Maria Callas and music’s scandal

Barthes understood the erotics of music as an embrace. As such, music is more than meaning. It beats like the heart; it throbs, quivers, tenses, relaxes. Its pleasures occur again and again, a repeatable, not single, ecstasy. If this kind of music making is semantically and experientially akin to the orgasmic—profoundly physical but also exceeding the physical—at a time when music itself as a practice is culturally marked as female, then music’s scandal is still more serious than I have suggested… Barthes’s insight is that making music, unlike “mere” listening, necessarily brings the sensual body “back” into the equation.
Richard Leppert, The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation, and the History of the Body
The photo is by Horst P. Horst, c. 1956. The Lucia duet features Giuseppe di Stefano and is conducted by Tullio Serafin, from Callas’s 1953 recording of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

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