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.
are human beings that they should like to practice musickinpf? It is in order to propose an answer to the latter that I need to make what appears like a long detour before I can propose an answer to the former; and in the course of my doing so, the discussion of musicking itself will necessarily recede into the background. I can only ask the reader to trust me eventually to make its relevance plain. One of Bateson's fundamental intuitions is a denial of what is known as Cartesian dualism, the
much toward the acceptance of the profession's assumptions and the maintenance of its esprit de corps as it has been toward the acquisition of the skills that are necessary to practice it; and like most professionals A Separate World / 67 in any field whatsoever, most orchestral musicians have come to accept those assumptions unquestioningly. In general their attitude is more that of the craftsman than that of the autonomous artist. They accept without question whatever is given them to play,
significant synthesis of the arts than that which Wagner imagined. Its real name, of course, is ritual. Although the performance of the musical works is clearly at the center of the event, nonetheless nothing that happens in this vast space is insignificant, not even such apparently trivial elements as the buying and giving up of tickets, the arrangement of the seating, the demeanor of orchestra and audience, the taking of drinks in the foyer, the purchase of a program booklet. All are essential
of his hands he imposes his will on the sophisticated and often bored or stressed professional musicians before him, galvanizing them into life and guiding and shaping their performance. The players relate to the musical work and to its composer only through him. They see only their own parts, containing the notes they themselves are to play, and they rely on him to coordinate their playing. They relate to one another and to one another's performances only indirectly, through him and through the
relationships and of the pattern which connects, then the enactment of those relationships that takes place during a musical performance will differ also. Each musical performance articulates the values of a specific social group, large or small, powerful or powerless, rich or poor, at a specific point in its history, and no kind of performance is any more universal or absolute than any other. All are to be judged, if judged at all, on their efficacy in articulating those values. "At a specific