of the introduction, one wonders whether the intent of the book is a musicological study or a discussion of performance informed by historical and theoretical information.

Chapter 1 offers us a glimpse as to how Le Guin approaches a Boccherini sonata, in this case, the Cello Sonata in E-flat Major, Fuori catalogo. She argues that by fully identifying with Boccherini, the man, she can render a better performance of the work. Le Guin provides a lengthy discussion of the physical aspects of rendering the piece: comfort/discomfort, movement of arms and fingers, use of muscles, weight, gravity, and other aspects of cello performance. Ideas and motives are related to the body; physical sensations are equated with topos and affect. Through this approach, the author claims a form of communication with Boccherini himself: "I become aware of a poignance of presence, the unmistakable sensation of someone hereand not only here, but inhabiting my body" (p. 25). Here, as elsewhere in the book, Le Guin argues that her own physical and emotional responses allow her to understand Boccherini himself and his intent. She fails to address the notion that each of us will have varied physical responses to this particular sonata, none being more accurate or real than another. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.