I ended yesterday’s post by mentioning about the work of musicologist Susan McClary. The Wikipedia article about her musicological contributions explains her discovery that the Sonata form (the most basic form in Western music) is inherently misogynist, sexist, imperialist, to name a few of its crimes.
Not only is the sonata sexist, misogynistic and imperialistic, but “tonality itself – with its process of instilling expectations and subsequently withholding promised fulfillment until climax – is the principal musical means during the period from 1600 to 1900 for arousing and channeling desire.” As such, McClary interprets the sonata as being rooted in constructions of gender and sexual identity. To quote from the Wikipedia article,
The primary, “masculine” key (or first subject group) represents the male self, while the allegedly the secondary, “feminine” key (or second subject group), represents the other, a territory to be explored and conquered, assimilated into the self and stated in the tonic home key.
To the extent the Sonata form reached its peak in the music of Beethoven, he receives the harshest critique from McClary. In the January 1987 issue of Minnesota Composers Forum Newsletter, McClary wrote as follows about the Ninth Symphony:
The point of recapitulation in the first movement of the Ninth is one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release.