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Symposium 125 Situated Sensibilities and the Need for Coherence: Musical Experience Reconsidered Deanne Bogdan Let me begin with a disclaimer. When we were first considering this topic as a panel, the events of September 1 1 were fresh and raw indeed . I was personally hesitant about being involved in the PES session at all even though I had helped to conceptualize it because I wasn't sure that I could handle it emotionally.1 Then I was suffering from what Iwould call a major"feeling, power, and location problem." Elsewhere I have described this "problem" not in terms of inadequacy , deficiency, or lack, but as a state ofmind understood as psychic difficulty confronting a situation (including textual and/or aesthetic experiences) arising from conditions of time, place, social location, andrelativesenseofcontrol over one's environment.2 As one might have expected, with the passing of time, it became easierto speak and theorize about the arts in what has come to be known as "the aftermath of9/1 1 ." My contribution to this topic explores the relationship between the ethical imperative for situated knowing in the arts and the irreducible propulsiontowards wholeness and self-identityin aesthetic experience that seemed to follow in the wake of September 11. Soon afterwards, some films,TVprogramming,andevenmuseumexhibitions were either revised or withdrawn altogether from the consuming public for fear of being too closeto theboneofreality. Aesthetic distance was foreshortened almostto extinction, andproclamations about the end of irony rang forth in North America's cultural community.3 Concurrently, citizens immediately turned to particular kinds of literature, music, and other arts as a source of psychological healing and spiritual refuge. This trend parallels the tension between artists' selfcensorship and their conscious sensitivity to the feeling, power, and location problems ofrespondents inaesthetic experience.Theseinturninvoke the very definition and educational role of aesthetic experience itself, thenatureofart to say/not say things, and the ethical responsibility entailed in both. Ethical responsibility in matters aesthetic is one aspect ofwhat I take to be answerability. In this paper I shall focus on how the conflicts and tensions between answerability and the symbolic powerofmusicimpingeonpedagogical decisions. The aftershocks of September 11 foreground the apparently unresolvable dichotomy between the power of musical art to address directly the pre-discursive realm ofthe collective unconscious, to get "beneath interpretation," in the words of Richard Shusterman,4 and music's mimetic force. My paper explores how this relationship plays out when the knowing subject, individually and collectively, is in extremis. A pre-September 1 1 example ofwhat I mean occurs in Caryl Clark's 1997 essay, in which she traces the historical and political processes surrounding the decision ofthe Council ofEurope in 1971 to adopt Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as the official anthemofthenew EuropeanUnion. The Committeeinits wisdom"apparentlywithoutmusicologicalcounsel -'agreedunanimously' [that] 'Beethoven 's music was representative of European genius and capable ofunitingthehearts and minds of all Europeans,'" but because of the historical and political controversy over the "Germanness" of the Schiller text, the Committee members ultimately recommended "for the time being, . . . only the tune for a European anthem, without words, ... to allow some time to pass. One day perhaps some words will be adopted by the citizens of Europe with the same spontaneity as Beethoven's eternal melody has been."5 Yet, as Clark rightly notes, that wordless anthem "spoke volumes about the still fragile underpinnings of the new Europe."6 One aspect of the problem posed above is the answerability of the musical artwork as a wordless icon. For example, Richard Strauss's Metamorphosen, considered by many to be the greatest ofhis final orchestral works, was written in the aftermath ofWorld War ? and is regarded as unrivalled within western art music as an elegy for anation's culture. Accordingto the linernotes on my CD ofthe piece, "The writing for strings is masterly . . . , and the music grows from its opening phrases into one seamless arc ofinterweaving 126 Philosophy of Music Education Review melodies and coalescing textures."7 Yet one of those melodic quotations is from Wagner's Tristan , generallythought to have presaged the Holocaust . Moreover, Strauss himselfis a controversial figure, his whole oeuvre clouded by his possible complicity with Nazism. This example serves to highlightthetheoreticaldifficulty, especiallynow, post-September 11, of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-3412
Print ISSN
1063-5734
Pages
pp. 125-128
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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