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.
classical music lovers who see their hall being let, perhaps by a management desperate for income in these straitened times of vanishing subsidies, for rock concerts and other kinds of events in which the rules of symphony concert decorum do not apply. So in the foyer we take time out to assure ourselves that we are indeed present, that we belong in this place. Even if we have come alone and know nobody, we can still feel a part of the event as we buy a cup of coffee or an alcoholic drink and
musicians file onto the stage. All are wearing black, the men in tuxedos with white shirts and bow ties and the women in black ankle- or floor-length dresses. Those whose instruments are portable are carrying them, in the way musicians do the world over, as if they were extensions of themselves and of their bodies. Their demeanor is restrained but casual, and they talk together as they enter and move to their allotted seats. Their entry is understated, quiet; there is none of the razzmatazz, the
musical skills and mysteries to which they diemselves are privy and for the unreliability of its judgment, especially in regard to conductors. They do not want their world to be too close to that of the audience; and individually and collectively, they guard jealously their privacy and their distance from the public. A Separate World / 73 It appears that the event may well mean different things for the inhabitants of the two worlds, even perhaps that the interests of the two are different and
performances, and teaching the skills of composition and performance. In the improvising orchestras of the first brilliant explosion of opera in the early seventeenth century, it was leadership rather than conducting that was the keynote. The harpsichordist acted as leader from within the orchestra, confining his direction to keeping time, indicating changes in tempo and dynamic, and seeing to it that the players did not exaggerate the improvised variations that they were expected to invent from
ocean of human musicking. We may see also that, when viewed from outside, it is less isolated from that great ocean than those who look only from inside may think and perhaps also that whatever vitality we can continue to find in it today is, as it always has been, produced by the quickening effect of the life-giving water of that great ocean. Any theory of musicking, which is to say any attempt to explain its meaning and its function in human life, that cannot be used to account for all human