FREE READ ¼ Feminine Endings Music Gender and Sexuality



10 thoughts on “Feminine Endings Music Gender and Sexuality

  1. says:

    Although I was an English major in college and my primary mode of artistic connection has always been literature I somehow ended up with a surprising number of musicologist friends Well four of them anyway which seems like a lot to me One of the four is currently finishing up her musicology doctorate at UCLA and I remember that when she started her program she was intimidated by the presence on faculty of controversial music critic Susan McClary McClary's work is divisive among musicologists because she has dared to take methods of criticism developed in literary and sociology circles feminist post colonialist ueer studies and other criticisms that interrogate social contexts of art and to apply them to Western art music which has traditionally considered itself immune from such interrogations of meaning many musicologists believe that music doesn't mean anything but simply exists My friend was a little wowed by McClary's rock star status but also conflicted because she found some of the critic's stances to be over the top I remember her specifically citing an essay in which McClary claims that it's possible to tell that Tchaikovsky was homosexual just by listening to his Fourth Symphony Eyebrows raised all around So I was amused and intrigued when a few years later another of the four knowing that I enjoy critical literary theory gave me a copy of McClary's seminal Feminine Endings as a birthday present Now maybe I'm just hardened by years of reading criticism in the liberal field of literary studies I have read some serious crackpot critics in my time and McClary? Does not strike me as a crackpot She doesn't even strike me as over the top In fact her points seem to me eminently well argued and reasonable Let's take that essay on Tchaikovsky for example She does not actually argue that a listener can tell he's gay by listening to his music In fact she explicitly rejects any line of reasoning that would attempt to claim any such thing What she actually writes is that certain patterns in the Fourth Symphony patterns traditionally derided by music critics for failing to conform with accepted symphonic practice are not actually failures after all but conscious attempts to diverge from the standard symphonic narrative and tell a different kind of story McClary carefully outlines the traditional symphonic narrative structure which bears a strong resemblance to the traditional Hero's uest narrative in literature a hero starts at home base a given key andor theme but must leave it and venture into uncharted territory He meets with the often feminine Other the second theme often referred to in early musicology as the feminine theme which represents either a threat he must overcome or a victim he must save; a struggle ensues In either case the second feminine theme is assimilated by the end of the symphony into the key in which the hero began and he returns home triumphant having proved himself In Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony all this is problematized critics have complained that the first masculine theme is overly passive insufficiently virile yes music critics complain about such things and that the first movement never satisfactorily resolves McClary argues that Tchaikovsky is merely trying to tell a different story than the one usually communicated symphonically one involving a protagonist trapped between two antagonists unable to realize his full potential This seems totally reasonable to me and McClary backs it up with careful technical attention to the score Given the careful groundwork she has laid regarding the long history of thinking about masculine and feminine symphonic themes her next point seems reasonable as well the bracketed text is mineFor what we have is a narrative in which the protagonist seems victimized both by patriarchal expectations represented by the military background music that threatens to overwhelm the primary theme and by sensual feminine entrapment the sinuous interrupting second theme both forces actively block the possibility of his self development Such a narrative resonates strongly with Tchaikovsky's biography As a homosexual in a world of patriarchally enforced heterosexuality his behavior was always being judged against cultural models of real men In fact 1877 the year of this symphony was a crisis year in Tchaikovsky's psychosexual development he finally yielded to social and paternal pressures to get married with disastrous conseuences for all concerned and then attempted suicide because of his distress over the marriage and his clandestine sexuality The extent to which these events colored his perceptions is revealed in his letters and a strong sense of struggle and alienation likewise marks his programmatic description of the symphonyThis is a far cry from the claim that gay people write different music from straight people All McClary is really saying here is that one's state of mind while making art can be reflected in the final product and be read back into it later on a claim that seems to me not only reasonable but inescapably obvious How could the dramatic events of Tchaikovsky's personal life during this period fail to have an effect on his compositional output? Can you imagine claiming such a thing about any other form of art? We accept as indisputable that for example TS Eliot's traumatic experience of World War I helped shape his worldview and can be read back into The Waste Land It is widely accepted that Bernini's Counter Reformational political patronage influenced his presentation of the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa So why should instrumental music be any different? That is the uestion McClary asks repeatedly throughout the essays in Feminine Endings and she answers in lively readable prose that it is not in fact different at all There was only one essay in which I thought her claims veered into the strident or tenuous and interestingly I found that same essay to be the most thought provoking of the bunch In it she takes modern composer Janika Vandervelde's piece Genesis II as a jumping off point to talk about whether there can or should be a repertory of women's music in other words music made by women which has a specifically female sound distinguishable from that made by men She details the widespread negative response to such an idea on the part of female composers who have accepted the idea of the universality and a gendered uality of Western instrumental music and want to be recognized as composers not female composers While McClary is sympathetic with this position she uestions whether those elements of Western instrumental music so often granted universal status are really universal at all In the most fascinating section of the essay to me at least she points out that the current widely accepted musical model of striving after the desired tonal resolution of the individualistic hero's uest symphony not just applicable to symphonies but also to rock songs and many other forms only gained its current place of unuestioned dominance after the seventeenth century Prior to this time she says there were other musical forms that stressed pleasure over desire that were about existing voluptuously in the moment rather than striving after change In the age of imperialism conuest and the rise of capitalism though the current uest based narrative became so dominant that many of us just accept it as the way music works This singleness of structure is obviously detrimental if there is no musical model for pleasure but only for desire then attaining the desired goal is a kind of musical death since the piece is over as soon as the goal is reached McClary goes on to make the claim that when she presents her graduate students with examples of this earlier musical mode the male students tend to find it confusing and boring complaining that nothing happens whereas the female students tend to delight in it recognizing something they knew to be true but which they had never heard articulated musically beforeNow let me say a whole spate of warning bells go off in my head when people start talking about a female music I am extremely reluctant to accept essentializing notions that euate the feminine with unchanging cyclical Nature and the male with striving individualism And I definitely think there are points in this essay where McClary crosses the line into Dworkin esue condemnation of all tonal music as essentially violent and imperialist That said when I think about my all time favorite narratives I have to admit that they all stress exactly the sense of voluptuous being in time that McClary describes Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse particularly the Time Passes section Marilynne Robinson's Gilead the novels and short stories of Eudora Welty while all these works have narrative arcs it is the beauty of the prose and the gorgeously vivid evocation of specific subjective moments in time that really distinguishes the experience of reading them None of them feature absolutist conclusions; the emotional ends tend not to be wrapped up neatly and the reader must accept ambiguity and compromise And predictably critics of these novels tend to complain that they are boring and that nothing happens in them EXACTLY like the male students McClary describes in her classes Now of course there are male fans of Woolf Robinson and Welty in fact the most ardent Woolf fan I've ever met was a man But it does give me food for thought and a new critical tool for thinking about different kinds of narrative structures


  2. says:

    I encountered 4 of the 7 essays in this collection in different undergraduate music subjects each on uite different topics In a class on music history from 1600 1750 we read the chapter 2 essay on Monteverdi memorable for its reference to Stephen Greenblatt and the history of science's attitudes to female sexuality and the resulting aesthetic of eual two part sexual friction in Monteverdi's vocal lines; in a musicology capstone we read chapter 3 thinking about whether there is such a thing as a Woman's Music or a Gay Man's Music; in a class on nineteenth century music we read chapter 5 and learn about the violent sexuality of the symphony; and in a class on twentieth century music we read chapter 6 and learn about Laurie Anderson and the differences between mind body and technology All this is to say that it's a diverse collection not planned as a unity as McClary says in her introduction and I think encountering her work in this somewhat fragmented manner can actually be a positive One possible weakness I would offer on this point is the fact that since her essays seem to cater to a wide range of interdisciplinary readers they inevitably only begin to open up a particular problem and than a few of them end by conceding that they risk going down an oversimplifying route Reading each essay in a row can reveal a certain repetitiveness of structure and argumentative movement For example McClary is uite conscious that hypostatising or essentialising a Woman's Music might not be a philosophically or tactically sound thing to do even if it seems to follow from the plausible and thoroughly argued claim that tonal desire is effectively a patriarchally organised kind of desire This concession repeats itself in the conclusion to several of the essays in different ways Beethoven for example in his extreme symphonic violence could be subverting or staging that violence; it's hard for McClary to issue a definitive verdict However this is also the flip side of a great strength of this book its accessibility and provocativenessI might also say that even though she comments on her unusual writing style and hypes it up a little bit as an attempt to enact within language the musical processes I seek to describe xiii she could probably be uite a bit experimental than she actually is This is the risk of offering an interdisciplinary work that is also interdisciplinarily stylistic McClary's discipline musicology is or was notorious for a particularly dull writing style while so much of literary criticism and continental philosophy has taken a willfully difficult or conceptually performative style as a normThe only thing that I actually don't like about this volume are the instances where she disparages Freud and Freudian theory It's a familiar story McClary will offer a throwaway comment such as The surveillance and control that had always characterised the psychiatric profession became focused on the problem of Woman and so it has remained with substantial help from Darwin and Freud 84 Then on the next page she will indicate that she substantially agrees with Freud seemingly without realising it One of the conventions governing representations of madwomen in most media is that they are silent They are seen but are rarely given the power of language are almost never given the opportunity to speak their own experiences 85 Freud's innovation lay precisely in asking his patients to speak in believing that the cure reuired listening to the patient learning rather than imposing a discourseIt is clear that McClary is familiar with psychoanalysis because so much of her most famous work is explicitly psychoanalytical her reading of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is nothing if not Freudian so my complaint here is mostly just registering my displeasure at a facile history of psychiatric thought Somewhat along these lines one of the most interesting things I got out of reading this book all the way through is the way McClary is actually able to incorporate big names in music big theoretical positions into her own paradigm in a revealing way For example it turns out that McClary has a certain theoretical valorisation of Arnold Schoenberg because both his atonal music and his writings at least for a period indicated an awareness of the images and structures of the sexual binary that dominated the history of music and a willingness to step outside of that binary to write music with an asexual desire so to speak Likewise McClary thinks that Heinrich Schenker's extensive graphic analytical system effectively bears out her claim that tonality is a sexually structured language because each of Schenker's graphs reduces to one of a handful of Ursatzen or underlying structures of tension and inevitable resolutionMcClary's project is thus one of revaluation and revision but also one of incorporation and suggestion It's very productive and I think she's delivered in her later and contemporary work on many of the opening remarks that characterise this volume's conclusions


  3. says:

    This book originally came out just before I went to college and I remember a bit about the controversy it stirred up in musical circles at the time Looking at music through the lens of gender and sexuality had not really been done before and was clearly not something people were comfortable with McClary definitely Went There in this book exploring how the tonal and thematic plan of a sonata allegro movement can be interpreted as an enactment of 18th and 19th century ideas about masculinity and femininity what the musical depictions of female characters in vocal music say about attitudes towards men and women and how desire and its construction permeate so much musical structure Feminine Endings is divided into six chapters each dealing with a specific piece set of pieces or artist McClary examines such disparate examples as the nymph character in a Monteverdi madrigal Carmen Laurie Anderson's O Superman and Madonna I especially enjoyed the chapters on Carmen and O Superman I didn't necessarily always buy everything McClary was selling but she certainly gave me lots and lots to think about regarding how Western art music worksMost of all I really appreciated McClary's argument that we should subject music to criticism that connects it to things like gender and sexuality and views it through the lens of different aspects of society history sociology etc Music does not always have to be viewed as a abstract pure object that transcends its milieu


  4. says:

    Susan McClary along with the many scholars whom she credits throughout this groundbreaking book is a pioneer Twenty five years later I am happy to say that it does not seem radical but based on my experience in university classrooms there's still a long way to go The problems she identifies in the fierce and frankly courageous introduction to the book are still present in music scholarshipThere are too many things that I can praise about Feminine Endings so I will simply say that it was formative when I was new to musicology and is just as fundamental to my thinking having reread it now I think I could read the introduction a hundred times and it would still make me feel empowered I plan to read it as necessary when I feel discouraged in the future


  5. says:

    This is a re read since I read this way back in undergrad for the first time Mostly the Madonna essay this time as part of comps studying One of the things I appreciate with McClary is how readable and engaging she is compared to lots of other academic writing She's the sort of writer I can assign to non music majors and undergrads without too much explanation despite her essays' once controversial status in the discipline and her work does an excellent job still of stimulating discussion and broadening their ideas of what musicology can be I aspire to make my own academic writing as fun to read yet still serious and thoughtful as hers is


  6. says:

    McClary looks at several classical compositions through the eye of a musicologist filtered through feminist ideas She does in depth readings of many great composers but also Madonna and Laurie Anderson I appreciate what she is doing and realize that she is laying groundwork that many other scholars are able to refine but I do think that some of what she is doing is just conjecture and often she seems to leap to the obvious social explanations without much than anecdotal evidence


  7. says:

    I won't follow Susan McClary off a literal or intellectual cliff but I'd sure follow her around the world a few times


  8. says:

    Through examples ranging from Monteverdi to Madonna McClary's core argument seems always the same tonal music originating in patriarchal societies which excluded women often literally from the active public life including composition of music sometimes intentionally but often unwittingly formed a structures which can be understood as male approach to storytelling The story best depicted on the structure of the sonata allegro form involves a hero male first theme conueringassimilating the Other feminine second theme The apotheosis of this storytelling is cadence for the story to make sense a resolution of all tonal tensions in the predetermined key is a must Of course the story is not always this straightforward and sometimes too much tonal tension incorrect resolution and so on can be interpreted or perceived as the suppressed Other rearing its head in case eg of Tchaikovsky's Fourth directly aligned with his homosexuality within oppressive homophobic societies; elsewhere McClary makes similar case for Schubert with regard to Eighth The dams are finally broken with the ascent of avantgarde in certain works of Debussy of Satie but crucially in atonal music no longer reuiring tonal resolutions Schoenberg's Erwartung is important in this case for McClary although she's less impressed by later efforts by Schoenberg to fix his atonalism in form of serialism she doesn't mention Webern but I guess she's not impressed by him either or in minimalist music Janika Vandervelde but with her McClary mentions Reich and Glass which got away with resolutions at allMcClary's book is very enjoyable and especially inspiring in how one can look at the music and its ability to signify in a new way one wishes to revisit Langer's Philosophy in a New Key on an issue of semiotic signification in absolute music But I'm not sold on alternative story McClary is trying to tell As for McClary for me too Adorno's Philosophy of New Music was very important for the way I think about music trying to perceive ultimately ethical and political meanings in particular structural solutions experiments particular way composer's formulate a problem In fact this is what I've noted down for me elsewhere thinking triggered in particular by Czernowin's 2017 cello concerto Guardian wonderful piece of art from one of the most interesting contemporary composers btw It's never only about music Each challenge to tonality used to present philosophical and ultimately ethical and political problems Serialism of Schoenberg Berg and Webern each presented different outlook on life and political turmoil that the West was experiencing at time Darmstadt's claim to absolute and completely rational music was at the same time solipsistic retreat from the world ravaged by world war Xenakis challenged these guys from the side and his challenge was once again mostly ethical that you can't force cobweb of sounds this impenetrable on poor common listener while the faith in laws of nature with which Xenakis came euipped to that challenge bordered on religious Many stories like these can be told or imagined if one wishes But at certain point the things settle down and there's no longer this tension for example the transition from Integral Serialism to New Complexity seems already merely technical a uestion of method without novel political or ethical implications Atonality becomes common beast in academia avantgarde becomes idiomBut somehow I'm led back to criticism which McClary does anticipate in the introduction and which her essays are meant to be arguments against that McClary's emphasis on sexualgender politics is a bit reductive view of these stories that can be told I am however aware that this may be at the same time another proof of how much I myself am conditioned to view male as default; that at the end of the day I'm still seduced by the supposedly grand issues of politics and freedom that I'm overlooking the way they're conditioned on the basic political issue that of gender All this basically means that a either McClary's arguments while they make for interesting read ultimately fail or b my own feminism is still too theoretical and I can't so to say put it into practice in my ears So if you find McClary's arguments convincing on paper can you also hear them in music?


  9. says:

    This book was definitely a little academic for me to read sometimes It took me a long time to finish and it was a bit frustrating to sometimes only feel up for reading a few pages a day In spite of rarely feeling in the mood to work through this I did enjoy it and I am glad to have read it I think that the message is very uniue and important The author does a really amazing job of talking about the ways that gender and sexuality affect our perception of music from Monteverdi to Madonna I wish that I had stopped and listened to of the songs pieces the author dissected along the way instead of listening after I finished a chapter I want to say that I have a favorite chapteressay but I think it is important to read them all as a whole even though each is valuable on its own The basic discussion of how we have been conditioned to associate even basic structures like chord progressions and sonata form with desire sexuality and gender first discussed in the chapter on Monteverdi reoccurs throughout the book and structure even the chapter on Madonna's music I really can't believe that this is from 1991 the author really does not miss anything Would recommend for anyone who loves music and is up for a pretty academic read


  10. says:

    So this is the book that might have kept me in graduate school way back when But alas it hadn't been written yetMaybe it's just as well because these ideas can be applied way beyond musicology And as a female person I'm destined to liveconfrontstruggle with them anyhow why do it in the narrow confines of academia? Rather than be bitter I will consider that I was sparedBut beyond my personal reaction I would just say that given the hateful reactions of so many readers to McClary's views as stated in this book I'm speaking of reviewers not Goodreads reviewers who have taken a much thoughtful approach it appears she has struck a nerve or two There must be something to itI recommend you read it think about it and decide for yourself


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Feminine Endings Music Gender and Sexuality

SUMMARY Feminine Endings Music Gender and Sexuality

Inking about and hearing music in new and interesting ways Exciting reading for adventurous students and staid professionals” Choice“Feminine Endings a provocative ‘sexual politics’ of Western classical or art music rocks conservative musicology at its core No review can do justice to the wealth of ideas and possibilities McClary’s This is a re read since I read this way back in undergrad for the first time Mostly the Madonna essay this time as part of comps studying One of the things I appreciate with McClary is how readable and engaging she is compared to lots of other academic writing She's the sort of writer I can assign to non music majors and undergrads without too much explanation despite her essays' once controversial status in the discipline and her work does an excellent job still of stimulating discussion and broadening their ideas of what musicology can be I aspire to make my own academic writing as fun to read yet still serious and thoughtful as hers is

READ ↠ THARROWEBDESIGN.CO.UK É Susan McClary

Book presents All music lovers should read it and cheer” The Women’s Review of BooksMcClary writes with a racy vigorous and consistently entertaining style What she has to say specifically about the music and the text is sharp accurate and telling; she hears what takes place musically with unusual sensitivity The New York Review of Book This book was definitely a little academic for me to read sometimes It took me a long time to finish and it was a bit frustrating to sometimes only feel up for reading a few pages a day In spite of rarely feeling in the mood to work through this I did enjoy it and I am glad to have read it I think that the message is very uniue and important The author does a really amazing job of talking about the ways that gender and sexuality affect our perception of music from Monteverdi to Madonna I wish that I had stopped and listened to of the songs pieces the author dissected along the way instead of listening after I finished a chapter I want to say that I have a favorite chapteressay but I think it is important to read them all as a whole even though each is valuable on its own The basic discussion of how we have been conditioned to associate even basic structures like chord progressions and sonata form with desire sexuality and gender first discussed in the chapter on Monteverdi reoccurs throughout the book and structure even the chapter on Madonna's music I really can't believe that this is from 1991 the author really does not miss anything Would recommend for anyone who loves music and is up for a pretty academic read

Susan McClary É 1 FREE READ

A groundbreaking collection of essays in feminist music criticism this book addresses problems of gender and sexuality in repertoires ranging from the early seventeenth century to rock and performance art “ this is a major book McClary’s achievement borders on the miraculous” The Village Voice“No one will read these essays without th Although I was an English major in college and my primary mode of artistic connection has always been literature I somehow ended up with a surprising number of musicologist friends Well four of them anyway which seems like a lot to me One of the four is currently finishing up her musicology doctorate at UCLA and I remember that when she started her program she was intimidated by the presence on faculty of controversial music critic Susan McClary McClary's work is divisive among musicologists because she has dared to take methods of criticism developed in literary and sociology circles feminist post colonialist ueer studies and other criticisms that interrogate social contexts of art and to apply them to Western art music which has traditionally considered itself immune from such interrogations of meaning many musicologists believe that music doesn't mean anything but simply exists My friend was a little wowed by McClary's rock star status but also conflicted because she found some of the critic's stances to be over the top I remember her specifically citing an essay in which McClary claims that it's possible to tell that Tchaikovsky was homosexual just by listening to his Fourth Symphony Eyebrows raised all around So I was amused and intrigued when a few years later another of the four knowing that I enjoy critical literary theory gave me a copy of McClary's seminal Feminine Endings as a birthday present Now maybe I'm just hardened by years of reading criticism in the liberal field of literary studies I have read some serious crackpot critics in my time and McClary Does not strike me as a crackpot She doesn't even strike me as over the top In fact her points seem to me eminently well argued and reasonable Let's take that essay on Tchaikovsky for example She does not actually argue that a listener can tell he's gay by listening to his music In fact she explicitly rejects any line of reasoning that would attempt to claim any such thing What she actually writes is that certain patterns in the Fourth Symphony patterns traditionally derided by music critics for failing to conform with accepted symphonic practice are not actually failures after all but conscious attempts to diverge from the standard symphonic narrative and tell a different kind of story McClary carefully outlines the traditional symphonic narrative structure which bears a strong resemblance to the traditional Hero's uest narrative in literature a hero starts at home base a given key andor theme but must leave it and venture into uncharted territory He meets with the often feminine Other the second theme often referred to in early musicology as the feminine theme which represents either a threat he must overcome or a victim he must save; a struggle ensues In either case the second feminine theme is assimilated by the end of the symphony into the key in which the hero began and he returns home triumphant having proved himself In Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony all this is problematized critics have complained that the first masculine theme is overly passive insufficiently virile yes music critics complain about such things and that the first movement never satisfactorily resolves McClary argues that Tchaikovsky is merely trying to tell a different story than the one usually communicated symphonically one involving a protagonist trapped between two antagonists unable to realize his full potential This seems totally reasonable to me and McClary backs it up with careful technical attention to the score Given the careful groundwork she has laid regarding the long history of thinking about masculine and feminine symphonic themes her next point seems reasonable as well the bracketed text is mineFor what we have is a narrative in which the protagonist seems victimized both by patriarchal expectations represented by the military background music that threatens to overwhelm the primary theme and by sensual feminine entrapment the sinuous interrupting second theme both forces actively block the possibility of his self development Such a narrative resonates strongly with Tchaikovsky's biography As a homosexual in a world of patriarchally enforced heterosexuality his behavior was always being judged against cultural models of real men In fact 1877 the year of this symphony was a crisis year in Tchaikovsky's psychosexual development he finally yielded to social and paternal pressures to get married with disastrous conseuences for all concerned and then attempted suicide because of his distress over the marriage and his clandestine sexuality The extent to which these events colored his perceptions is revealed in his letters and a strong sense of struggle and alienation likewise marks his programmatic description of the symphonyThis is a far cry from the claim that gay people write different music from straight people All McClary is really saying here is that one's state of mind while making art can be reflected in the final product and be read back into it later on a claim that seems to me not only reasonable but inescapably obvious How could the dramatic events of Tchaikovsky's personal life during this period fail to have an effect on his compositional output Can you imagine claiming such a thing about any other form of art We accept as indisputable that for example TS Eliot's traumatic experience of World War I helped shape his worldview and can be read back into The Waste Land It is widely accepted that Bernini's Counter Reformational political patronage influenced his presentation of the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa So why should instrumental music be any different That is the uestion McClary asks repeatedly throughout the essays in Feminine Endings and she answers in lively readable prose that it is not in fact different at all There was only one essay in which I thought her claims veered into the strident or tenuous and interestingly I found that same essay to be the most thought provoking of the bunch In it she takes modern composer Janika Vandervelde's piece Genesis II as a jumping off point to talk about whether there can or should be a repertory of women's music in other words music made by women which has a specifically female sound distinguishable from that made by men She details the widespread negative response to such an idea on the part of female composers who have accepted the idea of the universality and a gendered uality of Western instrumental music and want to be recognized as composers not female composers While McClary is sympathetic with this position she uestions whether those elements of Western instrumental music so often granted universal status are really universal at all In the most fascinating section of the essay to me at least she points out that the current widely accepted musical model of striving after the desired tonal resolution of the individualistic hero's uest symphony not just applicable to symphonies but also to rock songs and many other forms only gained its current place of unuestioned dominance after the seventeenth century Prior to this time she says there were other musical forms that stressed pleasure over desire that were about existing voluptuously in the moment rather than striving after change In the age of imperialism conuest and the rise of capitalism though the current uest based narrative became so dominant that many of us just accept it as the way music works This singleness of structure is obviously detrimental if there is no musical model for pleasure but only for desire then attaining the desired goal is a kind of musical death since the piece is over as soon as the goal is reached McClary goes on to make the claim that when she presents her graduate students with examples of this earlier musical mode the male students tend to find it confusing and boring complaining that nothing happens whereas the female students tend to delight in it recognizing something they knew to be true but which they had never heard articulated musically beforeNow let me say a whole spate of warning bells go off in my head when people start talking about a female music I am extremely reluctant to accept essentializing notions that euate the feminine with unchanging cyclical Nature and the male with striving individualism And I definitely think there are points in this essay where McClary crosses the line into Dworkin esue condemnation of all tonal music as essentially violent and imperialist That said when I think about my all time favorite narratives I have to admit that they all stress exactly the sense of voluptuous being in time that McClary describes Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse particularly the Time Passes section Marilynne Robinson's Gilead the novels and short stories of Eudora Welty while all these works have narrative arcs it is the beauty of the prose and the gorgeously vivid evocation of specific subjective moments in time that really distinguishes the experience of reading them None of them feature absolutist conclusions; the emotional ends tend not to be wrapped up neatly and the reader must accept ambiguity and compromise And predictably critics of these novels tend to complain that they are boring and that nothing happens in them EXACTLY like the male students McClary describes in her classes Now of course there are male fans of Woolf Robinson and Welty in fact the most ardent Woolf fan I've ever met was a man But it does give me food for thought and a new critical tool for thinking about different kinds of narrative structures