Music - Doctoral Theses

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    “Once upon a time there was a country…” – post-Yugoslav war cinema and its music
    (University College Cork, 2022) Djordjevic, Ana; Khalil, Alexander; Rogers, Jillian; Kulezic-Wilson, Danijela; University College Cork
    In this thesis I focus on the music of post-Yugoslav war films produced between 1994 and 2000. By addressing topics such as nationalism and propaganda, Balkan stereotypes, war trauma, and Yugonostalgia, I expose the unaddressed war trauma, that in various ways afflicts people across the region and is deeply expressed in the music of war films. Yugonostalgia expressed through these soundtracks is seen as a emotional and nostalgic response that reveales this trauma. Other aspects of the films that I analyse here, such as propaganda, nationalism and Balkan stereotypes point to the social, political, and historical dynamics that leave this war trauma unnadressed and unresolved. The analysis of music reveals that these war films portray a variety of aspects of this conflict, including different aspects of trauma that are expressed through the music. The dissolution of Yugoslavia which began in the early 1990s induced some radical political changes that were followed by a civil war between former Yugoslav republics. At the end of this conflict, a once coherent federal state was divided into several independent countries. The war efforts and this newly established independence were presented in cinema which offered convenient ways to tell the stories of recent historical events through its narrative features. The films analysed in this thesis were produced in former Yugoslav republics, notably Serbia, Croatia, and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (today North Macedonia), in the years 1994-2000, i.e., during the civil war in Bosnia and Croatia and NATO bombing of Serbia. The soundtracks include originally composed scores as well as compiled scores that include both popular and clasical music, with a heavy influx of Yugoslav popular music. This thesis addresses the as-yet unexplored subject of music in the post-Yugoslav war cinema of this turbulent period. I base my music analysis on film music scholarship supported by film studies, history, sociology, and trauma studies. I investigate how a variety of war-connected themes presented in the films are reflected in the soundtrack. In the four chapters of this thesis, I focus on four themes that are related and connected by the contexts in which the films were produced – propaganda and provocation, national identity, trauma, and Yugonostalgia. The chapters are arranged in such a way as to layer the information and observations about the films, political context, and music production at the time, in order to reach the issue of unaddressed trauma and its musical representation in the films.
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    From popular music to the film score: innovation, interrogation, corporeality
    (University College Cork, 2022-10-11) Walsh, Caitríona; Kulezic-Wilson, Danijela; Irish Research Council
    This thesis explores innovation in contemporary film scoring practice, specifically as it relates to the sonic output of composers and musicians with a background in popular music. In so doing, it investigates significant and distinctive work in this intriguing domain of artistic endeavour, and parses out compelling aspects of the film music and sound contributions of figures like Hans Zimmer, Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk, Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, and Mica Levi from Good Sad Happy Bad. Innovation is the keystone of the thesis, and is borne out in its content in multiple ways, in keeping with central themes of interrogation and corporeality. It encapsulates instances where on-screen music and sound are unusually foregrounded, where previously established auditory techniques are taken to heightened extremes, where hierarchies of dialogue, effects, and music are upended, where instrumental techniques are applied in atypical ways, and where cutting-edge digital technologies are used to creative and progressive impact. Drawing from the overarching themes of specific chapters, the core concept of innovation is likewise manifested through music and sound that interrogate audio-viewers out of mindless receptivity, and through audio-visual styles that encourage us to engage actively and corporeally with what is seen, heard, and felt on a visceral, embodied level. In the soundtracks examined over the course of the thesis this is achieved by diverse musical means, from beehive string swarms and menacing microtonal tunings to portentous percussive heartbeats, and from inventive sound design praxes to galaxy-bending hyperorchestrated sonorities. Shared among the cited examples of film music and sound in films like Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014), Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013), Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009), and There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007), is their success in thwarting some of the most pervasive and uninspiring soundtrack clichés found in the mainstream, facilitating more profoundly meaningful and affective experiences
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    Beyond gangsta: hip-hop, web culture and racial masking in the musical work of Tyler, The Creator
    (University College Cork, 2021-09-14) Marques, Gustavo Souva; Rollefson, J. Griffith; Kulezic-Wilson, Danijela; Alves da Silva, Rubens
    Tyler, The Creator (Tyler Gregory Okonma), is an African American rapper, music producer and entrepreneur who has been vigorously challenging tropes of black American masculinity. From chattel slavery to blackface minstrelsy, the African diasporic experience in the West is marked by a series of stigmas, contradictions and dichotomies evidenced in the challenge of being black in a white world. This duplicity denounced and analyzed by scholars such as W.E.B. DuBois and Frantz Fanon informs the theoretical frame of this dissertation but also reflects Tyler’s investments in subverting American racial ideology in his controversial audio-visual performances. Through his participation in and appropriating of skateboarding and web culture, Tyler denies common associations and stereotypes of blackness related to gangsterism which allowed him to become an internet phenomenon at the age of 19 with his music video “Yonkers” (2011). This study analyzes Tyler’s systematic move beyond gangsta through close media analysis and through ethnographic work in and around the black suburbia of Tyler’s upbringing in Southern California.
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    Music analysis: Erasure and beyond
    (University College Cork, 2021-05) Felfeli-Crawford, Karishmeh; Stock, Jonathan; Khalil, Alexander
    This thesis considers the practice of music analysis as it pertains to various popular musics outside the classical canon. Starting with an analysis of Indian fusion rock song Kandisa, by Indian Ocean, the author demonstrates a methodology rooted in traditional transcription and analysis (in Western notation, and via voice-leading graphs). Her subject position – an Indian ethnomusicologist and analyst in Ireland – allows her to consider tonality through the lens of decolonisation debates and literature, by first focusing on a case-study from her home culture India. In chapter two, the thesis explores the scholarly literature on (Western) popular music analysis, via a survey of texts, debates and arguments that have helped shape the field. By again reminding the reader of her subject position (BBIPOC; non-elite, Western, educated, democratic, Indian scholar of “Western” tonal music), the author sets the stage for the main act of the thesis: a study of Vince Clarke and Andy Bell’s synthpop band Erasure (pictured above), spanning approximately the thirty-year period outlined in the literature review. In chapter three, the author presents an ethnographic reading of Erasure that is sensitive to the culture-bearers’ own competencies, musical abilities, ideas, and reflections, captured via in-depth interviews with Clarke and Bell. These interviews are paired with ideas and frameworks provided by Aaron A. Fox in his seminal text “Real Country” (Fox 2004). In chapter four, a large number of Erasure songs (all composed and performed by Vince Clarke and Andy Bell) are presented in a language of popular criticism, that can be understood by readers of varied musical backgrounds: the band members, the music academics, the Erasure fans. While there is some re-engagement with score-based techniques of chapter one, the author presents fertile new ground from which to study Erasure's popular music that has suffered neglect in music academia, by demonstrating how the English language (minus too much technological or graphic representation) can be a viable means for (BBIPOC) music analysis of Clarke and Bell's work, since it is also the national language of India, and the language of academic musicology in Ireland, where she is based. The anti-elitist approach to music analysis does not only pay lip service to the idea of diversity, accessibility, and inclusion, to say nothing of anti-racist, decolonial strategies themselves. Rather, it advances the idea that the serious study of popular music, and living musicians, is essential to a wider understanding and acceptance of many different cultures more generally – for example, LGBTQ, mixed-race, working-class, anti-ageist, anti-ableist, to name a few. Ultimately, the thesis advances ethnographically-nuanced “music analysis” as a way of proving that ‘musical art — is not an exceptional domain of culture; it is the very heart of culture’ (Fox 2004: 17).
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    The transient composer: rearrangement of pre-existing music in the film score
    (University College Cork, 2020) McGlynn, James Denis; Kulezic-Wilson, Danijela; Rollefson, J. Griffith; Godfrey, John; University College Cork
    This thesis addresses a prominent gap in existing film music scholarship by examining rearrangement as a recurrent and important practice in contemporary screen scoring. While the use of pre-existing music in the soundtrack is a vibrant area of inquiry (see Ashby 2013; Godsall 2019; McQuiston 2013; Powrie and Stilwell 2006; Smith 1998), no individual scholarly study has ever attempted to account for rearrangement’s recurrence, diverse functionality and complex aesthetic concerns in the context of recent screen scoring practices. This oversight is notable, especially given the pervasiveness of musical borrowing in the history of film music, the increased prevalence of rearrangement in contemporary scores and the rich narrative possibilities that the practice is so often seen to unlock. By introducing the ‘transient composer’ as a central heuristic, this thesis mounts a diverse theoretical and textual exploration of musical rearrangement as a potent and recurrent trend in contemporary film and television scores. Broadly construed as a form of ‘musical remaking’, rearrangement is framed as a characteristically intertextual phenomenon that occupies an ambiguous liminal space between newly-composed and pre-existing music, raising challenging questions concerning the application of both. The transient composer heuristic is therefore employed in an appropriately malleable way throughout the project, attempting to account for (i) the range of ramifications rearrangement can entail, (ii) the multitude of individuals involved, (iii) the many forms it can take, and (iv) the increased prevalence of the idiom. The thesis comprises three central case studies on The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann, 2013), Watchmen (Damon Lindelof, 2019) and Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve 2017). While each of these examples incorporates rearrangement in nuanced, textually complex ways, even the most innocuous uses of rearrangement in recent films and television series reinforce my central postulation that, in recent years, filmmakers have frequently turned to rearrangement with the intention of harnessing the many narrative, affective, structural, musical and stylistic effects it has the potential to elicit.