Acoustic Creatures
: Human and animal entanglements in performance

  • Austin McQuinn

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis questions the phenomenon of human and animal acoustic entanglements in arts and performance practices and proposes that sounding the animal in performance, or ‘becoming-­‐resonant’, secures vital connections to the creatural. Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of becoming-­‐animal, Donna Haraway’s definitions of multi-­‐species becoming-­‐with and Mladen Dolar’s ideas of voice-­‐as-­‐object frame this analysis and shape its findings. This thesis begins by tracing coevolutionary chronologies of listening to birdsong in the work of Olivier Messiaen and Celeste Boursier-­‐Mougenot, alongside the development of musical instrumentation, broadcasting, and recording technologies.

    This trajectory continues in Chapter Two, through my reading of Daniela Cattivelli’s sound works where entanglements of artist, activist, bird-­‐hunter and animal challenge perceptions of birdsong and its meaning in human culture. The acoustics of hunting and its origins in palaeoperformance (Montelle) are connected here through animal voices to Rane Willerslev’s contemporary anthropological investigations of Siberian hunting techniques where deception, concealment, animism and personhood form an acousmatic template. In Chapter Three, the concepts of tactical empathy, perspectivism and neoshamanism (Viveiros de Castro) inform my analysis of Marcus Coates’ live art events where, I argue, he both botches Deleuzeo-­‐Guattarian theories of becoming-­‐ animal and complicates the influence of Joseph Beuys’ animal mythologies. Myth also
    informs animal presences in opera, which in Chapter Four, I claim have been challenged in powerful ways by Raskatov’s A Dog’s Heart and Birtwhistle’s The Minotaur. Raskatov breaks with the traditions of silent dog stereotypes on stage from Shakespeare to contemporary cabaret. Instead violence and ostracism find a voice through these persecuted creatures. Violated bodies and voices are crucial to the primate dramas of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape and Franz Kafka’s A Report to the Academy where, in Chapter Five, I show how the politics of the tongue, language worship, and anthropocentrism overpower human-­‐primate relationships and distort inter-­‐species communication. Counter to the tyranny of human exceptionalism, the creatural acoustics at work in Kathryn Hunter’s empathic becoming-­‐ape, in bass John Tomlinson’s minotaur, in the radical throat-­‐singing of Christian Zehnder and in castrato histories and legacies, push materialities of lung, larynx and muscle into a new ecology of listening, singing and resonating. By invoking vocalic animal bodies and becoming entangled, creatural acoustics send sonic threads through the labyrinths of culture that sustain resonances across species and beyond the limitations of the human.
    Date of Award23 Feb 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGarry Marvin (Supervisor)

    Cite this