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.
is the function of music in human life?—in the life, that is, of every member of the human species. It is easy to understand why. Those are the wrong questions to ask. There is no such thing as music. Music is not a thing at all but an activity, something that people do. The apparent thing "music" is a figment, an abstraction of the action, whose reality vanishes as soon as we examine it at all closely. This habit of thinking in abstractions, of taking from an action what appears to be its
publishers are usually prepared to print only a limited number of copies for their hire library; and with symphony concerts an international business extending over every continent no orchestra can afford to program a work from a publisher's hire library without checking well beforehand—and that may mean months or even years ahead—that the score and orchestral parts will be available for rehearsals and performance. All this means that who plays and what is played at each concert is the result of
make it more favorable to their growth and reproduction. Further, the seemingly infinitely complex interaction between plants, microorganisms, insects, other animals and human beings suggests that the biosphere, the world of living creatures, is indeed a vast and intricate network of what by Bateson's definition we can call mind, all giving and responding to information. The mind relates to the environment outside the creature not by mere passive reception of what is "out there" but by an active
the most laid-back of communal leaders needs to exert some coercive authority from time to time. But the ideal or the tendency is there. Since musicking articulates our ideal of human relationships, we need not be surprised to find these different kinds of relationships in group musical activities. The great black jazz leaders of this century, such as Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington and Count Basic, belonged mainly to the latter group. Their authority, and the health of their bands, depended
that are brought into existence when the piece is performed. M U S I C K I N G / 138 These relationships are of two kinds: those between the sounds that are made in response to the instructions given in the score and those between the participants in the performance. These two sets of relationships, as we shall see in a moment, are themselves related, in complex and always interesting second-order ways. It is clear, however, that when there is a fixed and stable musical work, the relationships