The Radical Violinist: Henry Flynt, Tony Conrad and the Liberation of the Violin
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Recognising that an environment of revolution can breed a culture outside of the mainstream - and that said culture can breed unique forms of expression – this thesis aims to answer questions hitherto undiscussed in violin performance practice discourse, and furthermore aims to propose a new direction in violin performance practice that is unique in current discourse. The research question represents a divergence from the ‘normalised’ perspective of the violin as an instrument traditionally associated with ‘classical’ or ‘museum-piece’ music, music that is relegated to consumption in state and corporate-sponsored orchestras and concert halls. The latter is a music that adheres to a set of rules and practices, whereas this thesis aims to bring attention to an alternative to modern norms in violin performance practices by asking the question: in what ways do the performance practices of underground violinists during the 1960s in New York City reflect the revolutionary ideals and philosophies of their creators, and do these practices thereby liberate the violin from these traditions and norms? These questions will be approached through three core methods: musical analysis, critical theory, and discourse analysis. The musical analysis describes the performance practices of underground violinists and in particular those of Tony Conrad and Henry Flynt, in detail. Their practices will be discussed via the discourse generated through conducting one-on-one interviews with, and analysing the writings of, Conrad and Flynt. This then leads to the pinnacle of this triangulation, the critical theory. Drawn from socialist thinkers and the “hauntology” theory of Jacques Derrida – as well as the specific philosophies of underground violinists and their comrades – the thesis culminates in the Manifesto of the Radical Violinist, ultimately proposing a new radicalised, socially and environmentally conscious violin practice.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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