2- Unsounded Sensualities: Heightened Experience and the Phenomenology of Song – Harris Berger, Memorial University of Newfoundland

10:30 AM, Saturday 25 May 2019 (2 hours)
Lunch   12:30 PM to 01:30 PM (1 hour)
That performance is a heightened mode of experience is well established within the ethnomusicological and folkloristic branches of performance theory. While many scholars have identified the means by which performative conduct is separated from quotidian behavior and performance events are constituted in the flow of social interaction, little work has problematized the heightening of experience itself. Setting ideas from Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology into conversation with those from Roman Jakobson and Ingrid Monson, this paper shows how musical performance has the potential to evoke for its listeners a multilayered experience that involves both the sensuous experience of musical sound and the unsounded sensuality of musical structure. The complex relationships that emerge between these two layers of experience—the rich sensuality of musical sound in the lived space of the event and the equally public and equally embodied phenomenon of unsounded musical structure, which performance evokes for its listeners—is one of the primary means by which the heightening effect is achieved. Examples from women vocalists in the American jazz and pop traditions will illustrate one culturally specific way in which such layering can play out in performance and perception. The paper will show how performative devices from these traditions do not merely generate layers of experience but weave for the listener a rich net of relationships among these layers, heightening and intensifying the phenomena in ways that are essential for the meaning of the music. The implications of these experiential dynamics for the ethnomusicology of performance will be suggested.
Memorial University of Newfoundland
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