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Title: Is sorry really the hardest word? : guilt, forgiveness, and reconciliation in contemporary music
Author: Phillips-Hutton, Ariana Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 6425 5424
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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Guilt, forgiveness, and reconciliation are fundamental themes in human musical life, and this thesis investigates how people articulate these experiences through musical performance in contemporary genres. I argue that by participating in performances, individuals enact social narratives that create and reinforce wider ideals of music’s roles in society. I assess the interpenetrations of music and guilt, forgiveness, and reconciliation through a number of case studies spanning different genres preceded by a brief introduction to my methodology. My analysis of Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw illustrates the themes (guilt, confession and memorialisation) and approach I adopt in the three main case studies. My examination of William Fitzsimmons’s indie folk album The Sparrow and the Crow, investigates how ideals of authenticity, self-revelation, and persona structure our understanding of the relationship between performer and audience in confessional indie music. Analyses of two contemporary choral settings of Psalm 51 by Arvo Pärt and James MacMillan examine the confessional relationship between human beings and God. I suggest that by transubstantiating the sacramental traditions of confession in pieces designed for the concert hall, these composers navigate the boundary between the aesthetic and the sacramental. Lastly, I contrast two pieces connected to reconciliation efforts in Australia and South Africa: I argue that the unified narrative of healing in Kerry Fletcher’s “Sorry Song” becomes a performative communal apology, whilst the fragmented, multi-vocal narrative of Philip Miller’s REwind: A Cantata for Voice, Tape and Testimony illustrates how reconciliation may be achieved through constructing a collective history that acknowledges the multiplicity of testimony in post-apartheid society. I conclude that these pieces provide a means for people to enact narratives of guilt, forgiveness, and reconciliation and point towards new areas of study on the multivalent relationship between contemporary music and memory.
Supervisor: Cook, Nicholas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: memory ; forgiveness ; performance ; contemporary music ; guilt ; reconciliation ; memorialisation