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Performing Spaces: Street Music and Public Territory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 2007


The interaction between ‘marginal’ music performance (whether socially or musically marginal, e.g. busking, ambient music, etc.) and ‘liminal’ spaces is at first sight a characteristically twentieth-century phenomenon. However, performance history as revealed not only through historical scholarship but through contemporary anecdotal or fictional writings can contextualize these current uses of music in negotiating public space, while revealing some of our assumptions about performance in general. I argue that much of liminal performance is concerned with the appropriation and retention of spaces in which to perform, and that this is no new thing but was, until relatively recently, the norm. I look at some aspects of performance history in the light of contemporary thinking about liminality, and consider how buskers, particularly in Bath (where I lived for several years) contend for temporary possession of public space as a prerequisite of their performances. I conclude by suggesting that the defining of liminal space might be usefully extended, in thinking about street performance, into the notion of ‘liminal spacetime’.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2007

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