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poirier via said

By Clare / Posted 10/09/2011


I don't know about you, but this always happens to me: I go to the library for one book and leave with six or seven. Last week was no different. All I wanted was Apparitions...I left the library with Musical Elaborations (so far, as delightful as can be expected from Said [that is to say, it is wonderful]), The Sonic Self (if the rest is as revelatory as the first ten pages, this might be a life-changing volume), and several other tomes on musical signification. Yay.

Before delving Said and Poirier, I ought to give a little background. For some time, I've been completely occupied with musicandviolence/power: the damage done to our bodies through repetitive practice; the disturbing parallels between eighteenth-century music and physical discipline--from military-type conditioning to torture. All these interests came together at a paper I saw while in Portugal this spring. My own presentation on the conditioned/constructed body, Iain Foreman's paper on sound and trauma resonated particularly strongly.

Certainly, my time in Portugal changed my perspective on performance: today, I cannot help but view it as a violent act inextricably bound to webs of power. Imagine my delight as I read the following quotation from Poirier's "The Performing Self" in Said's Musical Elaborations:

Performance is an exercise of power, a very anxious one. Curious because it is at first so furiously self-consultive, so even narcissistic, and later so eager for publicity, love and historical dimensions. Out of an accumulation of sevretive acts emerges at last a form that presumes to compete with reality itself for control of the mind exposed to it. Performance in writing, in painting, or in dance is made of thousands of timy movements each made with a calculation that is also its innocence. By innocence I mean that the movements have an utterly moral neutrality--they are designed to serve on another and nothing else; and they are innocent, too, because contrived with only a vague general notion of what they might ultimately be responsible for--the final thing, the accumulation called "the work."

Thoughts? How do you experience power in the realm of performance?

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