Daryl Jamieson


Current Research Interests


Compositionally, my research has recently revolved around harmonic structures derived from numerological analysis of texts and other found-number series (heights of peaks in mountain ranges, for example). I am also very interested generally in the expressive possibilities of the human voice, and throughout my career have written many works for singers of different styles. Since I have been in Japan, I have written, and continue to write, many works for traditional Japanese singers.

My current aesthetics research interest is in the conceptions of time and simultaneity in Zen/Chan Buddhism and its philosophical descendants, especially Kyoto school philosophy and aesthetics. I am currently reading through Dōgen and Ueda Shizuteru, and their commentators. This research has already begun to influence my own compositional praxis, and is the background of my recent published scholarship.


Hollow Sounds: toward a Zen-derived aesthetics of contemporary music

in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism vol 76/3, pp 331-40

To attempt to fill a perceived gap in Japanese aesthetics concerning music, this paper sketches a possible way into conceptualising a Zen- or Kyoto-school-derived aesthetics of contemporary music. Drawing principally on Kyoto-School philosopher Ueda Shizuteru’s theories of language’s three levels (signal, symbolic, and hollow words), the author proposes a similar distinction between different kinds of musical experience. Analogous with Ueda’s analysis of poetry, the oscillation of signal or symbolic sound and hollow ones is found to be what gives certain contemporary music its spiritual power. By applying this poetic-religious theory of language to music, an entirely new way of understanding contemporary music becomes apparent. As test case of this new approach, Morton Feldman’s 1970 work The Viola in My Life (2) is analysed. The final section addresses the differences between this method of understanding via nothingness and traditional Idealist approaches via the Absolute.
Keywords: Kyoto School, Ueda Shizuteru, Morton Feldman, Jonathan Harvey, aesthetics of contemporary (atonal) music

I have always been interested in both the theoretical aspects of music as well as the practical business of music making. When I was a PhD student, I published two musicological articles, the abstracts of which are below:

Real Frogs in an Imaginary Pond: Magical Realism and Morton Feldman’s Untitled Composition for violoncello and piano

presented at the 2006 International Musicological Society’s annual meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden

The crucial phrase in the Oxford Dictionary of Art’s definition of magical realism is that art which is magically real ‘infus[es] the ordinary with a sense of mystery’. Meanwhile, Morton Feldman claimed in 1977 that the most important thing that his music can do is ‘make... something idiomatic sound fantastic, even though it’s conventional.’ In this paper, I explore further aspects of magical realism as a broad, multi-disciplinary artistic movement spanning eight decades of the plastic and literary arts, and ask whether there is anything in abstract music that could also be described as ‘magically real’.
After the validity of musical magical realism is established, I look in-depth at how magical realism works in a single piece, Morton Feldman’s Untitled Composition for violoncello and piano (1981). Feldman, whose aesthetic aims, towards the end of his career, seem allied with those of magical realism, is an ideal candidate for exploring the outer fringes of the magical realist technique because of his deep knowledge of art and his painterly (as opposed to literary) approach to composition. I focus on Untitled Composition because of its conventional (‘ordinary’) instrumentation (violoncello and piano) and its fantastic, magical, mysterious, yet idiomatic use of those instruments.

Marketing Androgyny: the evolution of the Backstreet Boys

Popular Music (2007), 26/2, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp 245-58. available for purchase here.

The trend in popular culture away from idealising mature, strong ‘men’ in favour of young, androgynous ‘boys’ can in part be traced to how pop music impresarios such as Lou Pearlman present sexuality to their huge market of young listeners. During their time under the management of Wright Stuff, 1996–1998, the Backstreet Boys were the most popular manufactured boyband in the world, and as such influenced the sexual development of millions of young women and men. This paper examines how, during this period, the presentation and marketing of the Backstreet Boys, and their youngest member Nick Carter in particular, encouraged queer readings, and how those subtle queer subtexts in the music and videos may have affected their (mostly) young, uncritical audience.