Songs of knowledge : Sirens in theory and performance

Robson, Julie (2004) Songs of knowledge : Sirens in theory and performance. PhD by Creative Works, Queensland University of Technology.


This inquiry is a two-tongued performance as research project asking &quotWhy was the voice of the Sirens deadly?" and &quotHow can the Sirens inform contemporary feminist theatre praxis?". The two questions in constant dialectic have been explored in a written dissertation as well as in a one-hour original and ensemble performance called The Quivering: a Matter of Life and Death. Analysing references in mythology, art and history, the written component suggests how the Siren's sonic qualities are manifest in distinct cultural icons and embodied by actual female performers. Four Siren vocalities are identified and theorised: The Monster vocality is evidenced in the figure of the femme fatale; the Lamenter exists in traditional funerary singers and contemporary torch songs; the sound of the Diva is heard in the opera queen; and the Lullaby Maker acoustics oscillate between the banter of Mother Goose and the 'red hot mamas' of the blues. Pursuing what is deadly about each of these embodied voices, the thesis articulates why female sound, like the Siren song of knowledge, is so ambivalently received - its evocation of otherness (Monster), liminality (Lamenter), jouissance (Diva) and contra-diction (Lullaby Maker) is both feared and revered. These four vocalities have grown in and out of The Quivering, a performance odyssey that has interrogated aesthetic, content, characterisation, narrative and devising practice, all with an ear to the Siren's 'deadly' sonority. Subverting portrayals of death as a woman and a taboo, its comic-tragic heroines exist in a liminal landscape as lamenters who confront and facilitate the audience's death passage. In counterpoint to Homeric legacy, it has been designed as an open text, which, combined with its heightened physicality and musicality, make for an 'other' aesthetic or contemporary Siren 'song'. The Quivering is pitched at the same tone as the distilled Siren vocalities or 'blue notes', and, as a performance as research project, also re-sounds provocatively within traditional academic discourse. The 'deadliness' of the female voice, in myth, in theory and in performance thus resides in its dissolution of logos and certainty. It quivers with the pleasure and trauma of a corporeal jouissance that exceeds narrative and linguistic frames with its full-bodied, acoustic and imagistic resonance.

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ID Code: 16108
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Creative Works)
Supervisor: Martin, Jacqueline & McLean, Judith
Keywords: Sirens, Feminist Theatre
Department: Faculty of Creative Industries
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Julie Robson
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:56
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:43

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