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       M U S I C          T H E O R Y         O N L I N E

                     A Publication of the
                   Society for Music Theory
          Copyright (c) 1994 Society for Music Theory
| Volume 0, Number 8      May, 1994        ISSN:  1067-3040   |

  All queries to: mto-editor@husc.harvard.edu
AUTHOR:  Killam, Rosemary N.
TITLE:  Feminist Music Theories--Process and Continua
KEYWORDS:  Feminist, Parton, Citron, McClary, Tower, Larsen, Frost, 
Rushin, Houston

Rosemary N. Killam
University of North Texas
College of Music
Denton, TX 76203

ABSTRACT:  Feminist music theories can usefully include concepts
of relationship, reflexivity, contextuality and subjectivity.
These theories can support diversity and individual experience
through celebrating performance and ritual, and can explore
process along with structure.  Two songs of Parton illustrate
relationships of modality and tonality.  The songs support
comparison and contrast of culturally-accepted means of
expansions of tonal centers.  Twentieth-century poets such as
Frost and Rushin illuminate relationships and the stress they
can bring to the originators. Recent compositions and writings of
Larsen and Tower add to our music theoretic concepts.

[1] Discussion of the centralities of feminist music theory
has been underway at every conference I have attended recently. 
Some of the most extensive feminist musical analyses have been
undertaken by musicologists, as exemplified by McClary's analysis
of Monteverdi, (McClary, 1991, 35-52) and Citron's analysis of
Chaminade.  (Citron, 1993, 145-164)  Theorists are beginning to
publish explicitly feminist music theories.  The following are
elements I consider relevant to formulations of a feminist music
theory.  Other theorists will have different parameters,
engendering the strengths described by Doane and Hodges (140-
141):  "because there are many feminisms, the movement does not depend
on the fortunes of a single leader or group.  We are accustomed
to think in terms of the powers associated with accumulation and
identity rather than the powers associated with dispersion and
rupture precisely because the conditions of discourse, based on
binary oppositions that preserve identity, insist that we do."
My current formulation will change.  I write now at a point
within the process of concept development.  No doubt, I will have
moved past this point by the time *Music Theory Online*, our
quickest means yet for framing the discourses among us, is
published.  This description forms no phallocratic inscription on
tablets of silicon, but serves as a signpost on the aural
journeys being mapped out by Marvin. (1994)

[2] *Current Centralities in Feminist Music Theory* Current
feminist music theories can be more supportive of us all if they
include men, as theorists, composers, musicians.  In addition,
these concepts should include music, musicians and theories
heretofore marginalized in the discourse of our discipline. 
Feminist theories can encompass supplementary ideas such as:

1.  They can be *relational* to current theoretical stances,
while deconstructing them.  Hekman's concepts of Derrida's work
can be useful here:
"Feminist deconstruction entails a radical restructuring of
western thought and practice, a fact that Derrida both
acknowledges and explicates in his work. . . .This discourse
speaks in a multiplicity of sexual voices; it is a discourse
which has no center, neither masculine nor feminine, yet does not
erase either the masculine or the feminine."  (Hekman, 1990, 175)

2.  They are *reflexive* of women's experiences, and will
circumvent imposing unilateral interpretive judgements.  They
will avoid framing musical theoretic discourses as private power
relationships which impose the theorist's interpretation on the
music, as well as the inverse, where the music theory is said to
be impelled by the force of musical masterworks.

3.  They can be *contextual*, recognizing the influences of
culture and history.

4.  They can be *supportive* of diversity and individual
experience.  Thus, recent research suggesting fundamental
differences in hearing music, such as those people with and
without absolute pitch, contains feminist aspects.  (Baczewski
and Killam, 1992)

5.  They can be *subjective*, avoiding false objectivity through
acknowledging the personal situatedness of our individual

6.  They can be *process-oriented*, including concepts of drama
and myth, noting that myth includes rather than excludes truth,
encompassing more of human experience than "simple" truth.
(Killam, 1993. 230-251)

7.  They can *celebrate* multiple relationships between music,
music theory and the cultures in which these relationships are
developed.  Feminist theories of music can acknowledge the
importance of performance and ritual in our mutual empowerment.
*Analytical Applications*

[3] As an example of musics and theories to be included in our
discussions, I suggest two songs written (and recorded) by Dolly
Parton.  The first, "Down from Dover,"  documents the desertion
of a young woman's lover and the death of her child.  The music
is modal and chantlike, with few clear dominant-tonic
relationships, depending instead on its horizontal melodic
relationships.  Parton modulates up a minor second for the last
verse, claiming an authenticity for her description of the
events. (Parton, 1993)  The second song is the recent hit, "I
Will Always Love You," written also by Parton and recorded by her
in 1973. (Parton, 1993)  This latter work has received wide
recent currency in performances by both Parton and Whitney
Houston, encompassing both Anglo and Afroamerican performance
practices.  This latter song is securely tonal, with the first
cadence sliding from a preliminary plagal to an authentic half,
prolonging and supporting what in retrospect is heard as a second
scale degree, which achieves final resolution only at the close. 
Houston's most-widely played recording of the song modulates up a
step for the last verse, as does Parton's "Down from Dover.  Both
songs present tonalities that stretch our concept of "beginning
and ending in the same key" in a way quite culturally acceptable,
particularly in religious celebratory music. Both Houston's and
Parton's performances combine elements of ritual and myth into
their musical interpretations of texts, one mourning the death of
love and the other proclaiming an eternity of love and caring of
one human for another.

[4] Recent music literature which incorporates concepts of
women's voices include Larsen's *Missa Gaia*, and Tower's
*Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman IV*, premiered during the 1992
Society for Music Theory Conference, with  several music
theorists in the audience.  Those attending will remember the
rhythmic and timbrel complexity of Tower's music, as well as her
explication of her compositional intent in her presentation to
the audience prior to the performance.  These latter works by
Tower and Larsen need fuller analysis than can be provided by me
at this preliminary point along the continuum of development of
feminist music theories. Larsen recently noted in a comment on
women's performance practices recently noted, "When Bessie Smith
slides from a flatted third to a major third she's not resolving
*anything*, and we both know it." (Larsen, 1994)  

[5] As a point of temporary closure, I hope that the processes
outlined in this article strengthen its readers.  I hope this
reading encourages more support for women, for music, for
musicians, for music theorists, and for all that we bring to
humanity.  I evoke Robert Frost's "Two Tramps in Mud Time," where
he summarizes, 

              My object in living is to unite 
              My vocation and my avocation 
              As my two eyes do one in sight.  (Frost, 1971, 114)

Yet, I acknowledge the anguish of Rushin's "The Bridge Poem":

              I must be the bridge to nowhere
              But my true Self
              And then 
              I will be useful.  (Rushin, 1993, 516) 

The process of creation of new music theories can be lonely and
painful:  may we continue to assist each other along the multiple
continua of our choices.

Baczewski, Philip and Killam, Rosemary N. 1992. "Perception of a
   Musical Construct by Musicians with Absolute Pitch."  Presented
   at the Second International Conference on Music and Cognition. 
   Los Angeles, CA.
Citron, Marcia J. 1993. *Gender and the Musical Canon*.
   Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press. 145-164.
Doane, Janice and Devon Hodges. 1987. *Nostalgia and Sexual
   Difference:  The Resistance to Contemporary Feminism*.  New York
   and London:  Methuan.
Frost, Robert. 1971. "Two Tramps in Mud Time."  *New Enlarged
   Anthology of Robert Frost's Poems*.  New York:  Washington Square
Hekman, Susan J. 1991. *Gender and Knowledge:  Elements of a
   Postmodern Feminism*. Boston:  Northeastern University Press.
Killam, Rosemary N. 1993. "Women Working:  An Alternative to
   Gans." *Perspectives of New Music* 31, no. 2 (Summer): 231-252.
Marvin, Elizabeth W. 1994.  "Can We Hear Retrograde
   Inversion?--Sex Differences in Recognizing Melodic 
   Transformations". Paper presented at the University of North
   Texas, Denton, Texas.
Larsen, Libby. 1994. Letter to Killam, January 6.
Larsen, Libby. 1992. *Missa Gaia:  Mass for the Earth*. Boston:
   E. C. Schirmer Music Company.
McClary, Susan. 1991. *Feminine Endings:  Music, Gender and
   Sexuality.*  Minnesota:  University of Minnesota Press. 35-52.
Parton, Dolly. 1993. "Down from Dover" and "I Will Always Love
   You" on *The RCA Years, 1967-1986*. New York:  BMG Music.
Rushin, Kate. 1993 (1983). "The Bridge Poem,"  in *Feminist
   Frontiers III*. Edited by Laurel Richardson and Verta Taylor. New
   York:  McGraw-Hill. (Published originally in *This Bridge Called
   My Back:  Writings by Radical Women of Color*, edited by Cherrie
   Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua. New York:  Kitchen Table: Women of
   Color Press.)
Tower, Joan. 1992. *Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman IV*. Premiered
   by the Kansas City Symphony, October 16.


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