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Studio E • Friday morning, 9:00–10:30

Music and Body

Marianne Kielian-Gilbert (Indiana University), Chair

Vivian Luong (University of Michigan)

Philosophies of the Body in Feminine Endings: Historicizing Music Theory's Embodied Turn

Chris Stover (Arizona State University)

Analyzing Improvised Music-Dance Interactions

Abstracts

Philosophies of the Body in Feminine Endings: Historicizing Music Theory's Embodied Turn

Vivian Luong (University of Michigan)

Bodies—listeners’ bodies, performers’ bodies, sonic/musical bodies—have become key music-theoretical objects of study in recent decades. Following Suzanne Cusick’s feminist critique of music theory’s mind/body problem (1994), accounts of embodied musical experience now proliferate across music-theoretical scholarship from performance and analysis to music cognition as well as music and disability studies. While Cusick’s and other feminist music-theoretical texts are often referenced in this literature, music theorists have yet to consider the feminist-philosophical context out of which these influential writings on the body emerged.

My paper illuminates the philosophical orientations that color one such text, McClary’s Feminine Endings. While a significant contribution to new musicology, I argue that McClary’s text also opened a space for bodily inquiry in music theory. Drawing on Elizabeth Grosz’s history of feminist approaches to the body, I contextualize Feminine Endings in relation to three categories of feminist thought: egalitarian feminism, social constructionism, and sexual difference. In contrast to McClary’s critics who understand her work as an imprecise borrowing of écriture féminine, I demonstrate how observed inconsistencies in McClary’s project arise out of two factors: 1) a tension between her investments in egalitarian feminism and social constructionism; and 2) the historical moment in which Feminine Endings emerged as theories of sexual difference by Grosz, Judith Butler, and Donna Haraway were taking hold. By situating Feminine Endings as a key music-theoretical text, this paper calls for (re)writing the history of music theory’s embodied turn to adequately acknowledge its debt to early feminist music scholarship.

Analyzing Improvised Music-Dance Interactions

Chris Stover (Arizona State University)

This paper analyzes improvisational interactions between musicians and dancers in three performance scenarios: a Cuban rumba guaguancó performance, a Brazilian candomblé ritual, and a drum–dance performance from Ghana. Its analytic focus is on the way in which participants develop simple gestures into more elaborate expressions through the course of a complex multi-directional dialogue. While this can unfold in a great many directions, certain part-specific performance constraints help determine ranges of expected behaviors; therefore, there is a high degree of expectation inherent in any given performance. These expectations may be fulfilled or denied, and their successful navigation is an important indicator, for insiders, of the quality of the performance. Across the three excerpts analyzed, three themes are foregrounded: (1) how the extemporaneous call-response dialogue between lead drummer and male dancer in rumba guaguancó unfolds, and how it grounds other improvisation interactions across the ensemble; (2) how a four-part dialogue between dancer and three drummers in candomblé animates tempo entrainment; especially group decisions to speed up the tempo; and (3) how a number of improvised performance decisions contribute to different kinds of beat orientations—laying back or pushing ahead, for example—in Ghanaian drum-dance music.