Dr Jun Zubillaga-Pow (email@example.com)
PhD, King’s College London, 2015
Plastic Resistance: A Psychopolitical Analysis of Beethoven Historiography
Based on historical and musicological texts and acts from the nineteenth to twenty-first century, this thesis proposes the concept of plastic resistance as an epistemological method to analyse the psychical and political perceptions of Beethoven’s life and music. Relying on the philosophy of Fichte and Lacan, I contend that the psychopolitics of this reception/resistance history is predicated critically on the musicians’ and listeners’ ability and affect to posit musical semantics unconsciously. I further argue that, during the negotiation of mastery, autonomy and subjectivity, the musical acts of composing, analysing and performing are influenced by psychical and political aesthetics. These affective resistances are buttressed by the psychoanalytical structures of neurosis, psychosis and perversion.
The thesis is divided into five chapters with the first two chapters setting the historical and theoretical backgrounds to various subjective actions and reactions that have created or destroyed musical meaning. The rest of the thesis place specific focus on more recent approaches to Beethoven’s piano sonatas and string quartets, as well as the plastic properties of their material resistance. In the first chapter, I trace a macrohistory of Beethoven reception in Western Europe and the United States from the nineteenth century to the present day. After an explication of the theoretical constitutions of the psychical resistance and the musical unconscious, I apply the ideas of inclusive and extractive resistances to show how the different attitudes towards Beethoven’s music result in creative and destructive institutions of musical hermeneutics. I reinforce the thesis of plastic resistance in the subsequent three chapters.
First, the act of notation as embodied in sketch processes traverses the imaginary, fantasmatic and hysterical phases, but only a mode of critical mastery can direct listeners towards sound musical knowledge. Second, the dialectical nature of musical meaning readily predetermines the psychotic capacity of the analytic act; analysts arguably become occupied with negotiating their semantic uncertainty with chance operations. Finally, musicians embody a form of performative perversion by externalising their plastic intimacy through affective gestures and subjective speech acts during rehearsals, interpretations, and performances. In conclusion, plastic resistance has exerted a significant psychopolitical force and transformed the epistemologies of Beethoven historiography.