Seth Brodsky

Seth Brodsky
Associate Professor in the Department of Music and in the Humanities;
Goodspeed 405
PhD, Eastman School of Music, 2007; BA, Wake Forest University, 1997
Research Interests: 20th- and 21st-century music; modernisms; influence and intertextuality; music and philosophy; critical theory; psychoanalysis; voice

My scholarly and critical work pursues a number of related lines of inquiry. The first concerns music of the 20th and 21st centuries, in particular the field of “composerly production,” with all the openness this connotes: how is “the composer” constructed, and how does she function culturally, discursively, technologically, mythically? A second line of inquiry involves the role of unconscious processes, particularly as figured in psychoanalytic discourse, in the making and experiencing of music. Here I’m especially interested in musical influence and intertextuality—what Lacan calls the “locus of the other”—in the work of living, recently deceased, or frequently resurrected composers. How, for instance, do contemporary composers fantasize and shepherd their affiliations with their musical past and precursors, and what role does the psychoanalytic unconscious play in these fantasies? 

My current projects revolve around the notoriously slippery concept of repetition. In particular, I’m interested in thinking about aesthetic modernism less as a proverbial “search for the new” then as a larger project in resisting or “breaking” repetition, whether it be the repetition of forms, laws, and languages, of genres and styles, or of themes, patterns, motives, etc. What ramifications does this resistance have for music as a repetitive practice—as a way of practicing repetition, but also of performing its very possibility?


From 1989, or European Music and the Modernist Unconscious (University of California Press, Jan. 2017). See also:
     “Listening in, hearing back”
     “Eric Drott reviews From 1989”, Critical Inquiry

“Waiting, Still, or Is Psychoanalysis Tonal?,” Opera Quarterly 32/4 (2016): 281-315.

“Are Sounds Just Sounds or Are They Cage? Five Writings Around Cage’s Influence on Contemporary Composers”, in Each Is at the Center: Essays for the Centenary of John Cage (Northwestern University Press, forthcoming 2019).

Rihm, Tonality, Psychosis, Modernity,” Twentieth-Century Music 15/2 (2018): 147–186.

the child at the piano, fumbling: A Hauskonzert,” Perspectives of New Music55/1 (2017): 145–206.

"Remembering, Repeating, Passacaglia: Weak Britten," Acta Musicologica88/2 (2016): 165–92.

“Britten as Another. Six Notes on a Mystic Writing Pad”, in Great Shakespeareans, Vol. 11: Berlioz, Verdi, Wagner, Britten, ed. Daniel Albright, Continuum Press 2012), 158-203.

“This was not meant for you”, in Arturo Herrera/David Schutter, Collages & Drawings, 10 September—9 October 2010 (Tony Wight Gallery, Chicago 2010), 13-16.

“‘… write the moment …’: Two Ways of Dealing With Wolfgang Rihm 1”, in The Musical Times 145 (Autumn 2004), 57-71.