Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Fred Steier


Ethnography, Frame Analysis, Grateful Dead, Performativity, Reflexivity


This project explores how musical improvisational processes come into being through interacting discursive power relationships that are embodied and enacted through performance. By utilizing the concepts of framing and performativity I am able to show how discursive power constitutes the performance of improvisational music. To exemplify this theory, the project presents a case study examining a Grateful Dead cover band named Uncle John's Band that performs at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa, FL. Using an ethnographic methodology, the project articulates the dominant discursive power relationships that constitute Uncle John's Band's improvisational performances. The dominant discursive power relationships revolve around the lived philosophies and performance style of the Grateful Dead as embodied and communicated through performance by the members of Uncle John's Band. Dominant discursive power relationships also form among audience members as well as the staff at Skipper's Smokehouse. All of these power relationships constitute the performance of improvisational music. In a reflexive turn, the project also offers a re-articulation of ethnography through the tenets of improvisation. Finally, the project presents conclusions concerning the nature of researching improvisational music performance and some future directions for this study.