The Composition of Posthuman Bodies

I’ve just submitted the revised manuscript for my article on ‘The Composition of Posthuman Bodies’, for a special issue of the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media on ‘Bodily Extensions and Performance (Avatars, Prosthetics, Cyborgs, Posthumans)‘. The article focuses on Ferneyhough’s music and posthuman theory. This is scheduled for publication in autumn 2017.

I’ll also be presenting on this topic at the Tenth Biennial International Conference on Music Since 1900 at the University of Surrey in September.

Abstract: The composition of posthuman bodies

A collision of two thoughts on prostheses provides a point of theoretical ignition for this article: the first is that ‘the musical instrument is a prosthetic augmentation of the human body, enabling the body to exceed itself’ (Johnson 2015); the second that ‘the posthuman view thinks of the body as the original prosthesis we all learn to manipulate’ (Hayles 1999). I consider how musical prostheses critically bring into focus the cultural and material conditions of recent modernity. Brian Ferneyhough’s Time and Motion Study cycle (1971-77), in which the composer entangles performers with technological networks, provides a principal frame of musical and historical reference.

The body, Rosi Braidotti (2011) writes, ‘emerges at the center of the theoretical and political debate at exactly the time in history when there is no more single-minded certainty or consensus about what the body actually is’. I suggest that by compositionally engineering bodies in posthuman terms, one may dissolve the body into its nonhuman extensions, such that it may be, paradoxically, located therein; through engaging, for example, cyborg identities, bodily extensions enable for the body’s possession, in transformed terms, during a historical moment when the embodied nature of the subject is in crisis.


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