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Agrimbau, Ignacio Hernán (2019) The Construction and Representation of Individual Artistry : Narratives of Diversity and Association. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The potential to express individual creativity through experience, and to create signification through narrative and self-awareness, is a human capacity. In this study, I am concerned with three key aspects of musical lives that instantiate the interface between action and representation: creating narratives of learning,assembling ideas about value and competence, and projecting meanings onto aesthetic practice. Drawing from fieldwork conducted between 2013 and 2016 in Dagara settlements in the Upper West Region of the Fourth Republic of Ghana, and in the city of Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, I represent the lives, views and music of Dagara xylophonists (gyilmwiεrε) and Iranian performers of santur (navāzāndehye santur), a hammered trapezoidal zither. I document how individuals reconstruct and resignify learning experiences, remapping them onto the past to invoke meaning. For Ghanaian xylophonists, this involved discussions about lineage, spiritual endowment and mentorship, but also attitudes towards social change, feelings of cultural loss and detachment. Iranian santurists discussed music-making within their families, social and moral status, and identification with pedagogic lineages and academic environments. Discourses about value and competence coupled to appraisals and representations of existing discourses about what was new, old, authentic, foreign, conservative or innovative. Individuals’ varied appraisals permeated aspects of repertoire, style and performance practice. Finally, when musicians discussed their music, they searched for unity and meaning, but also they positioned their creative involvement as a form of redressive action. To them, practice and reflection were experiential and discursive paths through with they could come to terms with the breaches of their social engagement. I examined these acts of signification in relation to the intersubjective dynamics of narrative production and collection. While my depictions of musicians’ aesthetic discourses illustrate personal viewpoints, I re-examine them in terms of narratives of diversity and association which accommodate the dialectic between similarity and difference that underpins the human capacity for individuality.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Keith Howard
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2020 11:12

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