Cavell and Deleuze

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This article attempts to elucidate the main characteristics of Stanley Cavell's philosophy of music by comparing it to the work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. The analysis begins from the simple observation that both philosophers affirmed and supported the broad outlines of the modernist project while rejecting musical experiments that went too far in the direction of abstraction, opacity, or self-indulgence. From this point of agreement, differences emerge between Cavell and Deleuze over exactly how philosophy might prescribe a virtuous, sober, or ethical version of musical modernism. Cavell's commitment to intentions, his frustration with the preponderance of precompositional schema sustained by rationalized composition, and his preoccupation with the practice of criticism lead him to develop a humanist metaphysics built around the responsibility of third parties to determine a fraudulent or insincere musical effort. Through recourse to Cavell and Deleuze's writings on music as well as their respective philosophies of language, I demonstrate how Cavell's position stands in clear methodological disagreement to the broadly inhuman and metaphysical orientation espoused by Deleuze. In the end, I demonstrate how the differences between the two philosophies reveal structural problems both confront in using a metaphysical position to prescribe a concrete musical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-120
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Music Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010

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