Writing through Music Essays on Music, Culture, and Politics

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2014-03-01
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Drawing on a passion for music, a remarkably diverse interdisciplinary toolbox, and a gift for accessible language that speaks equally to scholars and the general public, Jann Pasler invites us to read as she writes "through" music, unveiling the forces that affect our sonic encounters. In an extraordinary collection of historical and critical essays, some appearing for the first time in English, Pasler deconstructs the social, moral, and political preoccupations lurking behind aesthetic taste. Arguing that learning from musical experience is vital to our understanding of past, present, and future, Pasler's work trenchantly reasserts the role of music as a crucial contributor to important public debates about who we can be as individuals, communities, and nations.

The author's wide-ranging and perceptive approaches to musical biography and history challenge us to rethink our assumptions about important cultural and philosophical issues including national identity and postmodern musical hybridity, material culture, the economics of power, and the relationship between classical and popular music. Her work uncovers the self-fashioning of modernists such as Vincent d'Indy, Augusta Holmès, Jean Cocteau, and John Cage, and addresses categories such as race, gender, and class in the early 20th century in ways that resonate with experiences today. She also explores how music uses time and constructs narrative. Pasler's innovative and influential methodological approaches, such as her notion of "question-spaces," open up the complex cultural and political networks in which music participates. This provides us with the reasons and tools to engage with music in fresh and exciting ways.

In these thoughtful essays, music--whether beautiful or cacophonous, reassuring or seemingly incomprehensible--comes alive as a bearer of ideas and practices that offers deep insights into how we negotiate the world. Jann Pasler's Writing through Music brilliantly demonstrates how music can be a critical lens to focus the contemporary critical, cultural, historical, and social issues of our time.

Author Biography

Jann Pasler, music scholar, documentary filmmaker, and pianist, is Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego where she founded the graduate program Critical Studies and Experimental Practices (CSEP). She has published widely on French and American contemporary music, modernism and postmodernism, cultural life in France and the French colonies. Recent books: Composing the Citizen: Music as Public Utility in Third Republic France and, as editor/author, Saint-Saëns and his World. She is currently completing Music, Race, and Colonialism in the French Empire, 1860s--1950s as well as a book, in French, on music ethnography from Indochina to Central Africa.

Table of Contents

Foreword by George E. Lewis

Part I: Time, Narrative, and Memory
1. Narrative and Narrativity in Music
2. Postmodernism, Narrativity, and the Art of Memory
3. Resituating the Spectral Revolution: French Antecedents

Part II: Self-Fashioning
4. Deconstructing d'Indy, or the Problem of the Composer's Reputation
5. New Music as Confrontation: The Musical Sources of Cocteau's Identity
6. Inventing a Tradition: John Cage's "Composition in Retrospect"

Part III: Identity and Nation
7. Pelléas and Power: Forces behind the Reception of Debussy's Opera
8. The Ironies of Gender, or Virility and Politics in the Music of Augusta Holmès
9. Race, Orientalism, and Distinction in the Wake of the "Yellow Peril"

Part IV: Patrons and Patronage
10. Countess Greffulhe as Entrepreneur: Negotiating Class, Gender, and Nation
11. The Political Economy of Composition in the American University, 1965-1985

Part V: The Everyday Life of the Past
12. Concert Programs and Their Narratives as Emblems of Ideology
13. Material Culture and Postmodern Positivism: Rethinking the "Popular" in Late Nineteenth-Century French Music

Appendix 1. Definitions of Terminology Used in Chapter 1
Appendix 2. Public Performances and Publications of Music by Augusta Holmès
Appendix 3. Relationship between NEA Support and Composers' Educational Background
Appendix 4. Relationship between NEA Support and Composers' Institutional Affiliation
Appendix 5. Educational Background and Institutional Affiliation of Most Frequent NEA Panelists
Appendix 6. Winners of Largest NEA Composer Grants Each Year, 1973-1985


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