Where’s the Here There?

I was cooking right along in Robert Fink’s “The Musicology of the Present,” or so I—at least I think it was I—thought.  Arriving at the end of the epigraph, I got stuck on something he did not say:

 . . . the musicologists are all off doing gender studies . . .

Off where?  The gender studies section is off somewhere?  Where?  And they’re all there?  Can you point me in the right direction?

(This was a while ago, and third-hand, so I realize it may be difficult.)

And then, there was something he did say but really didn’t:

. . . we became caught up in gender . . .

Gender is something that one can “[become] caught up in”?  Does that not mean it is something one can refrain from getting caught up in?  Or become not caught up in?  I suppose one can avoid going off, then.  Where they all are.

Speaking of where, I suspect that this subject, “we,” is decentered.  But I’m not sure, since I got my Lacan from “Žižek”—understandably, because Lacan tells me I do not exist.  I think it has something to do with “the subject [referring] to some decentered other to whom he or she imputes this belief.”  This sometimes gets confusing, because the externalized statement is mistakenly read as an earnest statement of the speaker rather than an implicit attribution to an absent but existent “we.”

Are you with me?

I predict there will be replies attributing this statement to Robert Fink.  Yup, there’s one.

But he did not advocate this statement; rather he inferred it,—or, better identified it—as something that seems to be here and there.  It can be worthwhile to reach out and grab these notions that float unacknowledged in the aether.

On the other hand, this he did say they said:

Richard Taruskin, like the equally prolix J.K. Rowling, has been adamant that the long narrative arc of his series is over, and there will be no sequels.

Well if the history of Taruskin is ended, we can at least probe a couple of years earlier into the history of musicology in order to consider the eminent scholar’s critique of John Adams’s “crybaby role.”  That is a statement this subject did pronounce.  More than once.

(Has J.K. Rowling weighed in on this yet?)

Kyle Gann reports a discussion about “narrative history”:

. . .  there won’t be any contemporary accounts of history for future gender studies scholars to work from.

From accounts, to where?  I am still finding it hard to locate things.  I gather we (whoever that is) record the data here (wherever that is) and now (this concept I think I understand), and later on (got it), the gender studies crew (the ones who are all off somewhere) comes in (here? or do they stay over there?) to do the gender part.  (Will there be gender studies scholars in the future?  And off where will they be?  [For that matter, will there be scholars in the future?])

There is a good example of this division of labor—accounting and gendering—close at hand.  Of Gann’s excellent book, “No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4′33”,”  Branden W. Joseph writes,

Refreshingly, Gann casually and straightforwardly acknowledges Cage’s homosexuality, although he relegates any reading of 4’33” as an act of thwarted expression in a period of widespread homophobia—as argued by Caroline Jones, Jonathan Katz, and, most recently, Philip Gentry, among others—to a footnote.(4)

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”  Gender is not where Gann’s silence is, but it is where some other subjects are speaking, and Joseph can point the way.

Cage, the man, is unlikely to have been glimpsed in person by anyone now under thirty, and few now living were present at the premiere of 4’33”, so he hardly counts as a present-day figure, except in his reverberations, which are loud.  This makes for an interesting compositional and musicological circumstance.  (Yale University Press anoints 4’33” an “icon”—alongside Wall Street, Joe DiMaggio, and the hamburger.  I think the word “icon” may have had a different constitution when they instituted their series.)

It is getting harder and harder to tell where “here” is and who “we” is,—I mean, are—and how, if “all” are “off” it could be considered “off” at all.  While I await further clarification on the topography, though I suspect it will change again before it is explained, here (!) are a few tidbits from my (I think) reading list:

Robert Fink on minimalism and opera; Kyle Gann on John Cage; Yayoi Uno Everett on Louis Andriessen; Naomi Cumming, and Sumanth Gopinath, on Steve Reich; Lydia Goehr on American opera (and John Cage); Michael Wyatt on Messaien; Majel Connery on Peter Maxwell Davies (and Thomas Adès); Lisa Coons on Laurie Anderson (and Diamanda Galás, and Antony and the Johnsons).  There is also Alice Miller Cotter’s current research on John Adams; Stefan Weisman’s dissertation on Yoko Ono; and more.  Oh, I have a few little things too, but I would not want to appear self-aggrandizing by recommending them.  Plus, there is the Internet.  And regarding 4’33”, don’t miss Branden W. Joseph’s “White on White” in Critical Inquiry, though it is not, strictly speaking, musicology (which one could say some of the others also are not).  I am not sure where to put it.  But I am glad to have it.

Where is “the near blackout of attention to contemporary composing?”  Is it here, or is it off somewhere?  How do I find it?  And when you throw a spitball, is it from here to there, or there to here?  I really want to know, because I’d rather not find one stuck on the back of my head.

Has anyone written about Laura Kaminsky’s opera “As One,” yet?  (Or Susan Narucki’s multiply authored Cuatro Corridos?  Or my Weakness, for that matter?)

Where is the data?  Where is the gender?  I do understand it comes second; that’s good to know.  Does the second shift pay time and a half?  And what comes after?

Cage Tacet


—Barbara A. White