Music and the Crises of the Modern Subject

Music and the Crises of the Modern Subject

Klein, Michael L.
Distribution: World
Publication date: 07/06/2015
Format: Hardback 27 music exx.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01720-8
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Departing from the traditional German school of music theorists, Michael Klein injects a unique French critical theory perspective into the framework of music and meaning. Using primarily Lacanian notions of the symptom, that unnamable jouissance located in the unconscious, and the registers of subjectivity (the Imaginary, the Symbolic Order, and the Real), Klein explores how we understand music as both an artistic form created by "the subject" and an artistic expression of a culture that imposes its history on this modern subject. By creatively navigating from critical theory to music, film, fiction, and back to music, Klein distills the kinds of meaning that we have been missing when we perform, listen to, think about, and write about music without the insights of Lacan and others into formulations of modern subjectivity.

Author Bio

Michael Klein is Professor of Music Studies at Temple University. He is author of Intertextuality in Western Art Music (IUP, 2004) and editor (with Nicholas Reyland), of Music and Narrative since 1900 (IUP, 2012).


In this scintillating, endlessly thought-provoking book, Michael Klein amplifies musical understanding in fundamental ways—nothing less. He shows, beyond question or cavil, how advanced thinking about subjectivity and language can fold into the interpretation of music, and more, how such thinking resonates with the experience of music. His primary resources are Jacques Lacan and Gilles Deleuze, whose musical pertinence he establishes decisively in a series of readings in which philosophy, psychoanalysis, literature, movies, and music—among other things—continually comment on each other. The results are fresh, unexpected, and revealing. And there is nothing the least bit arcane about any of this. This book is wholly down to earth, inimitably so. No matter how challenging the ideas—and they should be challenging—they never lose touch with nor fail to illuminate the ways in which we and music together struggle to ground the sense of being an actual person in an actual world.This volume offers a remarkably perceptive, virtuosic reading of the current culture of Western art music in the light of the psychological and critical work of Lacan and other contemporary theorists. Michael Klein is at the top of the field in the degree to which he has absorbed and internalized all this work, so that he can move effortlessly from Theory to music, to novels, to psychology, back to music, to movies, and on and on, all the while writing with a unique voice and a flair for the pithy turn of phrase, that keeps us engaged and hungry for more, all the way to the end.

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Table of Contents

1. Music and the Symptom
2. The Acoustic Mirror as Formative of Auditory Pleasure and Fantasy: Chopin's Berceuse, Brahms's Romanze, and Saariaho's "Parfum de l’instant"
3. Debussy and the Three Machines of the Proustian Narrative
4. Chopin Dreams: the Mazurka in C# Minor as Sinthome
Intermezzo: On Agency
5. Postmodern Quotation, the Signifying Chain, and the Erasure of History
6. Lutosawski, Molar and Molecular
Works Cited

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