Two approaches to musical performance

I thought this was a really interesting analysis which captures a split in my own musical tastes, as an interest in provocative music co-exists uneasily with a desire for collective experience through live music:

Afro-American music is still cherished for its tragic yet affirmative sense of life. But it got shoved aside in the late 1960s, when a wave of “avant-rock” musicians began to adopt artistic ideas and practices from the European avant-garde.8 The most influential of these adoptions was the notion of performance as an assault by a raging, radical, revolté artist on a dull, conventional, bourgeois audience. The contrast could not be greater with the Afro-American understanding of performance as a ritual led by a musician able to channel and express the full range of emotions felt by a beloved community, whether worshipers in a church, dancers in a juke joint, or patrons in an upscale jazz club.

Those collective experiences are inherently integrative, even if they take place within a self-enclosed musical world distinct from the mainstream. However a deeply conservative thought follows from this which I find troubling: is avant-garde music inherently corrosive of social integration?Obviously there can be a shared experience in being ‘assaulted’ by a ‘raging, radical, revolté artist’ but is it integrative? Does it rely upon and reproduce what Donati calls relational goods?

2 responses to “Two approaches to musical performance”

  1. I think both examples are iimited in their ‘inegrative’ aspects – as is implied in the word ‘performance’ – to be truly integrative the difference between ‘audience’ and ‘performer’ needs to dissolved into a single ‘category’ of music maker(s). Colin Ward has written an interesting article that hints at this – his study of music-making in Milton Keynes. An observable example of this is also folk-music in pubs, where audience members join in with the performers in singing traditional songs. I have also observed other real-life examples – for example I came across a small group of girls sitting in a corner of a large garden singing pop-songs together, or groups sitting on the pavements singing in groups on the Paris pavements after midnight. Choir rehearsals might also come in the same cateegory, and teenage-boy ‘garage bands’. Of course this raises other questions – can innovation come from these group experiences, or does that require commercially driven ‘performance’? Or is the abolition of ‘performance’ now the truly innovative practice?

  2. I find that really plausible. I can see how the distinction between performer/performed inherently limits the group experience which can flow from it. But what about those people who have no musical capacities? Or perhaps that judgement is part of the problem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.