Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen Blum


Jeff Nichols

Committee Members

Jeff Nichols

Emily Wilbourne

Joseph Dubiel

Chad Kautzer

Subject Categories



new music, activism, politics, intelligibility, agency, performance practice


This dissertation reads politically works by Georges Aperghis, Rick Burkhardt, Mark Enslin, and Elizabeth Hoffman. Chapter 1 argues that suspending intelligibility stimulates the audience to imagine alternative meanings and ways the music might go, in an orientation that is politically desirable. Synthesizing theorizations by Herbert Brün, Joseph Dubiel, Shoshana Felman, and Enslin, it catalogues four techniques for suspending intelligibility, and analyses Enslin’s Sonata Quijada. Chapter 2 suggests that we read politically metaphors of agency and power sharing in chamber textures, and translate those metaphors into our social and political lives. It draws on Elisabeth Le Guin’s reading of Boccherini, and Martin Brody’s reading of Wolpe, and analyzes “Assemblage,” by Hoffman, and a scene from the opera, “You My Mother, Part One,” by Burkhardt and playwright Kristen Kosmas. It offers examples from Aperghis’ rehearsal process, and Theater of the Oppressed NYC’s Festival of Legislative Theater as examples of how we might translate our analyses into action. Chapter 3 discusses the changes in performance practice necessary to cultivate the kinds of reading described in Chapters 1 and 2, presents eight of my own compositions in terms of political content and the context of their performance, and concludes with suggestions toward my ideal performance practice.

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