Schubert’s “Heidenröslein” is sprightly and cheerful, but it sings of a woman’s rape. This article maps out the political implications of the song’s multiple alibis, drawing on reception history and post-Freudian lessons on listening. Schubert’s music engenders myths about hearing that resonate with musicology’s material turn and the postcritical attention to attachment, enchantment, and presence. “Heidenröslein,” however, reveals music’s charm not as a reliable harbinger of freedom—from disembodiment, epistemological certitude, or metaphysical abstraction—but as an occasional captor, liar, and false informant. Slavoj Žižek’s taxonomy of violence prompts a new reflection on Schubert’s song, which centers on what I theorize as “inaudible violence.” This violence complicates Schubert’s seemingly progressive relationship to questions of gender and sexuality, as well as the ethics of postcritical affective attachment. Schubert’s song, ultimately, gives voice to a philosophy of music’s inaudible violence. It calls for a psychoanalytic archaeology of acoustic acts and artifacts that encourages attention to musical sound’s ethical misgivings, which, when not overlooked, may just be overheard.
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Research Article| April 01 2023
On Inaudible Violence and the Postcritical Musicology: Rehearing Schubert’s “Heidenröslein”
Truman See’s current research concerns the global, transtemporal liveliness of nineteenth-century European musical artifacts and practices in conjoined histories of liberalism and colonialism. His first article, “Hear My Desire: Rachmaninov’s Orphic Voice and Musicology’s Trouble with Eurydice” (19th-Century Music), was awarded the 2022 Roland Jackson Award of the American Musicological Society.
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Journal of Musicology (2023) 40 (2): 180–212.
Truman See; On Inaudible Violence and the Postcritical Musicology: Rehearing Schubert’s “Heidenröslein”. Journal of Musicology 1 April 2023; 40 (2): 180–212. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2023.40.2.180
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