Mémoire: on Music and Deconstruction


  • Alan Street




aesthetics, allegory, critical theory, deconstruction, difference, ideology, music, musicology, music theory and analysis, organicism, postmodernism, poststructuralism, semiotics, unity


The exploration of poststructuralism's likely implications for musical interpretation has formed a distinctive contribution to the expanding ensemble of discourses admitted toAnglo-American musicology over the course of the past twenty years. A trend manifest since the later 1980s, its potential was sensed most strongly by a younger generation of music analysts concerned to trace the reflexive consequences of postmodern critical thought for the established canons of systematic theory. As acknowledged in a series of overview surveys by Monelle (1992), Krims (1998), Ayrey (1998) and Norris (2000), its most productive outcomes may be codified in relation to a generalised critique of aesthetic ideology. However, the  political consequences embodied in such modes of enquiry were largely displaced within a loosely defined 'New Musicology' throughout the 1990s as the effects of alterity became realigned with a critical programme based on individualised identity politics. The ramifications of difference continue to inform critical debate regarding the nature of musical unity (for instance, in the work of Agawu, Chua, Dubiel, Korsyn, Kramer, Morgan and others). However, this paper argues that the mediating role of artistic form ought not to be permitted to obscure the emancipatory capacity of deconstruction as affirmed by Derrida. In this respect, the message of resistance inscribed within poststructuralism should be seen as emblematic for the defence of musicology's academic status at a time when the discipline remains under  threat of institutional closure.


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How to Cite

Street, A. (2005). Mémoire: on Music and Deconstruction. Musicological Annual, 41(2), 105–116. https://doi.org/10.4312/mz.41.2.105-116