Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Theory and Criticism


Calcagno, Antonio.


The goal of this dissertation is to find out whether or not blues music is an event. I explore what constitutes a musical or artistic event in modern times and to see how this has changed in relation to earlier periods. I also identify its essential formal elements. I divide blues music into two categories, namely, its technical playing qualities (the micro) and its historical changes (the macro). This division frames the entire project and illustrates that in order to discuss an artistic event, we must account for both its technical and historical aspects. I examine several theories of the event including those of Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and Martin Heidegger. While Deleuzian events are common and happen at the most elemental stages in life, Badiou’s notion of the event focuses on rare historical occurrences. Heidegger, by contrast, offers an ontological look at the happening of artistic works. He claims that great works of art are happenings that tell the viewer something about the culture from which they originated. However, Heidegger’s theory falls short because of his exclusive consideration of static forms of art as well as his distrust of technology. In response to Heidegger, I turn to the works of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno. Benjamin provides a theory about the importance of mechanical reproduction and its effects on the work of art. While Adorno’s theory proposes that modern forms of music are essentially non-events. Adorno’s critique of jazz (and popular music in general, including the blues) comes from a misunderstanding of the importance of the medium on the general population. I conclude that blues music is an event and that it cannot be considered outside of its history as a musical form of reproduction. Ultimately, I will illustrate that the event of blues music changes the way we consider artistic events as a whole.