• Rebecca Day (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Beyond the Phallus: "Feminine" Closure in Brahms' Symphony No. 3

Society for Music Analysis TAGS conference 2014
Shortlisted for TAGS prize 2014

The gendered associations of the sonata principle - a discourse of conflict between a 'masculine' subject presented in alterity with a second 'feminine' subject before eventual masculine triumph - have caused much controversy, yet have created valuable space for social and critical theory to come into contact with music formal analysis. Published in the shadow of *Feminine Endings*, McClary's 'Narrative agendas in absolute music' has received less attention than her other works, yet provides a pragmatic approach to what she claims are the ideologically significant oppositions between self, Other, and the predetermined terms of resolution. Within this, however, her readings of Brahms's third symphony continues to perpetuate male hegemony within form, concluding ultimately that tonal resolution amounts to a 'violent destruction of identity.'
This paper aims to question McClary's gendered reading of the symphony by exploring the semiological implications of the specifically phallic associations in her work. Such associations are, I think, based on a misunderstanding of the relationship of the phallus to desire that has been reformulated since Freud to hold a more meaningful place within symbolic analyses. Lacan's theory of Sexuation charts the relationship to the phallus of Man (the One) and Woman (the Other) within the symbolic form of desire in a way that resists masculine hegemony. Using this as an alternative symbolic form, I will consider the ways in which Brahms's third symphony reacts to the conventions of closure in order to suggest that eventual submission to the tonic could be seen from a more positive feminine perspective.
Period3 May 2014
Event typeConference
LocationUnited KingdomShow on map