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Linda Ben-Zvi and Tracy C. Davis, eds. Considering Calamity: Methods for Performance Research.The Yolanda and David Katz Faculty of the Arts, Tel Aviv University: Asaph Books, 2007. - Henry Bial, ed. The Performance Studies Reader. 2nd edn.London and New York: Routledge, 2007. - Tracy C. Davis, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

  • Jonathan Hicks
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1 Carolyn Abbate, ‘Music – Drastic or Gnostic?’ Critical Inquiry, 30 (Spring 2004), 536. Abbate, of course, is not the only scholar to concentrate on musical performance (popular music studies, ethnographic studies of music, music psychology and performance practice all boast a substantial literature on the subject, not to mention an increasing number of research centres and conference events). Nevertheless, Abbate’s essay is remarkable for its intervention into the specific field of opera studies, and will serve as a point of reference throughout this essay.

2 Tracy C. Davis, ‘Introduction: The Pirouette, Detour, Revolution, Deflection, Deviation, Tack, and Yaw of the Performative Turn’, in The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, ed. Tracy C. Davis (Cambridge, 2008), 1–2. For an overview of the ‘rare’ Performance Studies departments to which Davis refers, see Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, ‘Performance Studies’, in The Performance Studies Reader, ed. Henry Bial (London and New York, 2007).

3 Henry Bial, ‘Introduction’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 2nd edn, ed. Henry Bial (London and New York, 2007), 1.

4 J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things With Words figured large in Lawrence Kramer’s initial call to understand music as cultural practice: see, for example, ‘Tropes and Windows: An Outline of Musical Hermeneutics’, in Lawrence Kramer, Music as Cultural Practice, 1800–1900 (Berkeley, 1990). Clifford Geertz’s interpretations of Bali as a ‘theatre state’ underpinned the model of contextual musicology set out in Gary Tomlinson, ‘The Web of Culture: A Context for Musicology’, 19th-Century Music, 7 (1984), 350–362. And Judith Butler’s critique of gender identity has animated much feminist musicology: see, for example, Suzanne G. Cusick, ‘On Musical Performances of Gender and Sex’, in Audible Traces: Gender, Identity and Music, ed. Elaine Barkin and Lydia Hamessley (Zurich and Los Angeles, 1999). N. B. Kramer, Tomlinson and Cusick all find themselves on the sharp end of Abbate’s criticism in ‘Music – Drastic or Gnostic?’. See 511, 520–1, 506–7 (ft. 4).

5 See Richard Schechner, Performance Studies: An Introduction, 2nd edn (New York, 2006).

6 Marvin Carlson, ‘What Is Performance?’ in The Performance Studies Reader, 70.

7 Bial, ‘Introduction’, 1.

8 Ibid.

9 Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, ‘Performance Studies’, 43.

10 Henry Bial, ‘What Is Performance?’ in The Performance Studies Reader, 59.

11 Bial, ‘Introduction’, 2. Whilst Schechner’s contribution to the discipline ought not to be under-rated (I still recall my excitement on discovering his Performance Theory (London and New York, 2003) as an undergraduate) there is a danger that one voice can dominate a relatively small field. The omission of Schechner’s work from the list of books reviewed here is not a snub to that author, but a nod to the good health of ‘post-Schechnerian’ performance studies.

12 Bial, ‘Introduction’, 1. The target market for the publication is specified on the back cover.

13 Ibid., 3.

14 Davis, ‘Introduction’, 1 (my emphasis).

15 Della Pollock, ‘Moving Histories: Performance and Oral History’, in The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, 120.

16 Nicholas Cook, who has written extensively on performance, often uses the term ‘performative’ in relation to musical analysis. The ‘Performative Turn’ is dealt with explicitly in his ‘Epistemologies of Music Theory’, in The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, ed. Thomas Street Christensen (Cambridge, 2002).

17 Davis, ‘Introduction’, 1.

18 Ibid.

19 David Krasner, ‘Performance and Calamity’, in Considering Calamity: Methods for Performance Research, ed. Linda Ben-Zvi and Tracy C. Davis (Tel Aviv, 2007), 1.

20 Sonja Arsham Kuftinec, ‘Theatrical Imaginaries in the Balkans and Jerusalem’, in Considering Calamity: Methods for Performance Research, 97.

21 Susan Leigh Foster, ‘The Earth Shaken Twice Wonderfully’, in Considering Calamity: Methods for Performance Research, 151–2.

22 Marco de Marinis, ‘The Performance Text’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 290–2.

23 Davis, ‘Introduction’, 7. Incidentally, Abbate claims Cavell (along with Lydia Goehr and Naomi Cumming) as a fellow traveller; a philosopher who ‘point[s] to performed music’s presence as a promise of life’. See Abbate, ‘Music – Drastic or Gnostic?’ 533.

24 There are seven page numbers against ‘Schechner, Richard; restored behaviour’ in Bial’s Reader, and in my first scan of the volume I found even more references to this idea.

25 Richard Schechner, ‘Performance Studies: The Broad Spectrum Approach’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 9.

26 Nicholas Ridout, ‘Performance and Democracy’, in The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, 17.

27 Davis, ‘Introduction’, 6. The definition Davis quotes outlines Roger Chartier’s ‘three areas of reality’.

28 Amelia Jones, ‘Live Art in History: A Paradox?’ in The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, 151.

29 Ibid.

30 See Richard Leppert, The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation, and the History of the Body (Berkeley, 1993).

31 Susan Leigh Foster, ‘Movement's Contagion: The Kinesthetic Impact of Performance’, in The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, 46.

32 Ibid.

33 See Elisabeth Le Guin, Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology (Berkeley, 2005).

34 Kirshenbatt-Gimblett, ‘Performance Studies’, 46.

35 Dwight Conquergood, ‘Interventions and Radical Research’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 371, 370.

36 Ibid., 369.

37 W. B. Worthen, ‘Disciplines of the Text: Sites of Performance’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 20.

38 Karol Berger has expressed similar reservations about Abbate’s separation of drastic performance from gnostic meaning. See his ‘Musicology According to Don Giovanni, or: Should We Get Drastic?’ The Journal of Musicology, 22/3 (2005), 490–501.

39 Baz Kershaw, ‘Performance as Research: Live Events and Documents’, in The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, 26.

40 Abbate, ‘Music – Drastic or Gnostic?’ 532.

41 Ibid., 514.

42 Ibid., 511, 532. This music is also presumably performed in ‘real space’, since Abbate goes on to discuss the ethical implication of ‘encountering a present other at point-blank range’ (532).

43 Philip Auslander, ‘Live and Technologically Mediated Performance’, in The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, 108–9.

44 Schechner, ‘Performance Studies: The Broad Spectrum Approach’, 8.

45 This journal, for example, boasts on its website that it ‘not only contains material on all aspects of the European canon, it has now widened its scope to publish high-quality essays on American opera and musical theatre, on non-Western music theatres, and on contemporary works’.

46 Davis, ‘Introduction’, 1.

47 John Bell, ‘Performance Studies in an Age of Terror’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 57–8.

48 Clifford Geertz, ‘Blurred Genres: The Refiguration of Social Thought’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 66, 68. See also Catherine Bell, ‘“Performance” and other Analogies’, in The Performance Studies Reader.

49 The biography printed in Critical Inquiry states that Abbate ‘worked as a dramaturg on the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Don Giovanni, which premiered in March 2004’ and Cook’s forthcoming book Performance: New Perspectives Across the Disciplines is co-edited with the dramaturg Richard Pettengill.

50 Richard Schechner, quoted in Henry Bial, ‘What is Performance Studies’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 5.

51 Kershaw, ‘Performance as Research: Live Events and Documents’, 26.

52 See Linda Ben-Zvi, ‘Staging Calamities of Separation’, in Considering Calamity: Methods for Performance Research. Also ‘Reverend Billy [aka performance artist Bill Talen] … [who] has been raging against the noxious effects of consumerism, transnational capital, and the privatization of public space and culture in New York City since 1997’. Jill Lane, ‘Reverend Billy: Preaching, Protest, and Postindustrial Flânerie’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 357.

53 Jon McKenzie, ‘The Liminal-Norm’, in The Performance Studies Reader, 27. See Slavoj Žižek and Mladen Dolar, Opera’s Second Death (New York and London, 2002).

54 Ibid.

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Cambridge Opera Journal
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