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- Most people have music in the center of their lives. I believe my work sheds light on how music affects us and why it is so influential." from http://web.archive.org/20030225083736/www.ucla.edu/spotlight/archive/html_2001_2002/fac0502_mcclalry.html
- Rather than protecting music as a sublimely meaningless activity that has managed to escape social signification, I insist on treating it as a medium that participates in social formation by influencing the ways we perceive our feelings, our bodies, our desires, our very subjectivities—even if it does so surreptitiously, without most of us knowning how. It is too important a cultural force to be shrouded by mystified notions of Romantic transcendence.
- It is important to remember that there really is very little resembling criticism of any sort in musicology.
- Tonality itself—with its process of instilling expectations and subsequently withholding promised fulfillment until climax—is the principal musical means during the period from 1600 to 1900 for arousing and channeling desire."
- McClary, Susan (1991). Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816618984.
- The point of recapitulation in the first movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony unleashes one of the most horrifyingly violent episodes in the history of music.... The point is not to hold up Beethoven as exceptionally monstrous. The Ninth Symphony is probably our most compelling articulation in music of the contradictory impulses that have organized patriarchal culture since the Enlightenment. Moreover, within the parameters of his own musical compositions, he may be heard as enacting a critique of narrative obligations that is … devestating."
- McClary, Susan (1991). Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality, p. 128-129. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816618984.
- "For me … the notion of an intimate relationship between music and society functions not as a distant goal but as a starting point of great immediacy, and not as an hypothesis but as an assumption. It functions as an idea about a relationship which in turn allows the examination of that relationship from many points of view and its exploration in many directions. It is an idea that generates studies the goal of which (or at least one important goal of which) is to articulate something essential about why any particular music is the way it is in particular, that is, to achieve insight into the character of its identity."
- Considering how readily musicologists criticize one another — witness the merciless footnotes (and reviews) of so many books and articles — the innocent bystander must find it strange that they remain unwilling to venture judgments about the quality of the music around which they work... But it is hard to see what can be the purpose of musicology if not to advise people on what to hear and how to hear it. Separating out the good, the bad and the indifferent, and helping listeners enjoy the best, is surely the least we can offer society in return for our keep.