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Title: The persona in instrumental rock
Author: Sora, Andrei
ISNI:       0000 0004 7657 2275
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2018
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There seems to be agreement, in both academic and lay thought, that music is a medium where artists express themselves (Karl and Robinson 1995, Cochrane 2008, Robinson and Hatten 2012). However, there is no agreement on how this is done. The starting question of the thesis is how one analyses the expressivity of music, particularly of the instrumental variety. I propose that the best-suited analytic tool for tackling this question is the notion of persona. Regardless of how close to the real person, this persona is never coextensive with the artists that we listen to. The notion has been heavily problematised in the context of vocal music (Cone 1974, Frith 1996, Auslander, 2009, Moore 2012), and I argue that, even in the absence of lyrics, valuable lessons can be learned by making the assumption that popular music reception is intimately tied in with the notion of musical persona. This thesis proposes a model for the (de)construction of the persona in instrumental rock, by focusing on the music of four of the most renowned and technically accomplished contemporary rock guitarists: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Guthrie Govan. I review established models of persona deconstruction and argue that a fractured persona is a more lucrative perspective from which to analyse instrumental rock. I develop a protagonist/environment approach that draws on parallels with film in order to go beyond the main persona of the composer/lead performer and also analyse the distinct personae of the various instruments/musicians heard on a recording, building upon notions of vocality and musical prosody. In the latter part, I capture the tension between the artists' own image as musicmakers (discourses on self-expression, uniqueness, vocality) and the findings illustrated in the first part, focusing on whether these guitarists see their music as self-expressive or as involving constructed personae. Contradictions are addressed in the conclusion, which also offers potential avenues for future research.
Supervisor: Armstrong, Thomas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral