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Yoko Ono’s Experimental Vocality as Matrixial Borderspace: Theorizing Yoko Ono’s Extended Vocal Technique and her Contributions to the Development of Underground and Popular Vocal Repertoires, 1968 - Present


This dissertation involves the development of a theoretical framework for understanding non-normative gendered vocal subjectivities emergent within counter-hegemonic, experimental vocal performances. In particular, I choose to focus on the extended vocal techniques of Yoko Ono that were developed in the context of her late 1960s and early 1970s collaborations with the Plastic Ono Band, and later came to exert a significant influence upon underground vocalists from the late 1970’s to the present day. As a theoretical foundation for my work, I primarily draw upon post-Lacanian feminist psychoanalyst, Bracha L. Ettinger’s Matrixial Borderspace (2006), adapting her lexicon for the analysis of experimental vocalities. In proposing a musicological appropriation of Ettinger’s rubric, I hope to demonstrate the ways in which Ono’s vocal performances actualize a mode of “matrixial gendered resistance,” that is, a feminist aesthetic practice that works to re-contextualize the parameters of gendered subjectivity within a shared space of trans-subjective encounter. While the first two chapters of this dissertation will provide a detailed theorization of Yoko Ono’s early avant-rock musical output in relation to psychoanalytic, postcolonial, and posthumanist thought, the final two chapters will trace Ono’s stylistic influence through punk rock and New Wave genres of the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, concluding with a series of interviews with current Los Angeles-based underground vocalists.

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