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Improper Historiography: Mahler, the Rhizome and Economies of Proliferation

Barham, JM (2011) Improper Historiography: Mahler, the Rhizome and Economies of Proliferation In: Radical Music History Symposium, 2011-12 - ?, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland.

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The rhizomatic, non-hierarchical model of historiography propounded by Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and others has been criticized for potentially dislodging history from its ‘proper’ sphere towards ‘structural atemporalities’. In turn, adherents claim that ‘History is an inaccessible limit’, ‘a transcendental idea’ that cannot be written; instead there exists an incoherent, incomplete and chaotic flux of ramifications that does not lend itself to forms of ordered, teleological representation. This paper assesses both the advantages of liberating historical thinking in music from notions of cause and effect and the disadvantages of such utopian denial of origins. Mapping the proliferation of Mahler’s music from the perspective of his current anniversary year in the light of these oppositions is revealing. On the one hand, a music which itself supposedly questioned bourgeois cultural hierarchies has become a pillar of the establishment. The seemingly perverse notion of rescuing the history of an unfavoured Mahler has been posited. Historicizing of Mahler in the ‘republic of minds’ and among the codified myths of the popular imagination seems to be complete. On the other hand, Mahler’s pluralist, heterogeneous impulse for appropriation, absorption and re-working has been reflected back on to him with added intensity by, for example, Schnittke, Uri Caine, Stephen Goss, and in the multifarious cinematic and sound-installation recontextualizations of his works. The free flow of lateral associative offshoots—irregular, less consciously determined, or inadvertent—appears to abound in Mahler’s diversely embedded allusions to, among others, his own music, Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, Johann Strauss, folk, pseudo-folk, and popular material. A brief case study of the Deleuzian ‘plateau’ embracing Mahler’s Third Symphony, Ketèlbey’s In a Monastery Garden, the Kahal/Fain song ‘I’ll be Seeing You’, The Beatles’s ‘Yesterday’, and the folk picture ‘Des Jägers Hochzeitsfest’ demonstrates the possibilities and impossibilities of the rhizomatic historical concept.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Barham, JM
Date : 2011
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 28 Mar 2017 13:44
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 15:01

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