Liz Pipe (University of West London, UK)


There is a long-recognised history of the influence and inclusion of theatre in live popular music performance (Brown, 2014). The level of infiltration varies between artists and between sub-genres of the composite popular music sphere, but include the deliberate theatrics of metal acts such as Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Marilyn Manson; the use of alternative performance identities, varying in degrees of physical complexity and variance from the unmistakably observable personae of David Bowie and Lady Gaga, to the unpretentious physicality of Nina Simone where ‘part of the drama of [her] later years was watching the mask slip and the true wounded diva emerge, raging at the audience’ (Brown, 2014). The aspect of pivotal importance to each of these examples, and many more besides, is the personification of the performing musician, which has the potential to have significant implications on how the music is perceived by both the performing musicians and the viewing audience.

Through a performance studies lens (Auslander, 2006), this presentation examines how the use of event schema contribute to the construction of a persona and identity which then becomes associated with a particular musical act. Extensive research with popular music performers, and students, resulted in the construction of a specifically designed gestural framework (Pipe, 2018), which identifies elements found to influence physically communicative responses in popular music performers; including the areas of costume, facial expressions, imitation, personality and posture. This framework is interwoven with relevant theoretical perspectives from the field of music education, and beyond, and explains how the areas of persona, gesture and interaction have been implemented into the popular music performance curriculum that is run at the University of West London.