Dissertation Index

Author: Greitzer, Mary L

Title: Tormented Voices

Institution: Harvard University

Begun: January 2004

Completed: August 2007


This dissertation, on musical embodiment, analyzes four 20th century solo musical works with a common theme of personal trauma. I explore musical presentations of the body (traumatic bodily experience inscribed upon musical structure) and bodily incarnations of music history (musical knowledge inscribed upon the kinaesthetics of music making). My methodology combines traditional analytical techniques with more recent feminist perspectives, as in the work of Cusick, Guck, Maus, and McClary. Conclusions about relationships between musical poetics and musical meanings are grounded in discussions of how sound, structure, and text interrelate in creating our sense of each artist's subjectivity (performer, composer, and/or protagonist).

The first two essays present close readings of solo voice responses to sexual violence the artist experienced. Tori Amos's acapella song Me and a Gun, narrating an Anywoman's tale of surviving rape, successfully models the act of "speaking up" in part by coding complementary archetypes of Victim and Survivor into the music's form and sound. Lydia Lunch's Daddy Dearest, a sonically nuanced monologue about childhood sexual abuse torn between exorcism and orgasm, demonstrates abuse's cyclic propensity by visiting onto her listeners a complex recreation eliciting feelings of revulsion, arousal, and shame. A short comparative essay follows, articulating MAAG's mainstream feminist resonance and DD's sex-radical politics.

My analysis of Milton Babbitt's Philomel explores Philomel's shattered voice. Reading the piece and its protagonist as cyborgs, I draw upon Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto to advocate for "New Music" generally, arguing against the formalism-first approach to the study of serial music which typified my own education.

My final essay, on Eugene Ysaye's Obsession for solo violin, explores a performer's analytical perspective. Playing solo Bach lends me rich insights into Ysaye's portrait of Bach's influence on him, particularly in the connections perceived through my muscle memory and kinaesthetic musical knowledge.

Keywords: solo voice, embodiment, feminism, music analysis, performativity, sexual violence, autobiography, subjectivity


1 Tormented Voices: an introduction

Opening Remarks
The Tormented Voices Repertory
Methodology & Background: music theory, feminism, and feminist music theory

2 One Voice Singing: Tori Amos's Me and a Gun

The Words
Her Singing Voice

3Love is a Crowded Theatre: Lydia Lunch's Daddy Dearest

Insinuating: laying the groundwork
Happening: being molested
Reacting: some epic ramifications

Interlude: Sex-radical Feminism, Common Sense, and Solidarity

4Singing the Body Electric: Milton Babbitt's Philomel

anxieties and goals
(issue 1) Philomel's belonging here
(issue 2) how familiar am i, and what do i mean by "knowing"?
what does Philomel sound like? (i)
Hollander and the surface
women's work
what does Philomel sound like? (ii)
(issue 3) the Tower of Babbitt
who is Milton Babbitt?
(issue 4) some thoughts on feminism and Philomel
the matter of sexual violence
maidens no more
what does Philomel sound like? (iii)
cyborg feminism
potent fusions in Philomel
coercing the discourse with Alarm Will Sound

5Becoming Bach, Blaspheming Bach: Eugene Ysaye's Obsession
Quoting Bach
Quoting the Devil
Concluding Remarks


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