Gender Identity and Gestural Representations in Jonathan Harvey’s String Quartet No. 2

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Laura Emmery


Jonathan Harvey’s string quartets stand as, perhaps, his most representative compositions. Informed by primary documents housed as the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, this study aims to bring to light some of Harvey’s compositional techniques in his String Quartet No. 2 (1988). Building on the scholarship of identity and feminist theory (Butler 1990, Cusick 1994, Grosz 1994a, 1994b, Lochhead 2016) and musical gesture and embodiment (Cox 2006, Hatten 2004, Leong and Korevaar 2004, Lidov 2006, Parsons 2016, Rao 2016), I explore the meaning of masculine and feminine identity in Harvey’s String Quartet No. 2, and examine musical gestures involving register, pitch, tuning, rhythm, dynamics, timbre, and articulation, which are associated with each ascribed gender. On a larger scale, I show how these signifiers articulate both spectral and spiritual transformation of the gendered themes as the piece progresses through a “musical journey.”

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