SPIRIT IN THE FLESH:
ESSAYS ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BODY AND MEANING IN PERFORMANCE

(click here for the complete dissertation)

 by

Anne Katherine Hege

A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE FACULTY OF PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

RECOMMENDED FOR ACCEPTANCE BY THE DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC

Adviser: Barbara White

June * 2014

Abstract

The body is the interface through which a person knows their surroundings, their lives, their relationships, and their culture. Weaving together a discussion of contemporary research in embodied cognition theory and pragmatic philosophy with traditional music analysis and my own physical experience, I explore how four different performance works speak to the body, and so, invigorate and transform meaning, communities, and people.

Chapter one, “Jill Sigman and the Moving Body,” examines how choreographer and dancer Jill Sigman creates a multimedia work that is both an investigation and a performance. Through an analysis of Sigman’s NAT MUR and supporting research in embodied cognition philosophy, I examine how Sigman, defines, transforms, and reinvigorates language, such as “guarding,” “rolling,” and “heart.”

In the second chapter, “Diamanda Galás – Word Made Flesh,” I explore Galás’s, The Plague Mass and Vena Cava. I describe Galás’s full body, compositional practice of “becoming” her subject (in this instance, the HIV/AIDS epidemic) and show how her practice of embodiment creates, communicates, and develops the audience’s understanding and experience of her subject.

In the third chapter, “Bill T. Jones – Filling in the Virtual Body,” I analyze Ghostcatching, an animated dance video created by Bill T. Jones in collaboration with the OpenEnded Group. Drawing on Marc Leman’s research on embodied cognition and music technology, I demonstrate how the viewer’s physical, lived experience provides the information necessary to understand fundamental aspects of Bill T. Jones’s animated body and its surrounding environment.

The fourth chapter, titled “The Tristan Project and the Knowing Body,” explores how Richard Wagner’s creation of musical water in Isolde’s final aria, accompanied by Bill Viola’s video depiction of transitional states of being, helps to communicate a physical understanding of Isolde’s grief and subsequent death. These compositional choices support a collective experience of mourning.

It is my hope that the essays in this dissertation model a way of using the body as a framework for a discussion of music and multimedia performance. At the root of it, this research explores how we create meaning individually and communally and how this is inextricably connected to the body.