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Running the Script through the Machine: The Player Piano as a Gender-Political Instrument
Högskolan i Halmstad, Akademin för lärande, humaniora och samhälle, Kontext & kulturgränser (KK).ORCID-id: 0000-0002-4453-945X
2015 (Engelska)Konferensbidrag, Enbart muntlig presentation (Refereegranskat)
Abstract [en]

Launched at the turn of the twentieth century, the semi-mechanical player piano opened up canonical music to new audiences by sidestepping musical literacy. In contrast to other more or less contemporary technical appliances for recording and reproducing sound, the player piano granted its operator the freedom of individual expression. While the machine produced the notes, the performer was at liberty to modify the tempo and the expression. Due to this manipulation of the original score, it became a gender-political instrument. As such, it had a significant effect on the perception, performance and appreciation of music, and thus implicitly on the fictional treatment of these phenomena.

The argument in this paper is built on the notion that the composer’s script as encapsulated in the piano roll could be subjected to such a highly individual treatment that almost a new composition emerged in the process. My first fictional example is from E. M. Forster’s posthumously published Maurice (1971) in which the potential for new gender perspectives that the player piano could provide is glimpsed but rejected. It is argued that it was as great an anomaly to break against heteronormativity as to distort sonata form in Edwardian society. My next two examples demonstrate how the player piano facilitated self-expression and individuality for women performers. Both Lucy Honeychurch in Forster’s A Room with a View (1908) and Miriam Henderson in Dorothy Richardson’s Pointed Roofs (1915) challenge Beethoven’s iconic status and musical form by manipulating the male script and exploring a new pianistic behaviour informed by the mechanical discourse. In my concluding discussion, I will illustrate how the player piano was also a tool for a masculinisation of Chopin’s music. Here I will be referring to Henry Handel Richardson’s Maurice Guest (1908) and James Huneker’s Melomaniacs (1902). 

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
2015.
Nyckelord [en]
fiction, music, modernism, technology, media
Nationell ämneskategori
Humaniora
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-28100OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-28100DiVA, id: diva2:805411
Konferens
Modernist Musics and Political Aesthetics, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom, 8-10 April, 2015
Tillgänglig från: 2015-04-15 Skapad: 2015-04-15 Senast uppdaterad: 2015-08-25Bibliografiskt granskad

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Björkén-Nyberg, Cecilia

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