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Theses Doctoral

Noise, sound and objecthood: the politics of representation in avant-garde music

Hall, Alexander David

This essay offers both a historical analysis of twentieth century avant-garde practices relating to representation in music, and a prescriptive model for contemporary methods of composition. I address the taxonomy problem in classical music, clarifying the ontological divide identified by German musicologist Michael Rebhahn Contemporary Classical music and New Music. I demonstrate how neoliberalism has developed a Global Style (Foster 2012) of "Light Modernity,” evident in both contemporary architecture and music alike. The central problem facing composition today is the fetishization of materials, ultimately derived from music's refusal to allow the question of representation to be addressed. I argue that composers have largely sought to define noise as sound-in-itself, eliminating the possibilities of representation in the process. Proposing instead that composers should strive to tackle representation head-on in the 21st century, I show how Jacques Rancière provides a model in which noise and sound—representation and abstraction—function in a conjoined, yet non-homogenized aesthetic regime. Governed by what he calls the "pensiveness of the image,” it allows for a renewed art form that rejects repetition and neoliberalism, re-connecting to the spirit of the avant-garde without slavishly echoing either its outmoded aesthetics or dogmatic philosophies.

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More Information

Academic Units
Music
Thesis Advisors
Lewis, George E.
Degree
D.M.A., Columbia University
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