Voices in the Electronic Furnace: Towards an Analysis of Electroacoustic Vocal Music

Zorn, Jonathan Richard, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Coffey, Ted, Department of Music, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines musical compositions that combine the human voice with electronic sound. I begin with a conceptual framework informed by linguistics, psychoanalysis, semiotics, and media-theory, that locates electroacoustic vocal music along three graduated axes. The first axis covers movement between sense and nonsense, focusing on the relative emphasis of linguistic meaning versus vocal sound, within a particular composition. The second axis traces pattern and noise, both in terms of music adding an element of noise to language, and the presence of noise within the music itself. My use of pattern and noise is informed by the writings of Gregory Bateson who codefines the terms as they pertain to cybernetic theory. The third axis describes the range of implied presence (or absence) of the performer, as activated by recording technology and vocal synthesis. I analyze and situate several electroacoustic vocal compositions with respect to the ways in which each composition activates the three axes. Many of the compositions are featured in discussions of more than one of the axes, providing a multidimensional understanding of the piece. Finally, I discuss my composition Language as Dust, an experimental, poetic, rewriting of the research paper. In this discussion I elucidate the ways in which the three-part composition represents an attempt to create a sonorous experience of the three axes, using the analytic framework as a generative device.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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