Chapter

Ghost Stories

Lawrence Kramer

in Musical Meaning

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780520228245
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928329 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520228245.003.0013
Ghost Stories

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This chapter begins by taking up the question of ownness or authenticity in a narrow aesthetic space, the idea and ideal of creative originality. Musical subjectivity is the main topic in this chapter, both in its own right and in relation to subjectivity in general. The subjectivity called forth musically stands as a simulacrum for an original subjectivity that appears only in the multiplication of simulacra. The reprise of the aria is literal, and its literalism suggests something more boxy than organic. Revenants do not have to worry about originality. They throw into question the romantic and modernist ideal of originality. Originality is based on a conception of sovereign, self-possessed subjectivity that is no longer viable. The great myth of originality requires the continual possibility of unoriginality in order to flourish. One impetus behind specific, self-identified musical revenants, figures of nameable return is to make audible the general scheme whereby music, precisely insofar as it is not original, reanimates the dead: music as magic, animal magnetism, healing touch, resurrection, life-support technology. Music often seems to seek or express the presence of a single originating voice, but this presence is always spectral no matter how real it may seem in the moment. The musical subject has a vivid personality but a nebulous identity. It can be endlessly impersonated but never identified with a person. It appears as a visitor or a visitant within anyone who adopts a subject position that some musical work or event can be felt to address, to uphold, and to call forth.

Keywords: cultural memory; mourning; myth of originality; musical subjectivity; simulacrum

Chapter.  13580 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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