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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Bands, orchestras, and the ideal I : the musical stage as constitutive of the I function / by Tracy Marie McMullen

  • Author(s): McMullen, Tracy
  • et al.

Complicating the recent discussion on "the body in music," I investigate how musical ensembles themselves serve to represent an idealized body as part of their musico- cultural function. Orchestras, big bands, and rock groups have a history of self-sameness in their ranks, producing performances, I argue, based in a longing for the coherent body. With "the body" threatened by post-modernity's philosophical and technological conceptions of subjectivity and the increased existence of integrated bodies (military units, privileged golf associations, the Vienna Philharmonic), performative responses to recreate the coherent body can be found in the skyrocketing popularity of tribute bands that recreate classic jazz orchestras and rock groups through repetition and identity. However, other bands resist and overtly perform the non-identical body through conscious integration or ironic repetition. I conclude with a move toward the musician's sentient body and its potential to rewrite hegemonic identity when its interdependence and mutability are consciously practiced. Therefore, I investigate "the body in music" from two perspectives, zooming out to view musical ensembles as a single body and zooming in to hear and feel the individual performer's sentient body. After three chapters detailing the complexities of musico-social staging, the epilogue suggests that one answer to constricting musical stereotypes could be found in the performer's sentient body. Here I consider the musician's body as a site of practice and transformation where one can learn to perform better in all the senses I consider performance in this dissertation. I draw on various disciplines, including cultural theory, performance studies, popular music studies, jazz/improvisation studies, musicology, and cultural studies

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