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Instrumentality in the Expanded Field of Music Composition

Davis, Kevin
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
Davis, Kevin
Burtner, Christopher
Robbins, Christa
Coffey, Edward
Miller, Karl
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.
University of Virginia, Department of Music, PHD (Doctor of Philosophy), 2017
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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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