Are there traces of deconstruction in contemporary musical thought? Traces of post-structuralism? Although it is important to note at the outset that they are not fully related terms, deconstruction and post-structuralism are often bracketed (cf. Culler, p.28). According to Culler, deconstruction can be read as either a precursor of a post-structural situation or a subset of post-structuralism. (Nevertheless, the term 'post-structuralism' sits oddly with deconstruction. Derrida does not refute the structuralist claim that binary oppositions are the predominant principle of meaning. In this sense, his philosophy is structuralistic and not post-structuralistic. Maybe Derrida offers a structuralist critique of structuralism: what separates him from structuralism is his concern to bring to light the play of differences in structure, the experience of temporality, a critique on the static concept of the sign.)
 Post-structuralism has proved pivotal in refashioning our image of society and knowledge. It has done so by proposing alternatives that urge a shift in focus, from issues of class, individualism and materialism, to a focus on discourses, identities (differences) and cultural codes. Nevertheless, reflection upon music has been minimally affected by post-structuralism up until now. While post-structuralism stands out as one of the most important intellectual developments that has occurred within the humanities since the late 1950's, musicology, music theory and music analysis have neither been affected by, nor contributed to this philosophical enterprise (cf. Shepherd and Wicke; cf. Seidman). (According to Steve Sweeney-Turner, the reason the reception of deconstruction within musicology has been hampered is probably due to its philosophical complexity (cf. Sweeney-Turner, 1995, p.183.) In his review essay 'Disciplining Deconstruction (For Musical Analysis)', Adam Krims indicates that musicologists who are writing about deconstruction are often ignoring its radical implications.)
 Especially in the USA during the 1990's, a (small) number of essays have been published in which music and deconstruction are interrelated. Authors that have published work on this subject include Rose Subotnik, Lawrence Kramer, and Susan McClary. Here, I am primarily interested in the arguments to to deal with deconstruction and music. This 'emergent desire' (Sweeney-Turner) for musicology to finally engage with contemporary critical discourse in general and deconstruction in particular is commonly regarded as a bare necessity. Accordingly, its formulation springs from a certain negativity. The need is incited by a twofold observation from these (and other) musicologists. First of all, they detect an increasing isolation of classical music in particular. Secondly, musicological discourse threatens to enter a similar isolation as well. By engaging in a more general cultural debate, they try to prevent both from happening.
 Such thinkers as Kramer, McClary and Leppert specifically denounce the hermetic musicological discourse and emphasize the necessity to try to join a broader cultural discourse. Meanwhile, other musicologists and music sociologists warn against yet another danger that this may conjure; namely, that music 'itself' will not be written about at all anymore. In Deconstructive Variations, Rose Subotnik observes that thinking on music is going through some rough times. 'As I see things, generally speaking, Western art music is beginning to go out of fashion as a topic of study ... Certainly in the world of pop music today, writing about music usually means writing about everything except music' (Subotnik, p.xx and p.xxiv). Music sociologists John Shepherd and Peter Wicke subscribe to these remarks. With regard to prevalent sociological studies on popular music, they write: 'It is not music that is being discussed. The object of study is often the linguistic discourses that are constructed around musical practices' (Shepherd and Wicke, p.1. cf. also p.103). Alf Björnberg discussed the conflict between musicologists and mass media theorists. While the former have focused on the music, the latter have regularly ignored the musical structure, concentrating instead on extra-musical aspects. According to Björnberg, this is largely due to 'the expert status of music-analytical discourse and the concomitant reluctance on the part of 'non-experts' to regard such analysis as relevant to a context-oriented understanding of music and its cultural significance' (cf. Edström, p.58).
 After this survey of reasons as to why several 'new musicology' authors want to open music to post-modern and deconstructive readings, I now propose to focus attention as to how they have done so. Out of necessity, I must restrict myself to two (perhaps non-representative) examples: Susan McClary's remarks on the sonata form, and Rose Subotnik's double reading of Chopin's A-Major Prelude.
 In Feminine Endings. Music, Gender, and Sexuality, Susan McClary wants to read the musical repertoire 'against the grain'. Although an explicit reference to Derrida's work appears only once - in an end note - occurs, her work may be regarded as deconstructive. In discussing works of music, composers and musicians, she aims to undermine binary oppositions and to bring 'the other', the subordinate, the marginal, the secondary, to the fore (cf. Hierarchical Oppositions) . For example, by a deconstruction of the sonata form. Usually two themes are exposed in the first part of the sonata, the exposition. The first or principal theme is set in the main key or tonic, while the second theme appears in a different key. Opposite the harmonically stable principal theme is the unstable second theme. It becomes immediately clear from this that the second theme is subordinate to the principal theme (according to classic harmony). It is a supplementary theme, hierarchically subordinate to the principal theme, subordinate to the tonic. Now, McClary shows that this hierarchical relation is being undermined in and through the sonata itself. She cites the following passage from the New Grove Dictionary: 'The 'sonata principle' requires that the most important ideas and the strongest cadential passages from the second group reappear in the recapitulation' (McClary, p.15). The recapitulation. The concluding third part of the sonata form. This part that should take care of a good outcome, i.e., where the triumph of the 'self' over the 'other' would have to take shape, is, in a sense, 'fouled' by the material from the subordinate second theme. Still, the hierarchical relation is maintained here. The self seems to defeat the other. Why? Because the second theme is played here in the principal key, which results in the disappearing of the initial unstable character. More important, therefore, is McClary's observation that the second theme and its key are necessary to the sonata or tonal plot. 'Without this foil or obstacle, there is no story' (McClary, p.15). The second theme presents a threat to the principal theme, both thematically and harmonically, as far as preserving its own identity is concerned. But, McClary writes, '... the self [the principal theme, MC] cannot truly be a self unless it acts: it must leave the cozy nest of its tonic, risk the confrontation' (McClary, p.69). The identity of the one (theme), the self, is confirmed and enhanced in the difference with the other, the other. This other, the supplementary or secondary, becomes a necessary condition for the existence of the primary, the self. The initial hierarchy seems reversed. Incidentally, this does not mean that the secondary theme now becomes the central theme.
Rather, it can be explained as a subversion of the distinctions between the essential and the inessential, the central and the marginal.
 Deconstruction at work within music. One deconstructive strategy. Within music. A deconstruction of music by music. A deconstruction of (traditional) music theory by music. McClary's work is an important contribution towards the rethinking of (imposed) hierarchical relations in music. Nevertheless, I also object to her method of working. McClary thinks not only from the music, the text, 'itself'. In striving to connect music and musicology to other discourses, she reads the music from a feminist point of view. 'Most of the essays in this collection seek to identify and analyze the ways in which music is shaped by constructions of gender and sexuality' (McClary, p.9). McClary admits that the convention of simply designating themes as masculine or feminine has been repudiated in musicology for a long time. However, this does not mean that musical pieces are free of gender marking. 'The gender connotations of the opening 'Mannheim rockets' or 'hammerstrokes' and the sighing second themes in Stamitz symphonies are so obvious as to border on the cartoonish, even if neither he nor his contemporaries actually called the respective themes 'masculine' and 'feminine'' (McClary, p.14). Thus, she holds on to an old tradition that marks the principal theme of the sonata, masculine, and the secondary theme, feminine: the sonata is the musical manifestation of a cultural paradigm that features binary oppositions such as strong-weak, active-passive, masculine-feminine. (Incidentally, a similar view can also be found in Subotnik's work. cf. Subotnik, p.34-5). Moreover, McClary continues to say that before we can address questions concerning gender and sexuality, 'it is necessary to construct an entire theory of musical signification' (McClary, p.20). And this is indeed exactly what McClary does. She employs a pre-constructed, external model in order to assess and analyze music; in this case, a kind of feministic determinism. Deconstruction is put into action as a newly attained model for interpretation. It is no longer a strategy that works on the inside of the text - that is to say, with the vocabulary of the text 'itself'. It seems insufficient to show how hierarchically ordered binary oppositions in music are undermined by music. McClary uses deconstruction. She uses it for the project of 'questioning the claims to universality by the 'master narratives' of Western culture, revealing the agendas behind traditional 'value-free' procedures' (McClary, p.123). This appears to be more of an agenda of demystification than of deconstruction per se. In other words, McClary's lexis suggests that deconstruction is a form of analysis that uncovers an ideological sub-structure beneath an obfuscating surface: essentialism. Deconstruction (in its 'proper' mode) would immediately set about interrogating the opposition between surface and sub-structure (cf. Sweeney-Turner http://www.dun-eideann.com/suibhne/). It appears McClary attempts to expose some deeper truth about music. However, deconstruction has no better theory of truth. '[Deconstruction] is a practice of reading and writing attuned to the aporias that arise in attempts to tell us the truth. It does not develop a new philosophical framework or solution but moves back and forth, with a nimbleness it hopes will prove strategic, between non-synthesizable moments of a [text]' (Culler, p.155). In contrast to Derrida, who works from the vocabulary of the text 'itself', McClary departs from a self-discovered system of meaning that she lays over the music as a meta-concept. Derrida's work, on the contrary, is an attack on the abstracting of containable meanings from concrete texts.
 Sweeney-Turner notes that in musical academia 'the term deconstruction is often misused as a more impressive (and supposedly trendy) way of saying analysis' (Sweeney-Turner). This critical comment seems to apply to Rose Subotnik when she writes, 'Deconstruction was now available for me as a model for making multiple readings of a single text' (Subotnik, p.xxxv). She describes her most widely elaborated essay in Deconstructive Variations, 'How Could Chopin’s A-Major Prelude, op.28, no.7 Be Deconstructed?' as a 'testing out deconstructionist method' on this composition (cf. Subotnik, p.82). Derrida assumes a text that deconstructs itself and takes care to not reduce deconstruction to a reading method: 'I am wary of the idea of methods of reading. The laws of reading are determined by the particular text that is being read ... It means that we must remain faithful ... to the injunctions of the text. These injunctions will differ from one text to the next so that one cannot prescribe one general method of reading. In this sense, deconstruction is not a method' (Kearney, p.124). Subotnik, however, does not seem to recognize these basic principles, in spite of the fact that she is one of the few musicologists to begin with an elaborate introduction to deconstruction (cf. Subotnik, p.39-84).
 It is exactly in the principle of the double reading that Subotnik locates the deconstructive moment. To apply a second interpretation to the central maxim as a basis for analyzing the heterogeneity is to propose a deconstruction: the alternative reading threatens to unravel all that appeared true in the previous reading (cf. Subotnik, p.22).
 Two examples of 'new musicology'. Two examples of deconstruction in music, in musicology. Two deconstructions of musicologist essentialism. But also, two examples of a cultural essentialism or determinism. In both readings, deconstruction appears to function as a theoretical model, a method by which a musical piece can be reinterpreted. Both are very specific readings that seem to exclude other encounters. Deconstruction as a tool for revealing the existence of 'deep structures' beneath the signifying surfaces of musical texts. Derrida would certainly object. I object; in short, because it is not the purpose of this site to criticize.