Toronto Metropolitan University
affective-interruptions-political-collectivity-in-halftime.pdf (159.51 kB)

Affective Interruptions: Political Collectivity in Halftime

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-12-06, 20:30 authored by Craig JennexCraig Jennex

In this article, I analyze a rhythmic device in musical theater performance that is often used but rarely discussed: The sudden break into halftime. Breaking into halftime—a rhythmic shift that is performed and perceived as occurring at half the tempo (or speed) of the groove in preceding and subsequent sections—has the effect of abruptly stretching out and slowing down musical temporality. With a break into halftime, a song's groove is suddenly broader, more open, and expansive. When accompanied by lyrics, the move suggests deliberateness, calls attention to the lyrical address, and invites a considered response from the listener. It is a musical device akin to drastically slowing down a spoken cadence to ensure that the listener is fully grasping the significance of one's words. With or without lyrics, this temporal disruption has a powerful effect on listeners’ bodies as, suddenly, the established timing of one's musical experience is disrupted and immediately set to half the speed of the previous pace. By analyzing the use of halftime in three filmed musicals—Newsies, Rent, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show—I show how the rhythmic device carries with it social coding of solidarity and collective power among queer, marginalized, and/or otherwise outcast individuals and ultimately alters the broader narrative of the shows. Ultimately, I articulate how halftime serves to queer time and forge collective action, allowing us to reimagine what sort of politics, formations, collectives, and futures are possible.




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