Date of Degree

9-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Music

Advisor

Anne Stone

Committee Members

Emily Wilbourne

Lisa Rhody

Karen Henson

Subject Categories

Musicology

Keywords

opera, digital anthropology, voice, feminism, embodiment, disembodiment

Abstract

This dissertation looks at three newly composed operas that feature what I call cyber-narratives: a work in which the story itself is inextricably linked with digital technologies, such that the characters utilize, interact with, or are affected by digital technologies to such a pervasive extent that the impact of said technologies is thematized within the work. Through an analysis of chat rooms and real-time text communication in Nico Muhly’s Two Boys (2011), artificial intelligence in Søren Nils Eichberg’s Glare (2014), and mind uploading and digital immortality in Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers (2010), a nexus of ideologies surrounding voice, the body, gender, digital anthropology, and cyber-culture are revealed. I consider the interpretive possibilities that emerge when analyzing voice and musical elements in conjunction with cultural references within the libretti, visual design choices in the productions, and directorial decisions in the evolution of each work. I theorize the expressive power of the operatic medium in dramatizing and personifying new forms of technology, while simultaneously exposing how these technologically oriented narratives reinforce and rely upon operatic tropes of the past. Recurring themes of misogyny and objectification of women across all three works are addressed, as is the framing of digital technology as a mechanism of dehumanization. This analysis also focuses on the unique sung and embodied aspect of opera, and how the human voice shapes concepts of identity, agency, and individuality in the digital age. All three case studies demonstrate how opera gives the cyber-narrative every possible mode of expression to explore the complexities and anxieties of human-machine relationships in the digital era, as all three operas question how the thematized technologies may come to re-define our perception and experience of humanity itself.

Included in

Musicology Commons

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