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Abstract

Analyzing music involves figuring out “how it works.” This oft-repeated description is a curious one, for it assumes that the analyst already knows what work the music does. Music, however, “works” only under certain forms of practice: listening, performing, composing, theorizing, dancing, and so on. This dissertation investigates, in both theoretical and historical terms, the sort of work music does under the set of practices referred to as analysis. It argues that analysis can produce not only knowledge about pieces of music—a fact widely acknowledged by both its advocates and critics—but also “selfhood,” a way of being outside the forms of subjectivity that impose themselves on the analyst. This reconceptualization of analysis as a practice of the self draws on the ideas of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and Peter Sloterdijk to rethink the ethics of analysis. Rather than working to shape analysts’ relations of power to others, I argue that modern analysis can establish a relationship of mutual resistance between the forms of subjectivity imposed on historical individuals, thereby producing “selves” who are aware of these forces and thus capable of ethical responsibility with respect to them. One of these subjective forms is “music,” which is understood to include not only the experience of specific musical sounds, but also Romantic discourses that construct musical experience as both transcendent and replicable through practices of listening, composition, and performance. The other form of subjectivity consists of institutionalized forms of Enlightenment reason that make equally absolute demands on the individuals such as the law, the state, education, and religion. Historically, the condition of being subject to music on the one hand and institutionalized forms of knowledge and conduct on the other first obtains in nineteenth-century German culture. The second part of this dissertation examines two influential music theorist-analysts in light of this thesis. The first is Gottfried Weber (1779–1839), best known for popularizing Roman numeral harmonic analysis of classically tonal pieces and the concept of harmonic ambiguity (Mehrdeutigkeit). I argue that Weber’s analytic practice derived not only from the music he studied, but also from his lifelong professional work as a lawyer and judge in the Rhenish territories of Baden and Hesse following the fall of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and the adoption of the Code Napoléon shortly thereafter. I show how the dialectic between these two forms of subjectivity was worked out largely through Weber’s analytic engagement with the music of Mozart. The second case study focuses on Adolf Bernhard Marx (1795–1866), the first theorist to offer a systematic theory of “sonata form.” I argue that Marx’s theory of form arises not simply from a close engagement with the music of Beethoven, but also through the politics of Jewish assimilation in Prussia in the so-called Age of Emancipation (1781–1871). The culmination of that theory in sonata form, which integrates two different themes into a greater whole, is rooted in a particular manifestation of Jewish assimilation. In turn, Marx’s analytic engagement with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony illustrates the impossibility of perfect fidelity to both musical and political forms of subjectivity, while simultaneously showing how Marx created a self that could live, however precariously, beyond the reach of either.

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