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Title: Moaning with pleasure and keening through pain: Eroticism in the work of Patti Smith, Björk and Tanya Tagaq
Authors: Pidgorna, Anna
Advisors: White, Barbara
Contributors: Music Department
Keywords: eroticism
popular music
Ukrainian folk music
Subjects: Musical composition
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Within our largely androcentric society, women’s voices are still underrepresented in the conversation about eroticism in all spheres of discourse, whether artistic, academic or popular. Women still face greater obstacles than men when it comes to free erotic expression in life and art. This dissertation aims to diversify the discussion of female sexuality in music by examining the work of three experimental artists in the realm of popular music—Patti Smith, Björk and Tanya Tagaq—as well as Anna Pidgorna’s song cycle Invented Folksongs, focusing specifically on their varied explorations of sexuality, gender, romantic relationships and sexualized violence. These artists are united by their idiosyncratic and highly expressive uses of the voice, which becomes an important avenue for exploring eroticism and pleasure both on the intellectual and the physical plane. Detailed musical and poetic analyses of particular works are linked to larger cultural contexts, drawing on diverse scholarship in psychology, sociology, feminism, evolutionary psychology and biology, and history. Patti Smith’s “Break It Up” from Horses is analyzed through the lens of her favorite childhood character, Peter Pan, whom she connected with the idea of eternal youth and existence beyond the gender binary. For Patti Smith, youthful androgyny is the key to free artistic and sexual expression. Peter Pan, who acts as the guide to Neverland, becomes an entry point into Björk’s “Hidden Place” from Vespertine. In this more gendered reading of J.M. Barrie’s classic children story, Neverland and “Hidden Place” are framed as the emergence of autonomous female erotic fantasy, which exists independently of any particular man. Traditional lamentation practices and their connections with eroticism inform the discussion of Björk’s album Vulnicura, which traces the breakup of a longterm romantic relationship. Tanya Tagaq’s free-form novel Split Tooth offers a gateway to her rejection of colonialist values through a largely wordless exploration of Inuit animistic spirituality in her album Animism. Anna Pidgorna’s song cycle Invented Folksongs draws on poetic imagery and musical gestures from Ukrainian folk music to explore contemporary issues of gender, sexuality, relationships and sexual violence.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Music

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