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Introduction “When you buy a record there are always cuts that leave you cold. You skip them. You don’t approach a record as a closed book that you have to take or leave. Other cuts you may listen to over and over again. They follow you. You find yourself humming them under your breath as you go about your daily business.”1 Brian Massumi urges readers to approach Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s books Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, the two volumes comprising Capitalism and Schizophrenia, as if they were music albums. He presents the record as a metaphor for vernacular reading practices , as a practical way to reconcile an arcane study with everyday life. For anyone working with art music, Massumi’s suggestion becomes a disciplinarity matter: it seems odd that a philosopher and political theorist should find music recordings more useful, conceptually and practically, than many musicians do. Though the recording has been “serious” music’s main vehicle of currency for at least twenty years now, American musicologists fail to give it or other mass media much ontological recognition beyond documentary functions. Such coverage as there is comes neither from musicians nor from musicologists, strictly speaking, but from media theorists and philosophers of aesthetics. Against the substantial work on recordings from nonmusicians like Michael Chanan, Kathleen Marie Higgins, Paul Thom, Stan Godlovitch, Lee B. Brown, and Theodore Gracyk, we need to place Simon Rattle’s conviction—not unusual in his field—that “music was not meant to sound like gramophone records,” music ontologist Roman Ingarden’s distancing of the recording from the composition by invoking “a record of a work in performance and not of the work itself,” and Harvard musicologist Lewis Lockwood’s anger that Bernard Rose dared make his Beethoven movie Immortal Beloved as a Hollywood film and not as a history textbook.2 1 This intellectual neglect of recordings and other media is emblematic of a wider oversight in American musicology: to judge from the scholarly literature in this country, there would seem to be no vernacular practice for so-called classical music.3 Recordings, films, and other media have enabled—or, more simply, are—vernacular practices with art music, and those music scholars who slight or ignore them are relics tending a relic discipline. If the same mind-set held sway in literary circles, we would be discussing the Bible as an object of oral transmission, Shakespeare’s dramas would be analyzed exclusively as works for the playhouse with seminars devoted to his stage directions, and Coleridge’s poems would be examined as inviolate wholes incapable of being excerpted or read in part, the final word immanent in the first. Musicologists speak enthusiastically of ethnography, the study of music “out in the field,” as used and practiced by ordinary people in ordinary life, but—perhaps out of some unspoken condescension—they tend to restrict such perspectives to popular and folk musics. Whence the discrepancy between literary critic and musician in attitudes toward media and colloquial practice? The differences must stem from contrary conceptions of the work, though in the end such an explanation raises more questions than it answers. For a literary critic like Massumi , the books by Deleuze and Guattari are latent or even “open” texts that are realized in the minds of their readers. In Massumi’s view, there can be no difference between a private and a public reading. For Rattle, Ingarden, and Lockwood, the musical work floats timeless and free of any particular performers and listeners and is therefore open to no vernacular practice. Performance of a Beethoven symphony or a Brahms sonata consists of a historically substantiated reading of an authenticated text. By way of contrast , Massumi discusses the Deleuze and Guattari books as printed lexical texts requiring no interpretation as commonly defined, and urges us to order and define them for ourselves. One could say Massumi’s representation is textually underdetermined, and Lockwood’s and Rattle’s textually overdetermined. Beyond this, Massumi encourages us actually to put these texts to use, and even instructs us how to do so. Historical musicology is the most scientistic of humanistic disciplines, and also the most inflexible with regard to textual conceptions. Musicologists like to build secure Euclidean universes out of paper and ink, or at least they do in the United States, and the record, CD, and MP3 file have suffered neglect because they can’t be picked up and read as easily and...


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MARC Record
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