The Desiring Subject, or Subject to Desire: <i>Arcadelt</i>

Susan McClary

in Modal Subjectivities

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780520234932
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520929159 | DOI:
The Desiring Subject, or Subject to Desire: Arcadelt

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What is desire? Does it emanate from that part of the individual recognized as “the Self,” or does it spring up unbidden as an independent force and drive the Self in directions contrary to “the will?” And, given that these and still other possible understandings may occur at various times within the boundaries of a single human organism, what do they imply with respect to the definition of subjectivity? The twentieth century put such questions in the foreground of psychoanalytic theory, which trickled down quite rapidly into the arts and cultural criticism. Because the madrigal from the very outset seeks to simulate through music the interiority of desiring subjects—or selves subject to desire—it offers an extraordinary site for investigating the history of Selfhood. This chapter looks at a particular historical moment and the ways in which its musicians understood subjectivity: how sixteenth-century composers rendered in music notions of selfhood, interiority, and passions, focusing on one of the earliest architects of musical desire, Jacques Arcadelt.

Keywords: Self; musical desire; Jacques Arcadelt; subjectivity; madrigal; composers; interiority; passions

Chapter.  8777 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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