Sonic Intimacy in Kate Soper’s Confessions from the Killing Jar
In her 2017 American Musicological Society endowed lecture, Susan McClary compared the conclusion of Kate Soper’s dissertation —analysis of her piece Voices from the Killing Jar (2010-2012)—to McClary’s own experience of having to “come-out” as a woman in the field of musicology. While the phrase “coming-out” is never used in Soper’s dissertation, she describes the process of acknowledging herself as a minority gender. Soper’s acknowledgement mirrors a coming-out as a moment of reclaiming selfhood and selfcare. In this paper, I argue that Voices from the Killing Jar is Soper’s reclamation and emphasis of her gendered self that she had minimized to be accepted as a serious contemporary composer in the United States.
I argue that Soper’s reclamation of selfhood is achieved through a crafted coming-out confession as a method of selfcare. Through Chloe Taylor’s interpretation of Foucauldian technologies of self, I examine movement VI. Interlude: Asta Sollilja. Interlude focuses on the reality of Asta Sollilja— a tragic character from Harold Laxness’s Independent People. Through what I call ‘sonic confessional intimacies,’ Soper’s music sonically forms Asta Sollilja away from her killing jar —nineteenth-century rural Iceland and anxiety. The techniques of ‘sonic confessional intimacies’ such as a broken ground bass, vocal failure, and phrase repetition stem from musical indexes of the western traditions of lament and mourning. In Interlude, Soper composes an expanded representation Sollilja by writing into Sollilja’s story a moment of personal care. In embodying Sollilja through performance and writing a moment of care for Sollilja, Soper performs her own selfcare. Within the argument of my paper, I add Soper’s piece as an example of music as a technology of self-formation and selfcare.