Le Guin, Elisabeth 1957-

views updated

Le Guin, Elisabeth 1957-


Born July 25, 1957; daughter of Charles (a historian) and Ursula K. (a fiction writer) Le Guin. Education: University of California at Berkeley, Ph.D.


Office—University of California at Los Angeles, Department of Musicology, 2443 Schoenberg Music Bldg., Box 951623, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1623. E-mail—[email protected].


University of California, Los Angeles, associate professor of musicology and cello, and director of undergraduate studies, 1997—. Has worked as a freelance cellist in CA. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the Artaria String Quartet, founding member.


Alfred Einstein Award, American Musicological Society, 2003; ACLS grant; University of California President's Research Fund grant; Fulbright grant.


(Editor, with Marco Mangani and Jamie Tortella) Luigi Boccherini: Estudios sobre Fuentes, recepcion e historiografia, Comunidad de Madrid (Madrid, Spain), 2006.

Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Beyond Structural Hearing, edited by Andrew dell'Antonio, University of California Press, 2005; Culture of the Horse: Status, Discipline and Identity in the Early Modern World, edited by Karen Raber and Treva J. Tucker, Palgrave Press, 2005; In Vivo: Embodying Information, edited by Robert Mitchell and Philip Thurtle, Routledge, 2005; and Bocherini Studies, edited by Christian Speck, Ut Orpheus Edizioni (Bologna, Italy), 2006. Contributor to periodicals, including Eighteenth Century Music, JAMS, Diagonal Online, Revista de Musicología, Repercussions, and the New York Times.


Elisabeth Le Guin is a writer, musician, and professor of musicology. A biographer on the University of California at Riverside Web site called her "one of the foremost Baroque cellists in the United States," adding that "she has been praised for the vigor and sensitivity of her ensemble playing." She is a founding member of several Baroque-based musical groups, including the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the Artaria String Quartet. Le Guin is also a recording artist who appears on numerous recordings on the Koch and Harmonia Mundi labels. She performs on both the national and international level, reported a biographer on the University of California at Los Angeles Musicology Department Web site. Her dual career as an academic and performer has helped in the development of her concept of "musicology as a perpetual dialogue between theory and practice," the Web site biographer stated.

In Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology, Le Guin uses the performance of music by Baroque composer Luigi Boccherini to advance her theory that interpretation of music relies as much on the physical aspects of performance as it does on the intellectual understanding and transmission of the music. This inseparable physical element accounts for the "carnal" aspect of the book and its subtitle. Le Guin believes that "one can attach meaning, in the form of a physical response, to an instrumental composition by applying images, movements, and texts from art, dance, and theater, as well as infusing these with theories, either from the eighteenth century or the present day," commented Mara Parker in Notes.

In the first chapter, Le Guin establishes the importance of the physical aspects of performing Boccherini's work. She "provides a lengthy discussion of the physical aspects of rendering the piece: comfort/discomfort, movement of arms and fingers, use of muscles, weight, gravity, and other aspects of cello performance," Parker noted. The close association of the performer with the music allows a form of communication across the years with Boccherini himself, Le Guin believes. She "argues that her own physical and emotional responses allow her to understand Boccherini himself and his intent," Parker observed. In chapter two, she provides a biography of Boccherini and his times, exploring the cellist's life from his birth in 1743 to his death in 1805. In chapter three, she considers the visual and physical aspects of dance and tableaux in the eighteenth century. Chapter four contains her assessment the concept of virtuosity and its connection to ideas of the self and appearance. In chapter five, she looks at the connections between medicine, tuberculosis, and the concept of melancholy in the eighteenth century. She finds the presence of melancholy in Boccherini's music, and suggests that the composer may have himself suffered from depression. In the latter portions of the book, Le Guin offers experiential analysis of Boccherini's music and its performance.

Critic Suzanne G. Cusick observed in Current Musicology that "Le Guin has used her impressive literary gifts to produce a rich and subtle book that is both a tour de force of embodied, historicist criticism illuminating much of Boccherini's music and a sustained (if sympathetic) critique of musicology's commitment to the disembodied, transhistorical, and scientistic," and that "one of the many pleasures of her book is the clarity, elegance, and wit of her prose." "I can think of no other text that combines [Le Guin's] unique approach with the level of musical acuity present in Boccherini's Body, commented Ralph D. Converse in the Music Educator's Journal. Readers will also "will find much of interest in her insightful explorations of the music of this underappreciated composer," Converse continued. Cusick concluded: "Fascinating as an introduction to eighteenth-century ways of receiving art, replete with models of beautiful writing about music as sound and embodied action, Boccherini's Body merits careful reading from everyone interested in the future of our discipline."



Choice, September, 2006, S. Edwards, review of Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology, p. 122.

Current Musicology, fall, 2007, Suzanne G. Cusick, review of Boccherini's Body, p. 139.

Eighteenth-Century Music, fall, 2006, Keith Pascoe, review of Boccherini's Body.

Musical Times, winter, 2006, Patricia Howard, "Fleshy Pursuits," review of Boccherini's Body, p. 112.

Music Educators Journal, November, 2007, Ralph D. Converse, review of Boccherini's Body, p. 50.

Notes, March, 2007, Mara Parker, review of Boccherini's Body, p. 606.


Boccherini's Body Web site,http://epub.library.ucla.edu/leguin/boccherini (February 19, 2008).

University of California at Los Angeles Musicology Department Web site,http://www.musicology.ucla.edu/ (February 19, 2008), biography of Elisabeth Le Guin.

University of California at Riverside Department of Music Web site,http://www.music.ucr.edu/ (February 19, 2008), biography of Elisabeth Le Guin.

About this article

Le Guin, Elisabeth 1957-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article