Proceedings of the 1 st Conference of the Word and Music Association Forum, Dortmund, November 4-6, 2010
Edited By Mario Dunkel, Emily Petermann and Burkhard Sauerwald
Violence in Narratives about Jazz Musicians: Performance in Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter, Hannah Ianniello, The University of Western Sydney
Violence in Narratives about Jazz Musicians: Performance in Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter Hannah Ianniello, The University of Western Sydney Abstract This paper will explore how jazz musicians in novels are represented as attempting to balance creativity and destruction, which results in various forms of violence. In response to the writing of Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Attali, Adam Gussow and others, I argue that violence takes three forms: it may be systemic, intimate, or performative. It is on performative violence that this paper’s argument will focus, though all three forms of violence are intertwined. While these forms of violence are present in numerous novels about jazz musicians, performative violence is prevalent in Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter. The main character, Buddy Bolden, embodies the convergence of creativity and destruction and through depictions of Bolden’s music and performance, Ondaatje examines this internal conflict and the resulting violence. Ondaatje also reflects this division through the fragmentation of the text itself, disrupting time by rupturing the chronology of the novel. In addition, this paper will explore how jazz itself suggests violence through the immediacy of performance and the way in which improvisation necessarily requires the performer to balance creativity and destruction. The audience also plays a role in performative violence as their expectations provoke both restraint and experimentation to varying degrees, pulling characters such as Bolden apart. These elements go some way toward explaining why narratives about jazz musicians are so often characterized by violence of various kinds. Throughout literature, the jazz musician...
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