Sibelius Academy logoDr Christopher Wiley has presented a paper at the Radical Music History Symposium 2011 hosted by the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki on 8-9 December 2011. His paper was entitled ‘Musical Biography and the Myth of the Muse’, and discussed the portrayal of women in biographies of the Great Composers who, though silenced throughout much of the text, suddenly came into view at critical junctures in life-writing on their male associates as rhetorical signifiers of the increasing power of their creative genius. Chris argued that musical biography thereby became complicit in women’s historical effacement by casting them in the role of vessels for the stimulation of artistic creation in men, implicitly denying them the possibility of undertaking such activities themselves while simultaneously linking them inextricably to those of associated male composers. Chris concluded by demonstrating some ways in which this model, for its longevity and the robustness with which it has been perpetuated, yields profound consequences for more recent writing of the lives of women composers as well as for contemporary feminist musicology’s project to deconstruct and critique musical canon.

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