Tormented voices

2007 2007

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation analyzes four 20th century solo musical works with a common theme of personal trauma. My work explores musical presentations of the body (traumatic bodily experience inscribed upon musical structure) and bodily incarnations of music history (musical knowledge inscribed upon the kinaesthetics of music making). My methodology combines traditional analytical techniques of music theory with more recent perspectives provided by feminist criticism, as in the work of Cusick, Guck, Maus, and McClary. My conclusions about the relationships between musical poetics and musical semiotics are grounded in discussions of sound, structure, and text, all of which interrelate in creating our sense of each artist's subjectivity as performer and/or composer and/or protagonist.

The first two essays present close readings of solo voice pieces responding to sexual violence the artist experienced. Tori Amos's acapella song Me and a Gun, narrating an Anywoman's tale of surviving rape which resonates with mainstream feminist perspectives, successfully models for other survivors the act of "speaking up" not only through its lyrics and self-sufficiency, but by coding complementary archetypes of Victim and Survivor into the music's form and sound. Lydia Lunch's Daddy Dearest, a sonically nuanced monologue about childhood sexual abuse which presents us simultaneously with exorcism and orgasm, demonstrates the cyclic nature of abuse by visiting onto her listeners a complex recreation eliciting feelings of revulsion, arousal, and shame. I further articulate a sex-positive reading of Daddy Dearest's controversial feminist politics.

My analysis of Milton Babbitt's Philomel explores the multi-faceted portrayal of Philomel's shattered voice. Reading the piece and its protagonist as cyborgs, I draw upon Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto to advocate for "New Music" generally. In resisting the formalism-first approach to the study of serial music which typified my musicological education, I present a metatheoretical argument against such methodology.

My final essay, on Eugene Ysaye's Obsession for solo violin, argues for the importance of the performer's perspective in analysis. Playing Bach's solo violin music has lent me rich insights into Ysaye's portrait of the master's influence on him, particularly in the connections perceived through my muscle memory and kinaesthetic knowledge of music.

Indexing (details)

Womens studies;
0413: Music
0453: Womens studies
0733: Gender
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Amos, Tori; Babbitt, Milton; Belgium; Feminism; Lunch, Lydia; Performativity; Ysaye, Eugene
Tormented voices
Greitzer, Mary Lee
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 68/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Hasty, Chris
Harvard University
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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