Wild Women and the Posthuman Subject in Marcelle Deschênes’s Griffes (2000, 2002)

Saturday, Feb 25, 2023

9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

In the music of Marcelle Deschênes, issues of selfhood, nature, technology, and embodied experience are constantly recurring themes. Her music, in a way, can be seen as articulating a multiplicity of experience, which embraces the simultaneously active subjecthoods of creators, performers, listeners, technology, and nature. As a foil to stereotypical, male-centric notions of electroacoustic creativity, human subjectivity, technological agency, the natural world, and a multiplicity of human and non-human perspectives are brought into a multi-layered dialogue in her music. In this paper, I will examine Marcelle Deschênes’s Griffes (2000, 2002) for the ways in which issues of presence, selfhood, and embodiment are re-articulated, and the traditional dichotomies between “Man”/machine and nature/culture are complicated.

Griffes, a large-scale electroacoustic work split into two parts, Indigo (2000) and Le bruit des ailes (2000, 2002), is based on research into so-called “feminine” archetypes in fairytales and myths by two Jungian psychoanalysists, Marie-Luise von Franz and Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Estés’ notion of the “wild woman” archetype is particularly foundational to Griffes. According to Estés, “Wild Women”, metaphorically related to wolves, have been vilified, captured, killed, and tamed : “Over time, we have seen the feminine instinctive nature looted, driven back, and over built… The spiritual lands of Wild Women have, throughout history, been plundered or burnt, dens bulldozed, and natural cycles forced into unnatural rhythms to please others” (Estés, 1992, 3).  Griffes emerges as a musical evocation of Estés’s call to action for women to recapture their “spiritual lands” and “wolf-women Selves”.

Through theoretical lenses offered by posthumanism, particularly stemming from feminist discourses, I will discuss how Deschênes reformulates the boundaries of the self, and complicates traditional boundaries between technology and nature, and the human and non-human. Moreover, I will discuss how Deschênes, in Griffes and in her broader oeuvre, challenges the dominance of a stereotypically male-gendered subjectivity within electroacoustic creation, and allows for a broader exploration of the interconnected and dependent relationships between humans (itself a variegated category), nature, and technology.

Breanna Stewart

Breanna Stewart is currently a PhD student in Musicology at McGill University, with a master’s degree from McGill, as well as a BMus and BA in Music Honors from Acadia University.  Stewart’s past research has centered on issues of modernism, innovation/tradition dichotomies, and historiography in post-1945 French music, particularly the music of Henri Dutilleux. Her current research interests, however, have come to center on : music of the later-twentieth and twenty-first centuries, especially electroacoustic and Canadian music; gender and sexuality; maternal theory, motherhood, and theories of care; subjectivity; posthuman and new materialist theories; and musical environmentalism.