Review of Andrew Dell’Antonio, ed. 2004. Beyond Structural Listening? Postmodern Modes of Hearing. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press

Horton, Julian

“Diagnosing the present,” writes Rose Subotnik in her afterword to Beyond Structural Listening? Postmodern Modes of Hearing, “is a lot like predicting the future, only riskier” (280). Subotnik’s cautionary remarks notwithstanding, it seems that few periods in the history of musicology have inclined so thoroughly towards disciplinary self-scrutiny as the past twenty years. Despite widespread protestations of pluralism, the sources of influence propelling this introspection are relatively homogeneous, and as such are readily identifiable. If the recent course taken by Anglo-American musicology is characterized by anyone single development, it is surely a belated engagement with the various discourses of postmodernity that have gathered force in other areas of the humanities since the 1960s. In the wake, so to speak, of this postmodernization, concerted efforts have been made towards institutional consolidation, evinced in the various corporate and single-author volumes seeking to define the scope and terms of the “new paradigm,” to use Subotnik’s term. Beyond Structural Listening adds fresh momentum to this tendency. Its point of orientation is the concept of “structural listening” as defined and critiqued by Subotnik: the reason- centered mode of engagement with autonomous musical structure, particularly as propagated by Schoenberg and Adorno, that had, until recently, come to dominate Anglo-American music-analytical practice. The collection assembles essays by Fred Everett Maus, Tamara Levitz, Robert Fink, Paul Attinello, Joseph Dubiel, Andrew Dell’ Antonio, Elisabeth Le Guin, and Martin Scherzinger on a wide range of topics, from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to MTV, with the broad intent of establishing what it might mean to listen or think beyond these parameters. In so doing, it delineates very clearly a gamut of “modernist ” musicological and analytical tendencies and their putative postmodern alternatives.


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August 18, 2022