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The relationship between musicians and their instruments in performance has been characterized in a variety of ways that tend to describe the instrument either as an entity inseparable from the musician or as an entity with relative autonomy. Through the trope of ventriloquism, Philip Auslander looks at how two musicians working in very different genre contexts construct their respective relationships to instruments in performance. Both blues guitarist and singer B.B. King and classical violinist Mari Kimura treat instruments as entities separate from themselves and performers in their own right: King by naming his guitar Lucille and constructing a narrative around his relationship with her, and Kimura through her interaction with GuitarBot, a digital musical instrument. By dramatizing the ventriloquial relationship between player and instrument and creating the impression that an instrument possesses an identity and agency, both King and Kimura enact the fantasy of instrumental autonomy that underlies the ventriloquial relationship between performer and instrument. But because the digital technology Kimura employs allows GuitarBot a greater degree of (apparent) autonomy than Lucille, who is always under King’s visible, physical control, it enables her to push the enactment of this fantasy further toward the uncanny to show us what it might look like for a performer to interact with a genuinely autonomous musical instrument.
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- Lucille Meets GuitarBot: Instrumentality, Agency, and Technology in Musical Performance
- Springer Singapore