Between Liminality and Transgression: Experimental Voice in Avant-Garde Performance
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis explores the notion of ‘experimental voice’ in avant-garde performance, in the way it transgresses conventional forms of vocal expression as a means of both extending and enhancing the expressive capabilities of the voice, and reframing the social and political contexts in which these voices are heard. I examine these avant-garde voices in relation to three different liminal contexts in which the voice plays a central role: in ritual vocal expressions, such as Greek lament and Māori karanga, where the voice forms a bridge between the living and the dead; in electroacoustic music and film, where the voice is dissociated from its source body and can be heard to resound somewhere between human and machine; and from a psychoanalytic perspective, where the voice may bring to consciousness the repressed fears and desires of the unconscious. The liminal phase of ritual performance is a time of inherent possibility, where the usual social structures are inverted or subverted, but the liminal is ultimately temporary and conservative. Victor Turner suggests the concept of the ‘liminoid’ as a more transgressive alternative to the liminal, allowing for permanent and lasting social change. It may be in the liminoid realm of avant-garde performance that voices can be reimagined inside the frame of performance, as a means of exploring new forms of expression in life. This thesis comes out of my own experience as a performer and is informed both by theoretical discourse and practical experimentation in the theatre. Exploring the voice as a liminal, transgressive force requires analysis from an experiential perspective.