"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."
"Constructions of Subjectivity in Schubert's Music", Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology (1994), ISBN 0415907527
"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.
"If I tend to reread the European past in my own Postmodern image, if I frequently write about Bach and Beethoven in the same ways in which I discuss the Artist Formerly Known as Prince and John Zorn, it is not to denigrate the canon but rather to show the power of music all throughout its history as a signifying practice. For this is how culture always works—always grounded in codes and social contracts, always open to fusions, extensions, transformations. To me, music never seems so trivial as in its 'purely musical' readings. If there was at one time a rationale for adopting such an intellectual position, that time has long since past. And if the belief in the nineteenth-century notion of aesthetic autonomy continues to be an issue when we study cultural history, it can no longer be privileged as somehow true."
McClary, Susan (2000), Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form, p. 186–169. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520232089