University of Pittsburgh

Hoover's Article in Current Musicology

Congratulations are due to Elizabeth Hoover on the publication of her article “Variations V: “Escaping Stagnation” Through Movement of Signification” in the latest issue of Current Musicology. Hoover initially developed the article as paper that she presented at Harvard’s Movement conference in February of 2011. In her abstract to the article Hover writes,

Variations V, a collaborative event by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and the composer John Cage, premiered as part of the New York Philharmonic’s French-American Festival on July 23, 1965. The collaboration depended on the physical movement of dance in its complex interface for the production of simultaneity between media, however scholars have ignored Cunningham and other voices of artistic authority in their predilection for the study of sound. This article considers the choreography of Variations V in tandem with sound as part of a shifting structure which questioned the socio-politico environment of the time. The collaboration premiered and toured the United States during the mid-60s, a decade persistently described in terms of movement: in revolution, as traveling in space, as going to war, and as embodied in social unrest. Scholarly accounts of Variations V rarely address the dynamism of this rhetoric, even though movement is emphasized by Cage’s a posteriori score, his thirty-seven brief statements which culminate in a call to action: “escape stagnation.”

“I argue that the meaning of Variations V “escapes stagnation” in the interstices between aural and visual media. To explore them I enlist philosopher Jacques Derrida whose contemporaneous perspective offers a compelling framework to account for both signification and performance. Through this Derridean lens I demonstrate how meaning in Variations V operates not through connotation alone but through a movement of signification, or différance. Authorities of individual collaborators are continuously questioned through the play of différance, and any number of ecological, political or technological statements could be suggested from the movement of image, gesture and sound.”

The publication of “Variations V: “Escaping Stagnation” Through Movement of Signification” marks a significant milestone in Hoover’s research, which focuses primarily on indeterminate composers of the 20th century, such as Cage and Earle Brown, through the application of deconstructionist theoretical frameworks. We’re confident that it is one of many more to come.

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