Composing in and through the Body

Barden, Mark. 2017. Composing in and through the Body. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Composing in and through the Body: Work Commentary)
MUS_thesis_commentary_BardenM_2017.pdf - Accepted Version
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Text (Composing in and through the Body: Composition Portfolio)
MUS_thesis_portfolio_BardenM_2017.pdf - Accepted Version
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Abstract or Description

This commentary investigates role of the body in the composition, performance, and audition of the author's musical works included in the portfolio. Starting from Jean-Jacques Nattiez's model of the three-part 'total musical fact', this text describes how the compositional research both adheres to this model and attempts to transcend it through the body. It examines notational strategies that target performing or perceiving bodies, the use of physical and perceptual thresholds, the somatic experience of the composer at various stages throughout the compositional process, and the structuring of the listening environment. Human error and expressive failure are cited as means through which performing bodies forge collectivities with the audience, thereby exemplifying the queer utopian aesthetics described by José Esteban Muñoz and Judith/Jack Halberstam, especially as relates to the notion of hopeful exertion. The staging of absence is examined through various types of embodied engagements with musical material, highlighting the tendency of imminent physicality to draw perceptual focus away from material—an 'avalanche' that can all-too-easily elide the composer's 'fingerprint', in the language of Max Murray. Extended instrumental techniques, the use of electronics, and the genre of performance-installation are also discussed in terms of their relationship to the bodies of the composer, the musician, and the listener. Phenomena such as composed and field-recorded forms of metastasis and masking are addressed for their prioritization of perceptual responses in the listener above material or formal development. Given that all perceived sound is necessarily mediated through bodies (at the latest, through listeners' ears), this commentary and these compositions seek to concentrate awareness—vigilantly and in a number of specific ways—on the beauty and inherent transformative potential of this ever-present reality.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


music composition, performance practice, the body

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 May 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2017 13:26

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:49


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