Making Sex Sound: Erotic Current in Electronic Music

Dr Danielle Shlomit Sofer
PhD, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, 2016
Making Sex Sound: Erotic Current in Electronic Music

This dissertation examines electronic and electroacoustic music written after 1950 with a focus on works composers attribute with erotic connotations. It explores the ways in which music presents eroticism, how composers envision a musically erotic subject as well as what listeners find aurally stimulating or provocative about music.

Compositions by Pierre Schaeffer, Luc Ferrari, Robert Normandeau, Annea Lockwood, Alice Shields, Barry Truax, Pauline Oliveros, Juliana Hodkinson, and Niels Rønsholdt, exhibit common musical idioms, such as the drive to climax, use of the female voice, and visual or textual imagery. But beyond these commonalities, the dissertation’s framing theoretical, critical, and philosophical analyses prove each work exhibits erotic qualities particular to its social, historical, and music-compositional climate. Early works aspire toward a Husserlian essence of the erotic, paralleling the scientific objectivity of the 1950s; in the 1980s and ’90s, many erotic works deemphasize male sexual pleasure to mirror second-wave feminist critiques of pornography; and, on the heels of this corrective, composers at the turn of the twenty-first century use digital processing to reorient gender and sexual markers. Reacting to electronic music’s historical disregard for gender and sexual difference, this dissertation exposes the philosophical, psychological, socio-cultural, and historical relevance of eroticism in electronic and electroacoustic works.

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