This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics edited by John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernallis. This chapter uses textual analysis of the music video “Umbrella,” featuring Rihanna, to demonstrate the intricacies of sound and image synchronization. It argues that music highlights subject positions according to the viewer’s expectations, assessment, and understanding of the displayed subject. Rihanna’s erotic imagery forms a critical point for contemplating the pop artist’s physical responses to music. One central ingredient of most video performances is disclosed by the suggestive positioning of the gendered body, which extends far beyond everyday experience. Such notions are theorized through aspects of hyperembodiment and hypersexuality, wherein the technological constructedness of the body constitutes a prime part of video production. The aesthetics of performance are predicated on the reassemblance of the body audiovisually. Editing, production, and technology shape the images, which are stimulated by musical sound, and ultimately the audiovisual flow in pop videos mediates a range of conventions that say much about our ever-evolving cultural domains.
Stephanie L. Batiste
This chapter argues that the African American dance practice of krumping editorialized in the 2005 David LaChapelle film RIZE defines a space of home as a system of feeling in early twenty-first-century Los Angeles. It offers the notion of kinetic affect as a means of understanding dancers’ charismatic formation of community within dance practice and its spaces. Krump dancing reveals a rich world of love and pain that characterizes life in black Los Angeles. The dancers’ commando-style ownership of venue, content, embodiment, and performance presentation challenge the confining spaces of ethnographic film, urban disenfranchisement, and stereotype.
This article investigates the aesthetic conclusions that the Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller draw from the basic phenomenon of listening—such as the “horizon of simultaneity” of sound and vision—in their own creation of their audio- and video-walks. It describes how their work functions as social experiments in the public sphere. The thesis is that their works “vampirize” sounds and actively assimilate them to natural acoustic tracks and traces, thus becoming affective traps for their pursuers. Cardiff and Miller lead the participants astray in their desire to actually “see” what is “only” to be heard. Thus an uncanny criminology of artificially laid traces is to be predicated on the seductiveness of the disembodied human voice as guiding narrative. Cardiff’s and Miller’s intriguing art form improvises a new way across the ravages of time by inventing new vestiges of the past.
The late 1950s saw an astonishing emergence of iconoclastic and modernistic approaches to the genre of the British musical. Directors like Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop company produced a number of dark, cynical, and experimental musicals in the late 1950s that provided British theatre professionals and audiences alike with an alternative to the dominant American style. Many attempted to bring this new and particularly British voice to the West End. An investigation of the musical, dramatic, and cultural context of the exceptional and important ‘Soho’ shows, which include Expresso Bongo, The Crooked Mile, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be, and Make Me an Offer, reveals these works as microcosms of their cultural environment as well as marking new directions in British musical theatre. Culminating in Oliver!, arguably the best-known British musical of this era, this development heralded a time of experimentation, social commentary, and modernism.
Jessica Sternfeld and Elizabeth L. Wollman
The article focuses on some of the more important developments that have affected the American musical over the years. The amount of money needed to produce a musical has increased since the onset of the depression, but especially since the 1960s. The cost of production, coupled with the introduction of several cheaper, more widely accessible entertainment forms, has forced the musical to struggle financially and aesthetically at various periods during the postwar era. Periods of high inflation, such as during the 1930s, affected the criteria for hit status, for example shows had to run for longer stretches to be profitable. The marketing for the show at that time was particularly intense, and the spectacle aspect was strongly promoted by producer Garth Drabinsky, under the auspices of his Canadian production company, Livent. The longer average runs of Broadway musicals depended in part on an increasingly international audience, which was seen as transitory and ever renewing. Since the advent of rock, amplification has become increasingly common and this was for several reasons. Many actors needed microphones to protect their voices and to be heard above the electric instruments that accompanied them. Film and sound recording technologies exerted significant influence on the stage musical and advances in sound design have allowed theatrical productions to offer cleaner, more balanced sound from the orchestra pit and stage.
Can opera as drama save classical music? Pierre Boulez famously proposed “blowing up all the opera houses” in 1967, and the relationship between the avant-garde and opera has been adversarial for most of the twentieth century. But in recent years interest in contemporary opera has exploded, leading critics like Joseph Kerman to proclaim that music drama proves the continuing vitality of the classical music canon. A study of the two major US productions of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic shows the pitfalls of relying on literature and drama to “sell” twenty-first-century opera as classical music: weaknesses in the libretto and staging led many intellectuals who attended the opera to dismiss it—and opera as a genre—in the harshest possible terms, reopening questions about the propriety of setting dramatic texts to music that composers had thought settled in their favor by the end of the seventeenth century.
Philip V. Bohlman
This chapter frames world Christianities as a continuous dialogue within, across, and between worlds: the human world of the everyday and the divine (utopian) world of God. To mediate this contradiction inherent to Christianity—and perhaps to the human experience more generally—Christian soteriological and eschatological doctrines takes the shape of continuous journeys aimed at transcending the boundaries of both the sacred and the secular, producing an (altered) return that re-creates the everyday world, where difference is ever-present. Christian musics come into being at specific sites of origin—in early church history, at colonial encounter in the Americas, along the boundaries crossed by 21st-century immigrants in Chicago—forming sacred journeys articulated through worship and song. Connecting these sites is the path of return, realized musically through the centrality of revival. The intertextuality of music maps the trajectories of these journeys, embodying the multiple encounters generating the continuous re-creation.
The Afterword, positioned as it is at the rear of the Handbook, presents itself as a study of the conceptualization and application of the notion of virtuality found in the preceding 45 chapters. It does so by discussing four binarisms: reality and world; unreal and real; emic and etic; and utopia and dystopia. Through these four binarisms, the chapters' key themes are assessed and debated and questions of the virtual and digital are discussed as they relate to questions of society and culture change.
Michael P. Steinberg
This article discusses the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a musical group composed of various musicians from Palestine and other Middle Eastern countries. They show how music is a thing of the world, through their performances of works by various composers, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The article takes a look at the double agenda of the Divan, its pedagogical transformations, and their translations, techniques, and use of melancholy.
This chapter examines how Alban Berg plotted to survive as a composer during the Third Reich. Berg’s opera Wozzeck premiered in Berlin on December 14, 1925, achieving undisputed success. When Adolf Hitler became the leader of Nazi Germany, the works of many atonal composers, whether Aryan or not, were banned from performance in Germany. Drawing on Berg’s personal documents held in the Austrian National Library, including musical sketches and drafts of letters, this chapter considers how Berg repackaged Lulu in order to survive as a composer amid the harsh political environment during Hitler’s reign. It also comments on Berg’s desperation as a result of the Nazi government’s censorship of performances of Wozzeck. Finally, it considers Berg’s anti-Semitic tone in his opera, as well as his self-promotion to the point of aligning himself with Nazi Germany.