Performing and Listening Bodies

Author: ORCID icon
Parks, Kevin, Music - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Coffey, Ted, University of Virginia

In the time before domestic electricity, the boundaries of music were clear. Due to the recent ubiquity of recording technology, our musical horizons have expanded greatly and the distinction between ordinary sounds and those considered appropriate to music has become increasingly muddled. The result is a sound world that would have been unimaginable only a century ago. As today’s music is no longer exclusively the product of human physical gestures, I begin by exploring the significance of the body in music and consider how experimental electroacoustic music practices might alter the way we perceive and understand music.

I propose three broad categories of music production: traditionally embodied music, disembodied music, and non-body music. I contemplate the impact the perceived absence of the body might have for the reception of electroacoustic music. I also specifically address the role of the human hand, its part in the creation of meaning and beauty in art and music, and its contribution to the expression of musical personhood. I critique the pernicious body/mind dichotomy, review some of the developments in the burgeoning field of Social Neuroscience, and consider their possible impact on our understanding of music.

I discuss various aesthetic shifts throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. Specifically, I survey the progressive disintegration of the boundaries separating art and life and the inclusion of the quotidian, increasingly deemed worthy of aesthetic contemplation. I argue that this new emphasis on the everyday was a century-long endeavor to defamiliarize perception. I also examine a central debate in electroacoustic music’s relatively short history: the argument over the nature of perception itself. I posit this as a philosophical dispute between Pierre Schaeffer and Luc Ferrari. I also briefly treat the reception of experimental music and art in light of Bourdieu's theories of art perception. I close by outlining some of my own aesthetic principles and musical practices.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
experimental music, electroacoustic music, embodiment, musical personhood, Fluxus, musique concrète, noise, musical gesture
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