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You Sound Like an Old Black Man: Performativity of Gender and Race among Female Jazz Saxophonists

Suzuki, Yoko (2011) You Sound Like an Old Black Man: Performativity of Gender and Race among Female Jazz Saxophonists. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation explores through the case study of female saxophonists how the increasing number of female jazz instrumentalists has impacted norms of gender, race, sexuality, and age among jazz musicians, audience members, and the music industry. Through ethnographic fieldwork, archival research, and an analysis of videotaped performances of female jazz saxophonists, I demonstrate that female performers tend to perform masculinity in order to conform to the historically and culturally established discourse of the genre, the instrument, and its performance style, all of which are closely associated with African American men. In addition, I illustrate that female saxophonists' "performances" of gender include not only visual aspects (clothing, hair style, make-up, facial expressions, body movements) but also musical sound (composition types, sound quality, delivery style, volume, tempo, improvisational styles), which signify masculinity and femininity within the cultural contexts in which they perform. This work further shows that masculinity and femininity are complicated by other categories of identity including race, sexuality/sexual orientation, and age. In other words, masculinity and femininity are not a simplistic binary construction but rather fluid variables that are historically and culturally contingent and also intricately intersected with race, sexuality and age. Further, I suggest that the increasing visibility/audibility of female jazz saxophonists with the help of digital recording and network technology may pose a challenge to the masculinist and heterosexual discourse of jazz.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDavis, Nathanndavis@pitt.eduNDAVIS
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrewanwein@pitt.eduANWEIN
Committee MemberRosenblum, Mathewrosenblu@pitt.eduROSENBLU
Committee MemberTucker,
Date: 30 June 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 22 March 2011
Approval Date: 30 June 2011
Submission Date: 20 April 2011
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Gender; Jazz; Performativity; Race
Other ID:, etd-04202011-092641
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:39
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:41


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