Published in RMA Newsletter Vol. XVIII, No. 1, April 2014, Page 8
This RMA-SMA study day took place on 13 November 2013 at the University of Liverpool music department. There were eight papers plus a poster presentation from Georgina Gregory (University of Central Lancashire), whose Freudian interpretation of songs by the Beach Boys revealed fascinating semantic insights. Also arguing from an intersubjective perspective, Jennifer Carlberg (University of Leeds) distinguished between emotions, which are released, and affects, which are experienced. She focused on the Pretenders’ production process and suggested that the producer himself can also contribute to the creative ‘effects’ of the song. Rachel Darnley-Smith (University of Roehampton) subsequently shared her clinical experiences of working with mental health through music therapy. Jung’s idea of ‘active imagination’ has been instrumental for Darnley-Smith in enabling the improvisatory process to be perceived as an unconscious one so as not to restrain performers and listeners to certain musical expressions.
Jun Zubillaga-Pow (King’s College London) discussed how the affective struggle against everyday musicking can be both physical and psychical. He interrogated the definition of resistance, vis-à-vis the ability and desire to resist, as one that is both intimate and plastic. Putting theory to practice, Ross Cole (University of Cambridge) scrutinized the prevailing idea of folk musical revival that exists without an authentic source. Using Lacan’s ‘quilting point’ as an anchor, he deliberated upon how ‘folk’ qua the oppressed low others rely on the popular as a ideological ‘symptom’ to negotiate their positions with the gatekeepers of cultural history quasi ‘dancing puppets’ caught between the performative and the simulacrum. In the same vein, Alexi Vellianitis (University of Oxford) illustrated how cultural objects – from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to an episode of South Park entitled ‘Britney’s New Look’ – have erected certain ideological limits between desire and jouissance. Alluding to the violence and murder in Freud’s Totem and Taboo, Vellianitis contended that Stravinsky’s neoclassicism is analogous to an ethical ‘patricide’ of Classical tonality.
Moving on to history and analysis, Carly Rowley (Liverpool Hope University) explored the historical and textual contexts from which Anthony Burgess has set D. H. Lawrence’s poems to music. Situating Lawrence’s interest in the Jungian unconscious within the mind–body dualism, Rowley eked out the corporeal aspects of Burgess’s song cycle. Sam Wilson (Royal Holloway, University of London) paralleled the techniques of dream analysis to those of musical analysis in his paper on Valentin Silvestrov’s First String Quartet. Centring on the whole-tone figure as a possible motive for metonymic prolongation, Wilson proposed the presence of displaced ‘residues’ that form points of semantic affinity. Henry Zajaczkowski (independent) deciphered Tchaikovsky’s relationship with his mother by comparing utterances in a dream episode with lyrics from a contemporaneous opera: ton beau and tombeau. Zajaczkowski concluded that the composer’s paradoxical attitudes towards his late mother and his own character exemplify the Kleinian model of a paranoid-schizoid defence. Other key ideas such as libido, reality and queer were addressed at the final round table by Bruno de Florence (ICONEA), David Bard-Schwarz (University of North Texas), Kenneth Smith and Freya Jarman (both University of Liverpool).
Jun Zubillaga-Pow is a Ph.D. candidate in music history at King’s College London.