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Performing Civility
International Competitions in Classical Music


Part of Cambridge Cultural Social Studies

  • Date Published: June 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107498297

£ 26.99

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About the Authors
  • Although competitions in classical music have a long history, the number of contests has risen dramatically since the Second World War, all of them aiming to launch young artists' careers. This is not the symptom of marketization that it might appear to be. Despite the establishment of an international governing body, competitions are plagued by rumors of corruption, and even the most mathematically sophisticated voting system cannot quell accusations that the best talent is overlooked. Why do musicians take part? Why do audiences care so much about who wins? Performing Civility is the first book to address these questions. In this groundbreaking study, Lisa McCormick draws from firsthand observations of contests in Europe and the US, and in-depth interviews with competitors, jurors and directors, as well as blog data from competition observers to argue that competitions have endured because they are not only about music, they are also about civility.

    • The first academic study to examine classical music competitions from a sociological perspective
    • Provides a unified history of the emergence of classical music competitions, including a previously unpublished record of historical membership in the World Federation of International Music Competitions (WFIMC)
    • Based upon firsthand observations, as well as interviews and conversations with participants about sharing their personal experiences and opinions
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Offering a peek into the fascinating world of international classical music competitions, Lisa McCormick's Performing Civility highlights the sociological tension between combat and civility. A rich, masterful study of performing, judging, and listening. Bravo!' Eviatar Zerubavel, Rutgers University, New Jersey

    'Music competitions, as Lisa McCormick shows us in this very clever book, place music and civility in contradiction. This contradiction gets played out as judges, musicians and audiences are converted into publics engaged in debate over what should count as talent, beauty, and perfection. Performing Civility will be of interest to cultural sociologists, political scientists, musicians, and anyone who aspires to be a member of civil society, musically conceived.' Tia DeNora, Exeter University

    'The author moves thoroughly through different kinds of data (newspaper articles; official competition documents; blogs; interviews with competitors, audience members, and jurors); in that sense the book is a real labor of love, highly detailed and a great entry point for those interested in the study of music competitions, the sociology of music, and the 'strong program' in cultural sociology.' Claudio E. Benzecry, American Journal of Sociology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107498297
    • length: 301 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus. 9 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The rise and near demise of the international music competition
    2. Competitions enter the civil sphere
    3. Narrating the competition
    4. The presentation of musical self
    5. Producing sound judgments
    6. Voicing opinions
    Conclusion: what is the future of music competitions?
    Appendix A. Selected competitions: facts and figures
    Appendix B. Membership of the World Federation of International Music Competitions (WFIMC), 1957–2012
    Appendix C. Putting the 'performance perspective' in perspective.

  • Author

    Lisa McCormick, University of Edinburgh
    Lisa McCormick is a Lecturer in the department of sociology at the University of Edinburgh. She has published widely in the sociology of the arts and serves on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Cultural Sociology and Music and Art in Action. She is co-editor, with Ron Eyerman, of Myth, Meaning and Performance (2006). Her first article on music competitions, which appeared in Cultural Sociology in 2009, won the SAGE prize in excellence and/or innovation. She is also a Faculty Fellow with the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University, Connecticut and a Research Associate with the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath.

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