Here’s what I found myself writing while gathering my thoughts for our Baroque unit. (Note they continue–click on the “more” link.)
We started the semester off by discussing, among other things, Christopher Small’s concept of “musicking.” In his book Musicking: the Meanings of Performing and Listening (we read a lecture presented before the publication of the book), Small gives the following definition of musicking:
To music is to take part, in any capacity, in a musical performance, whether by performing, by listening, by rehearsing or practicing, by providing material for performance (what is called composition), or by dancing.
Those of you who find yourself annoyed by our occasional dance sessions, take that!
Small also asserts,
[P]erformance does not exist in order to present musical works, but rather, musical works exist in order to give performers something to perform.
He also tells that the question, “What is the nature or meaning of this work of music?” is an insufficient one, so “trapped in the assumptions of the modern Western concert tradition” that “it will give us answers that are at best partial and even contradictory.” The more useful question, Small argues, is “What does it mean when this performance (of this work) takes place at this time, in this place, with these participants?”
These issues can be argued ad infinitum. Small is rebelling against a hundred years or more of intellectual tradition which views music through the nineteenth-century western European “work concept” (as Lydia Goehr has named it). As rebels tend to do, he takes a firm, one sided stand. Works exist for performers, not the other way around as it is usually assumed.