Saturday afternoon, November 14, 2:30–4 CST
Plenary Session – Changing the Story: Embodiment as Musical Practices and Experiences
Marion A. Guck (University of Michigan), Chair
View an archived recording of the session using the passcode: 78bu4t#
Kinesthesis, Affectivity, and Music’s Temporal (Re-/Dis-)Orientations
Mariusz Kozak is an Associate Professor of Music at Columbia University, and the author of Enacting Musical Time: The Bodily Experience of New Music. His research centers on the relationship between music, cognition, and the body. Three broad questions inform his work: How does the body contribute to the construction of meaning in music? What is the cognitive basis of musical experience? And how do bodies interact with each other when performing or listening to music? Kozak bridges experimental approaches from embodied cognition with phenomenology and music analysis, in particular using motion-capture technology to study the movements of performers and listeners. His articles have appeared in Music Theory Spectrum and Music Theory Online, among others.
In this talk I examine the relationship between time, embodiment, and affectivity in music. I argue that music is temporal not because it unfolds in time, or because it takes time as its vector, or even because it has the capacity to alter our sense of temporal flow. Rather, music is a temporal artform because it is constituted by a situated body moving in relation to sound. Like other artforms, music isolates, extends, and intensifies the dynamical patterns of our everyday engagement with our environment. This engagement folds ongoing processes into the body’s own temporal frame, giving them a past, a present, and a future. Since humans are fundamentally animate creatures, this folding-into is achieved through a moving body. In this view, musical time is a system of affects—intensive qualities—that define the nature of our openness to the world. Musical time is something felt in a physical, kinesthetic sense through a body that responds to sound by intelligibly coordinating its movements in different ways. Because of its intimate link with the moving body, music has the capacity to orient, reorient, and even disorient our temporal frame by altering the physicality of our engagement with sound.
Dramatizing Difference: Embodying Music’s Materiality and (Inter)subjective Dynamics (Nina Simone’s “Little Girl Blue” from Live at Montreux 1976)
Marianne Kielian-Gilbert, Professor of Music in The Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington:
I am particularly interested in connecting music experience to listeners’ emotional and intellectual responses and to social-material conditions and medium/media settings. I have explored relationships between music, philosophy, feminist theory, cultural and disability studies in thinking about how performative acts can shape, embody, and vivify music and music experience.
In addition to the music of composers such as Stravinsky and Britten I have been working on a set of essays on music of recent women composers, and iconic, mythic and popular female figures in music: “Dissonant Bells: The Rite’s ‘Sacrificial Dance,’ 1913/2013” (IU Press, 2017); “Compassion with the Abyss”: Sensory Estrangement in Britten’s Late Works, Death in Venice, Op. 88, and Phaedra, Op. 93” (Cambridge Scholars, 2017); and “Experiencing Chen Yi’s music: Local and Cosmopolitan Reciprocities in Ning for pipa, violin and cello (2001)” (Music Theory Online, 2020).
What does it mean to listen from a position of privilege? How or do our social-relational positions show up in the language we use, the analysis we do, and/or in the ways we listen and hear? When and as music emerges from deep lived and emotional experience, what happens to its vividness under the lens of music theory and analysis?
A materialist and performative “turn” to processes of musical embodiment shifts from categorizing difference to dramatizing and enacting its physical/material and social-relational dimensions. Experiential, processive, and (inter)subjective dimensions come to the fore—temporal (layers of temporal implication open to each other), material/physical (connections through “transversal” encounters), and emergent (form-changing transformations).
Nina Simone’s performances of “Little Girl Blue” from her first album (1959) and Live at Montreux 1976 draw attention to ways of dramatizing and bringing music to life, and contend with her jazz- and classical-oriented training as a pianist in a racially divisive world. I emphasize the relational/(inter)subjective and processive/“in-between” character of musical embodiment in dramatizing and affecting listeners’ relationships to music sound.
In reclaiming musical embodiment, the field of music theory inescapably expands to encompass a range of social/relational and identity practices: listening to and hearing multiple and occluded voices, confronting patriarchal orders of power, and destabilizing binaries of difference and identity. Musical embodiments materialize interdependent and changing interactions of identity and community yielding our and music’s capacities to affect and be affected—to listen inside out and outside in.
Music Theory in the 1970s and 1980s: Three Women
In the 1970s, music theory increasingly defined itself as a separate field of scholarly research, the trend culminating in the creation of the Society for Music Theory in 1977. A symposium on music theory, delivered to the American Musicological Society and College Music Society in 1976 and published in College Music Symposium, shows some of the thinking that led to this consolidation. Allen Forte, Carlton Gamer, Carl Schachter, Peter Westergaard, Vernon Kliewer, and Richmond Browne gave a range of ideas about the current state and future promise of music theory.
In these papers, the role of musical experience varies; considerations of embodiment are absent. I give attention to other conceptions of music theory from the same time, drawing on the work of Alexandra Pierce, Pauline Oliveros, and Helen Bonny. Pierce, a composer and theorist, was active in the Society for Music Theory, though her emphasis on embodiment as a way of understanding music did not become a mainstream concern. Oliveros and Bonny never interacted with SMT. Oliveros’s theories about music consciousness are very general; they find realization in many fascinating activities, her Sonic Meditations and Deep Listening Pieces, which bring together ear-training and creativity. Helen Bonny’s music therapy practices involve classical music listening, with implications for theories of musical meaning and musical narrative. From these examples, I ask how professional music theory might have taken a very different course from its inception.
Embodying Music: Three Questions from Practice
Daphne Leong’s book, Performing Knowledge: 20th-Century Music in Analysis and Performance, was recently published by Oxford University Press. Her work, which focuses on rhythm, analysis and performance, and music since 1900, also appears in journals such as Journal of Music Theory, Perspectives of New Music, and Music Theory Online, as well as in edited collections. She is an active pianist and chamber musician, whose performances and recordings include premieres of current music. Her quartet Throw Down or Shut Up! presents new music in un/conventional venues and formats. Leong has served as Vice President of the Society for Music Theory. In 2013 she received the Excellence in Teaching Award of the University of Colorado Boulder, where she is Associate Professor of Music Theory.
I ask three questions about embodiment in musical practice, from the perspectives of an analyst, a performer, and a choreographer. How does visual bias influence musical interpretation? How do a performer’s physical actions form part of a piece of music? How does musical structure invite one to dance? My vignettes—arising from practical perspectives on multi-modal experiences of music—offer queries rather than conclusions.