Instrumentality in the Expanded Field of Music Composition

Davis, Kevin, Music - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Coffey, Edward, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Burtner, Christopher, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Miller, Karl, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Robbins, Christa, Department of Art, University of Virginia

This dissertation develops a materialist musical analysis of instrumentality in music composition. Building on the work of Bruno Latour, Martin Heidegger, James J. Gibson, and others, I develop a theory of musical instrumentality that lays the groundwork for alternative readings of often-marginalized compositional practices. To develop this concept of instrumentality and the materialist musical hermeneutic it implies, I draw from theoretical discourses concerned with objects, tools, equipment, and instruments before proceeding to musical instruments specifically. By presenting the musical instrument as an integral part of the compositional frame, I point towards a materialist theory of music, providing an alternative framework for contemporary practices.

Chapter 1 introduces a basic conceptual framework and summarizes the state of scholarship regarding instrumentality and composition. Chapter 2 examines the emergence of music that foregrounds musical instrumentality, focusing on the high modernist period of 1957-1969 or “the long sixties.” This music is interpreted as embodying the central crisis of subject-object relations in modernism as defined by Latour. I show how instrumentality is in flux during this period, indicative of a problematic relationship while also pointing towards possible resolutions. Chapter 3 analyzes the tools of music and instrumentality from a Heideggerian perspective, focusing on and critiquing his Broken Tool analogy. Chapter 4 considers a specifically musical instrumentality, drawing ideas from ecological psychology and phenomenology, to consider the processes of instrumentalization and reinstrumentalization. Chapter 5 contextualizes my creative work in regards to these ideas.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Instrumentality, Music Composition, Musical Instruments, Bruno Latour, Martin Heidegger, New Materialism , Reinstrumentalization
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