Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening (Music/Culture)
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Extending the inquiry of his early groundbreaking books, Christopher Small strikes at the heart of traditional studies of Western music by asserting that music is not a thing, but rather an activity. In this new book, Small outlines a theory of what he terms "musicking," a verb that encompasses all musical activity from composing to performing to listening to a Walkman to singing in the shower.
Using Gregory Bateson's philosophy of mind and a Geertzian thick description of a typical concert in a typical symphony hall, Small demonstrates how musicking forms a ritual through which all the participants explore and celebrate the relationships that constitute their social identity. This engaging and deftly written trip through the concert hall will have readers rethinking every aspect of their musical worlds.
in its attention, that considers, in fact, that its own audible responses are a legitimate element of the performance. The silence that will greet tonight's performance while it is in progress suggests a different attitude. Those who wish perfect communion with the composer through the performance can have it, uninterrupted by any noise that may signal the presence of other spectators. On the other hand, while our attention is without doubt active, it is detached; we no longer feel ourselves to
The ready availability these days of musical performances, from any time in history and from anywhere in the world, may appear to have made the act of hearing in itself less special, less ritual; but in fact the significance of the ritual has not diminished even though it may have changed. Jonathan Sterne (1997), in an article on the musical architecture of an American shopping mall, describes the care that is taken in selecting the music to be played in the various spaces and remarks: "If all
one-thing-at-a-time slowness, and impresses them on their minds, making them appear as natural and inevitable consequences of the way in which the world came into being and thus of how it is. It is very important to realize that in taking part in ritual we do not only see and hear, listen and watch, or even taste, smell, or touch, but we also act, and it is in the bodily experience of performing the actions in company with others that the meaning of taking part lies. The more actively we
to give a blanket characterization of classical music but simply to show the kinds of questions one can ask of a particular kind of musical performance. All that said, I have to confess that there is a third, more personal reason for taking the symphony concert as example. It arises from my own continuing ambivalent relationship with the Western classical tradition, with the works that are assumed to comprise it, on the one hand, and, on the other, with the institutions through and in which it is
ignore the music act, centering on music rather than musicking, the cycles and epicycles keep spinning merrily, and the question can never be answered. Maybe that is why they do it. In any case, that is one reason the question must be asked in a new way. It seems obvious to me that performing these works under certain circumstances generates different meanings from performing them under others. For instance, when I, an amateur pianist using material provided by Josef Haydn under the name of Piano