- Special Guest Editor's NoteThe Cry of Music
This special issue would not have been possible without, first, Scott Michaelsen, who, back in 2015, suggested I guest-edit a special issue of CR on music. At that time, I did not feel at all prepared to accept such an undertaking, because music, for me at least, has been the most difficult topic about which to write; it still remains so today, and thus, for better or worse, there is no full-fledged article from me in this special issue. To be sure, it is not a resistance against writing about music. No: it has nothing to do with resistance; neither is it about repressing music. I do not deny that music has always played a large part in my life, academic and otherwise. With respect to the former, I readily acknowledge that my thoughts and writing have oftentimes, if not always, been propelled and borne by music: its beats, its rhythms, its melodic lines, its cadences. It is not just any music, of course. Music, for me, has to be very specific, and thus I am extremely selective of my listening materials. The music that has driven my thoughts or writings includes Arthur Grumiaux or Amandine Beyer playing Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo [End Page 1] Violin, Pierre Hantaï playing Bach on the harpsichord, Arthur Rubinstein's Chopin, Viktoria Mullova playing the Shostakovich Violin Concerto, Pierre-Laurent Aimard playing the Beethoven piano sonatas, Vermeer Quartet's Beethoven string quartets, Takács Quartet performing the Bartok string quartets, Artemis Quartet's Schubert's "Death and the Maiden," Claudio Abbado's Mahler symphonies with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Beethoven and Mozart symphonies, Gidon Kremer playing Glass's Violin Concerto and Desynatnikov's transcription of Piazzolla's Seasons; on the nonclassical side, music that has been influential includes Smashing Pumpkins's "Tonight, Tonight," Metallica's Black Album, Green Day's American Idiot, 30 Seconds to Mars, My Chemical Romance's Black Parade, most of Muse's albums and also those of Linkin Park. There is no denying, therefore, the trace of music in me, in my thoughts, and in my writing.
What happens, then, before music, is a feeling of powerlessness, a feeling of inadequacy on the part of all of the (limited) rhetorical resources I have or can harness, if not a feeling of all my writing, my thoughts, failing. Put another way, as I try to write in the face of music, writing and thinking only get torn up, torn apart, and writing and thinking are left only to weep at their own failures; or, as much as music cries out to me, my thoughts and writing cry in their inability to find a way to articulate whatever I want to say about music. The trouble is, moreover, not only at the level of content; I can never seem to find the right, or again adequate, form to accompany what I want to say about music. For example, as long as one remains within the printed form, musical examples about which I want to discuss must be referred to only as mere hyperlinks to either YouTube videos or Spotify tracks, which means that the experience of hearing the specific musical example must at least be deferred, the specific sound world always only imperfectly shared (if it is shareable at all, in the first place). In other words, music is always rendered painfully distant from the text. It is worse when the musical example is to be found only on an elusive audio CD format.
In any case, not long after Scott's suggestion, I met Christopher Swithin-bank, a music graduate student at Harvard who is invested at the same time in what can be called "French theory." In one of our conversations, he told me of the difficulty in finding publication avenues for works that deal with both [End Page 2] music and French theory. Indeed, most music journals are very discipline specific, and the "theory" that they would more generally accept is but compositional theories, and not matters of French thought. With regard to "theoretical" journals...