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POSTPONED: Research Colloquium: W. Anthony Sheppard
June 2 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pmFree
W. Anthony Sheppard (Williams, USA) | Lady Gaga’s Vocal Masking
The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Annabelle Page and George Haggett organise the series. Presentations are followed by discussion and a drinks reception. Students, staff, and the general public are warmly encouraged to attend.
Over the past decade, masked performance has become increasingly prevalent in both popular music and political protests. This masking includes literal facial masks and multiple forms of vocal masking. In this talk, I will argue that the use of different vocal timbres, both naturally and technologically generated, is equivalent to the act of donning different facial masks. I will also investigate how meaning may be masked in vocal performance in the musical treatment of text or in the use of nonverbal, but nevertheless highly expressive, vocal sounds. A series of brief examples will suggest the ways in which identity has recently been destabilized through vocal masking, particularly in terms of racialized and gendered perceptions.
The primary focus of this talk will be on the virtuosic visual and vocal masking of Lady Gaga. I will analyze several of her recordings and music videos in terms of timbral variety, juxtaposition, musical structure, and relationship to text. Her musical and visual performance of self presents clear parallels with the aesthetics and ambiguities of Surrealism. What do Lady Gaga’s vocal masks conceal and reveal? In the final section, I will consider the moral and political implications of such masking techniques and what, exactly, it would entail for a vocalist of such stylistic promiscuity as Lady Gaga to unmask.