Music - Doctoral Theses

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    Going to the well for water: traditional oral/aural aesthetics and the performance of the modern self in contemporary Irish traditional music
    (University College Cork, 2023) Streit, Kaylie Eleanore; Marshall, Melanie L; Ní Shiocháin, Tríona; University College Cork; Higher Education Authority
    Irish traditional music is a living tradition in which participating members both play the music and discuss questions about what defines the tradition and what the tradition can become. Exploration of these questions through informal talks between musicians, musical explorations, and formal discussion of musical changes in academic settings helps to keep the tradition alive alongside performance of the music. With this thesis, I join this ongoing discussion and engage with Ó Súilleabháin’s (1990; 1999), Ní Shíocháin’s (2021a; 2018; 2009), and Cowdery’s (1990; 1984) ideas about creativity, flexibility, aural transmission practices, and melodic development within Irish traditional music. I extend their work to compare practices across three different performance contexts: 1) highly traditional; 2) crossovers between genres; and 3) explorational, improvisational performances. Through interviews and performance observations, I found that these musicians use traditional material to perform their musical identities, much like Bourdieu found that individuals use the habitus to express aspects of themselves and their culture (1990; 1984; 1977), and to create meaningful expressions of self. Through my analyses of fieldwork, I developed the concept of musical regeneration as a lens to discuss the musicians’ creative practices. It provides an analytical language for discussing creative processes which intertwine oral/aural traditional practices with contemporary performance practices as well as a framework to discuss expression of the self and performance of identity through music that references traditional material. I correlate musical regeneration with the concept of “going to the well for water.” This phrase refers to the process of returning to traditional repertoire, structures, and ideas as a source of nourishment, refreshment, and inspiration in the creation of new musical works and, thus, new expressions of the self through performance. A key example of this process is Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s performance of the tune “Going to the Well for Water,” which he first performed in a traditional manner then used as a foundation for an improvisation. This performance, which contributed both to the phrase and the title of this thesis, is a key example of musical regeneration in action. Chapter 1 defines musical regeneration as a creative process used by experienced musicians to create new musical expressions. This process combines elements of composition in performance (Lord 1960; Ní Shíocháin 2021a; 2018), rapid composition (Gjerdingen 2007), and improvisation (Berliner 1994; Evans 1982). Chapter 2 contextualises my fieldwork by exploring the development of creative practices in Irish traditional music over time. This chapter also focuses on case studies of current Irish traditional musicians within highly traditional performance contexts who participate in the re-creative process of “making the tune your own,” which is an inherent component of this living musical tradition. This demonstrates that musical regeneration, through re-creativity, is used by musicians to create personalised expressions of self which connect the past heritage of the music to the present. Chapter 3 investigates how musicians reference multiple aspects of their musical background, including vernacular aesthetics and structures, within a single performance through musical regeneration. Chapter 4 focuses on how traditional aesthetics, sounds, and approaches to creativity are re-interpreted and applied to contemporary, and often experimental, contexts. The musicians featured in these case studies create improvisatory music which explores the idea of expanding vernacular aesthetics beyond their original tradition. They often combine multiple musical influences in the process of exploring musical possibilities and expressions of self from an alternative perspective. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s performance of “Going to the Well for Water” is analysed in this chapter. Chapter 5 investigates how musicians in each of these performance contexts use musical processes and formulas as habitus and technologies of self to express their identity through music performance. This tells us how musicians use traditional material, through the creative practice of musical regeneration, in the process of meaning making and modern expression of the self. This range of performance practices also demonstrates the vitality of Irish traditional music today and the multiple veins through which the music and its practices are successfully carried on to future generations.
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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).