Thursday, October 09, 2008


I wrote a little while ago about musicking. This term was coined (as far as I know) by Christopher Small. Here is a brief synopsis of Small's work by Robert Christgau.
He was driven by an overriding idea: that music is always a social activity, never a reified thing. Thus the Balinese and African musics his first book describes early on are the equals of the European classical tradition whose audience he is addressing, and perhaps its superior. The moral agenda that goes with this concept not only insists on music's social context but challenges "the whole idea of music as communication"--especially the myth of the composer as an anointed genius with a message to impart to his inferiors in the orchestra and the audience.

Musicking is that social interaction which comes from making, listening, or responding to music. It encompasses composing, performing, improvising, recording, listening, dancing, analyzing, criticizing, etc. The point is to blur the lines between these activities, tearing down the walls between composers who create, performers who interpret, and listeners who consume. We all create, interpret, and consume, just at different levels of focus and scope. Almost all of my students come in with a focus of being performers or teachers. I want them to embrace their creativity through composition and improvisation, to think about their interpretations by performing their own creations, and to become aware of how they consume music through listening activities (dictation as a means of conscious labeling). To follow the To-Be-Continued theme, I'll write next time about my goals for them as pre-professional musicians.

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