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The Uselessness of Ears

Musica AnaliticaPlenary lecture: The Uselessness of Ears

Keynote: The Uselessness of Ears

 Naomi Waltham-Smith is giving one of the plenary lectures at the Simpósio Música Analítica in Porto.



Another look at Haydn’s playful (mis)use of cadential formulas and at processes of cadential liquidation in late 18th-century repertoires gives occasion for developing a new theory of musical form that has its roots in philosophical scepticism about notions of property and sovereignty. In order to explain the creative and sometimes aporetic ways in which composers and listeners relate to musical material, I start by tracing the deconstruction of the Adornian dialectic between generic convention and particular expression—between proper and improper, and propriety and impropriety—and then complicate this opposition by way of a secondary distinction, cutting across the first, between musical material and its use. More specifically, I turn to the idea of usure that Derrida develops in his thinking about metaphor to show the negotiation between, on the one hand, the exhaustion or wearing out of musical material and, on the other, the usurious generation of surplus profit or potential for new adventures. In this way, I hope to show the fruitful and deleterious effects of a deconstructive, post-Adornian philosophy of musical form for analytical praxis.