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Listening Awry

Music and Alterity in German Culture

2006
Author:

David Schwarz

Listening Awry

Highly original observations about the relationship between music and German culture

In Listening Awry, David Schwarz illustrates how German music spanning two centuries refracts changes in society and culture, as well as the impacts of concepts introduced by psychoanalysis. Structured around four themes—trauma, the other/Other, the look/gaze binary, and Judaism—Listening Awry explores post-Enlightenment music and shows how post-Lacanian psychoanalysis can be applied to ideological interpellation that connects psychoanalysis to culture.

Schwarz (Univ. of North Texas) offers a series of well-researched, if peripherally related, essays on German music and culture in modernity. He examines specific works of music by Schubert, Webern, and Wagner along with musical developments such as the rise of the singe conductor and the Nazi appropriation of classical and popular songs. Chose readings situate German music in its historical context. Drawing on post-Lacanian psychoanalysis, the author also highlights the ways in which German music was implicated in the ideological interpellation of individual subjects and collective cultural constructs over time. The conceit of the book is the suggestion that certain musical and theoretical motifs come into clearer focus when one “listens awry”—by reading against the grain of established concepts. Schwarz does suggest some intriguing associations, especially in his analysis of trauma and the history of music. However, the reader must navigate many stark juxtapositions among historical context, musicological analysis, and theoretical discourse, and these do not always yield clear connections. Copious explanatory notes help analysis. Summing up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, and faculty.

Choice

In his first book, Listening Subjects, David Schwarz succeeded in fusing post-Lacanian psychoanalytic, musical-theoretical, and musical-historical perspectives. In Listening Awry, he expands his project to “tell a story of historical modernism writ large”—how German music spanning two centuries refracts changes in society and culture, as well as the impacts of concepts introduced by psychoanalysis.

Schwarz shows how post-Lacanian psychoanalysis can be applied to ideological interpellation that connects psychoanalysis to culture and how music theory can ground these considerations in precise details of musical textuality. He “listens awry” in several ways: by understanding musical meaning in both objective and socially structured ways, by embracing historical and also aesthetic approaches, by addressing high art as well as popular music, and by listening “around” conventional forms of musical meaning to reach toward that which evades signification.

Structured around four themes—trauma, the other/Other, the look/gaze binary, and Judaism—Listening Awry explores five key moments in post-Enlightenment music: the rise of the singular orchestral conductor and the emergence of a new form of alterity, the Art Song and “the sublime of the delicate” (a correlate of the Kantian mathematical and dynamical sublime), the birth of psychoanalysis and the twentieth-century turn toward atonality, German war songs and the subversion of German music by the Nazis, and two different versions of Wagner’s Parsifal that were performed one hundred years apart and in radically different contexts.

This highly original work, filled with imaginative readings and disquieting observations, links trauma with the culture and history of modernity and German music, deftly tying the experience of the body to the sounds it hears: how it reaches us slowly, penetrates the skin, and resonates.

Listening Awry

David Schwarz is assistant professor of music at the University of North Texas. He is the author of Listening Subjects: Music, Psychoanalysis, Culture.

Listening Awry

Schwarz (Univ. of North Texas) offers a series of well-researched, if peripherally related, essays on German music and culture in modernity. He examines specific works of music by Schubert, Webern, and Wagner along with musical developments such as the rise of the singe conductor and the Nazi appropriation of classical and popular songs. Chose readings situate German music in its historical context. Drawing on post-Lacanian psychoanalysis, the author also highlights the ways in which German music was implicated in the ideological interpellation of individual subjects and collective cultural constructs over time. The conceit of the book is the suggestion that certain musical and theoretical motifs come into clearer focus when one “listens awry”—by reading against the grain of established concepts. Schwarz does suggest some intriguing associations, especially in his analysis of trauma and the history of music. However, the reader must navigate many stark juxtapositions among historical context, musicological analysis, and theoretical discourse, and these do not always yield clear connections. Copious explanatory notes help analysis. Summing up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, and faculty.

Choice

David Schwarz’s Listening Awry addresses a fascinating, creatively chosen, and impressively broad set of topics in the German musical culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The theoretical material promises insight, the chapters are concisely drawn, and some of the sources are genuinely new and worthy of analysis. . . . The material is fascinating.

German Studies Review

Listening Awry

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

ONE The Rise ofthe Conductor and the Missing One
TWO Franz Schubert’s “Die Stadt”and Sublime (Dis)pleasure
THREE Music and the Birth of Psychoanalysis: Anton Webern’s Opus 6, no.4
FOUR Left! Right! Left! Right! Music,Bodies,Fascism
FIVE Closing the Wound: Parsifalby Richard Wagner and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

Notes

Index