The Composer, the Musicologist, His Wife, and Her Lover: on Lacan’s Relevance to Music

Thomas Reiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This paper asks what it is to write about music. When we ask students or colleagues to write about music are we asking them to describe music structurally, or to cope with music’s ever-shifting signifieds? The paper attempts to answer this question by clarifying the relationship between composition, musicology, and music “itself” by way of a Lacanian reading of Peter Greenaway's film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Lacan’s existential concepts of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real are first introduced in relation to music with reference to music by Hans Werner Henze, Lady Gaga, and György Ligeti. The paper then provocatively frames the discipline of musicology as the “thief” of Greenaway’s film by considering the discipline’s proliferation of master signifiers and resulting problematic relationship to music. The paper urges a practice of music writing that acknowledges music’s structural and signifying aspects and the ultimately futile prospect of capturing the Real of music’s “lover.”
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalDirections of New Music
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2018

Keywords

  • musicology
  • Music criticism
  • Jacques Lacan
  • Music composition
  • Psychoanalysis

Cite this

@article{1b08e954ad024ed4b5b858f0192a1be7,
title = "The Composer, the Musicologist, His Wife, and Her Lover: on Lacan’s Relevance to Music",
abstract = "This paper asks what it is to write about music. When we ask students or colleagues to write about music are we asking them to describe music structurally, or to cope with music’s ever-shifting signifieds? The paper attempts to answer this question by clarifying the relationship between composition, musicology, and music “itself” by way of a Lacanian reading of Peter Greenaway's film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Lacan’s existential concepts of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real are first introduced in relation to music with reference to music by Hans Werner Henze, Lady Gaga, and György Ligeti. The paper then provocatively frames the discipline of musicology as the “thief” of Greenaway’s film by considering the discipline’s proliferation of master signifiers and resulting problematic relationship to music. The paper urges a practice of music writing that acknowledges music’s structural and signifying aspects and the ultimately futile prospect of capturing the Real of music’s “lover.”",
keywords = "musicology, Music criticism, Jacques Lacan, Music composition, Psychoanalysis",
author = "Thomas Reiner",
year = "2018",
month = "5",
day = "28",
doi = "10.14221/dnm.i2/3",
language = "English",
volume = "1",
pages = "1--13",
journal = "Directions of New Music",
issn = "2207-3922",
publisher = "Edith Cowan University",
number = "2",

}

The Composer, the Musicologist, His Wife, and Her Lover: on Lacan’s Relevance to Music. / Reiner, Thomas.

In: Directions of New Music, Vol. 1, No. 2, 3, 28.05.2018, p. 1-13.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - The Composer, the Musicologist, His Wife, and Her Lover: on Lacan’s Relevance to Music

AU - Reiner, Thomas

PY - 2018/5/28

Y1 - 2018/5/28

N2 - This paper asks what it is to write about music. When we ask students or colleagues to write about music are we asking them to describe music structurally, or to cope with music’s ever-shifting signifieds? The paper attempts to answer this question by clarifying the relationship between composition, musicology, and music “itself” by way of a Lacanian reading of Peter Greenaway's film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Lacan’s existential concepts of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real are first introduced in relation to music with reference to music by Hans Werner Henze, Lady Gaga, and György Ligeti. The paper then provocatively frames the discipline of musicology as the “thief” of Greenaway’s film by considering the discipline’s proliferation of master signifiers and resulting problematic relationship to music. The paper urges a practice of music writing that acknowledges music’s structural and signifying aspects and the ultimately futile prospect of capturing the Real of music’s “lover.”

AB - This paper asks what it is to write about music. When we ask students or colleagues to write about music are we asking them to describe music structurally, or to cope with music’s ever-shifting signifieds? The paper attempts to answer this question by clarifying the relationship between composition, musicology, and music “itself” by way of a Lacanian reading of Peter Greenaway's film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Lacan’s existential concepts of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real are first introduced in relation to music with reference to music by Hans Werner Henze, Lady Gaga, and György Ligeti. The paper then provocatively frames the discipline of musicology as the “thief” of Greenaway’s film by considering the discipline’s proliferation of master signifiers and resulting problematic relationship to music. The paper urges a practice of music writing that acknowledges music’s structural and signifying aspects and the ultimately futile prospect of capturing the Real of music’s “lover.”

KW - musicology

KW - Music criticism

KW - Jacques Lacan

KW - Music composition

KW - Psychoanalysis

U2 - 10.14221/dnm.i2/3

DO - 10.14221/dnm.i2/3

M3 - Article

VL - 1

SP - 1

EP - 13

JO - Directions of New Music

JF - Directions of New Music

SN - 2207-3922

IS - 2

M1 - 3

ER -