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Music as Performance: Living in the Immaterial World

  • Philip Auslander

As a performance scholar and music lover, I find it strange that the fields of theatre and performance studies historically have been reluctant to engage with musical performance. Even as theatrical a musical form as opera is generally excluded from the history of theatre, on the grounds that “the predominant force in opera was the music rather than the words,” as Vera Mowry Roberts, my theatre history professor, puts the case.1 Roberts points to the nonliterary character of music as the reason for the exclusion; I speculate that the perception of music not only as nonliterary but, more broadly, as nonmimetic may seem to place it outside the realm of theatrical representation. While performance-oriented scholars spurn music, music-oriented scholars generally spurn performance. Traditional musicologists remain focused on the textual dimensions of musical compositions, whereas scholars who look at music from the perspective of cultural studies are generally more concerned with audience and reception than with the actual performance behavior of musicians.

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Theatre Survey
  • ISSN: 0040-5574
  • EISSN: 1475-4533
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-survey
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