Melted honey: sax and sex


Dennis, Simone Jane. 2004. "Melted honey: sax and sex." Popular Culture Review. 15 (2), pp. 47-61.
Article Title

Melted honey: sax and sex

Article CategoryArticle
AuthorDennis, Simone Jane
Journal TitlePopular Culture Review
Journal Citation15 (2), pp. 47-61
Number of Pages15
Place of PublicationLas Vegas, United States of America
Web Address (URL)

[Abstract]: This paper deals with multisensory processes of engaging and disengaging with a musical world through the body. It is based on ethnographic research with an Australian Police band. Band members make a strict distinction between rehearsal and performance. For band members, rehearsals are characterised by a multi-sensual disengagement with instrument. During rehearsals, which entail a close multi-sensory focussing in on the points at which instrument body and musician body met, the senses of touch, sight and hearing are engaged in the process of surveillance. Such surveillance is undertaken in order that the musicians can identify faulted touches to instruments that result in faulted sounds. Touch to the instrument body is ‘watched’, not only with the eye, but in and through touch and hearing senses. These sensual combinations serve to separate person and instrument. In contrast, performances are characterised by a multisensual embodiment of the instrument, to the point that band members understand themselves to be constructed of instruments, and that instruments are constructed of them. In performances, instruments and performers come to phenomenologically complete one another’s bodies.

Band members discuss the sensually experienced distinction between rehearsal and performance by means of a distinction between fucking (which they understood as similar to rehearsal) and making love (which they understood to be similar to performance experience). Band members also drew on food/music metaphors, including the difference between constructing a musical dish from a recipe (the written music) and tasting the melted honey of performed sax sounds. They used this metaphor to describe the sensual difference between making sound in rehearsal, and the corporeally penetrative act of inviting a sax into the body in musical performance.

Using the distinction between rehearsal and performance, and the penetrative metaphors that band members used to describe it, I draw on and extend the critiques that Michel Serres made of Merleau-Pontian phenomenology to analyse rehearsal and performance moments as, respectively, multisensory processes of surveillance and anti-surveillance.

Keywordsphenomenology, corporeality, food, penetration, sensuality, musicality, music, musicians
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020440107. Social and cultural anthropology
500310. Phenomenology
360304. Music performance
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Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Adelaide
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