There are two kinds of thing called the wolf : one is acoustic and music adjacent; the other is biomaterial. Together, they are an instance of what Donna Haraway called “figures”: that is, “material-semiotic nodes or knots in which diverse bodies and meanings co-shape one another.” This essay begins by observing these wolves in London, ca. 1806, where both conjured anxious musings on the human relationship to nature. From there, the perspective widens geographically and historically, to situate the figure of the wolf within a wider history of repressed animalia in Western art music.
This article brings together two instances of “quirk” objects that are remote from one another in genre and time (Rousseau’s Pygmalion and a Busby Berkeley dance number), in order to put pressure on the explanatory power of historical context within musicology.