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.”
The Composer, the Musicologist, His Wife, and Her Lover: on Lacan’s Relevance to Music.
Directions of New Music (2).