Lindsay Bernhagen's Dissertation Project, “Sounding Bodies: Music, Gender, and Intimacy”

September 17, 2012
Lindsay’s dissertation is a multi-sited ethnography that explores the ways people use music in action to construct social worlds. It centers on the role of musical experience in the production and maintenance of intimate, interpersonal relationships. Music, it is argued, acquires meaning in its ability to establish and amplify personal relationships among participants who share musical experience—not only through the semiotic decoding of lyrics and musical sounds that characterizes the majority of humanities-based music scholarship. Because there is scant language available for describing musical experience without reference to non-sonic elements such as lyrics, communal identity, or performers’ personae, this research relies on textual and ethnographic methods to examine how human experiences of musical sound are understood via racialized and gendered discourses of embodiment, intimacy, pleasure, and danger. Though musical experience undoubtedly produces these same effects in a wide variety of contexts, she focuses specifically on highly-staged sites such as a girls’ rock camp, a long-standing lesbian separatist music festival, and Riot Grrrl. The following image is a poster made by members of R&B band 2KC at a girls’ rock camp, where Lindsay has conducted her fieldwork.