Monday, October 22, 2007

Rereading McClary

From the introductory chapter of Feminine Endings, commenting on Edward T. Cone's attempt to circumvent the "feminine cadences" in Chopin's Polonaise in A:

"Cone is concerned here with 'butching up' a polonaise, a genre that is distinguished from other dances by what [Willi] Apel labels as 'feminine' endings. Now, Chopin's polonaise is a remarkably vigorous, even aggressive composition, and I would argue that it is precisely the emphatic stres on the second ('weak') beat that gives the polonaise its arrogant swagger, its quality of always being poised to plunge into the next phrase. But given that this technicality is conventionally classified as 'feminine,' Cone feels the need to rescue the piece from its 'incorrigibly feminine' endings. He can do so only by violating Chopin's score and in effect weakening the rhythmic integrity of the composition. But at least then the cadences won't sound 'feminine' (even if the resulting performance concludes with what sounds like a failure of nerve, a normalization that 'corrects' the groove's idiosyncrasy)." (10-11)

My only brief comment for now will be that I find it interesting that McClary adopts a discourse so similar to Cone's. "Failure of nerve," "weakening of the rhythmic integrity"... More later, I'm sure

EDIT: more:

She goes on (11) to suggest that Cone is (silently) reading feminine cadences as "excess" (which is possible) and as "refus[ing] the hegemonic control of the barline." I agree with the possibility of reading feminine cadences as excess, though I have not begun to theorize it so. My inclination would not be to go in McClary's direction with the term. In fact, I would argue provisionally that Cone is the one trying to transgress the tyranny of the barline, and that a properly feminine cadence, with all its conservative baggage, can exist only within the ostensibly masculine framework of a "strong" feeling of meter.

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