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As a PhD candidate in composition and theory at NYU Graduate School of Arts and Science, I am currently working towards the completion of a theoretical dissertation that examines the relationship between privileged modes of thinking temporality and corresponding claims to musical knowledge in late 20th century compositional discourse. More specifically, I am invested in the prospect of compositional freedom in the wake of the psychoanalytic elaboration of unconscious thought, larking behind the self-transparency of the Cartesian cogito.
Drawing on Jacques Ranciere's elaboration of the 'aesthetic unconscious', I contend that the Freudian 'discovery' of the unconscious coincides with a specific reconfiguration in the domain of art, which moves art from the representative regime to that of the aesthetic regime. Under these new artistic conditions my question thus becomes: in the name of whom, or of what, does composers put forth their claims to knowledge? Whose freedom is at stake once the Cartesian identity between thought and existence is no longer in place? Addressing this question, my dissertation is aim at showing why and how does 'temporality' occupies such a strategic position in the allocation of (unconscious) musical knowledge in late 20th century compositional discourse.
Presented in the form of case studies, each of the four chapters of the dissertation offers a localized analysis and a critical reading of distinct modes of thinking the locus of knowledge in relation to temporality. The first chapter examines Gerard Grisey's construal of temporality and the corresponding turn towards a phenomenology of (musical) perception. The second chapter examines the work of post-serial composer Helmut Lachenmann, linking his notion of the 'sounding fermata' (as temporal suspension of the natural phenomenon) to the utopian premise of Theodor Adorno's aesthetic theory. The third chapter examines the recent rehabilitation of improvisation in relation to 'real time forms of musicality' as advocated by George Lewis and Arnold Davidson. I conclude the dissertation with an analysis of the tension inherent in John Cage's work between his emancipatory project and his equally decisive turn towards theater.
The dissertation committee includes Prof. Jairo Moreno (advisor, Penn University), Prof. Ellizabeth Hoffman (NYU) and Prof. Peter Szendy (University of Nanterre).