Doctoral Colloquium (Music): Yayoi Uno Everett (theory guest)



"Opera in Flux: Multimodal Narrative and Narrative Agency"

The Doctoral Colloquium is open to all.


In Unsettling Opera (2007), David Levin claims that opera has emerged as “an unsettled site of signification,” requiring the audience to attend to a surfeit of competing systems. He argues that operatic performance is intrinsically polylogical and lacks a stable narrative form precisely because the performance text (production elements) may compete with or undermine the opera text (lyrics, music, and stage direction). Moreover, the DVD or high-definition broadcast of opera utilizes filmic devices that shape the viewer’s multimodal experience of narrative in an entirely different manner from attending a staged performance. So how does opera in its remediated form (as film) constrain and/or enrich narrative interpretation? How does music relate to the visual and kinesthetic dimensions of film in shaping narrative? In Annabel Cohen’s Congruence-Associationist Model (CAM), cross-modal processes give priority to congruent structures across audio-visual channels in analyzing film where the music’s primary role is to direct attention to the visual. In contrast, operatic music generates imagistic content that assumes narrative agency on its own terms. As Marylin Boltz claims, “the invoked schemas guide selective attending toward those actions and objects consistent with the adopted interpretation” in the formulation of narrative. Drawing on concepts introduced by Michel Chion, Gérard Genette, and Robert Hatten as well as models introduced by Mark Johnson and Juan Chattah, I propose a preliminary typology of agential mechanisms that shape the narrative trajectories of recent contemporary operas by John Adams, Kaija Saariaho, Charles Wuorinen, Toshio Hosokawa, among others.



Yayoi Uno Everett is a native of Yokohama, Japan, and is Professor of Music at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has previously taught at Emory University (2000-14), University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (1999-2000), and the University of Colorado at Boulder (1994-98). Her research focuses on the analysis of postwar art music, film, and opera from the perspectives of semiotics, narratology, multimedia theories, cultural studies, and East Asian aesthetics. Her publications include monographs entitled Reconfiguring Myth and Narrative in Contemporary Operas (Indiana University Press, 2015) and The Music of Louis Andriessen (Cambridge University Press, 2006), a co-edited volume Locating East Asia in Western Music, and various peer-reviewed articles on music by Kaija Saariaho, John Adams, Thomas Adès, Charles Wuorinen, Louis Andriessen, György Ligeti, Elliott Carter, Toru Takemitsu, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Chou-Wen Chung, Lei Liang, Kyong Mee Choi, and Unsuk Chin. She has given numerous invited lectures and delivered plenary and keynote addresses at regional and national conferences. She is currently co-editing a collection of essays entitled Opera in Flux: Staging, Narrative, Identity under contract with University of Michigan Press.




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