2nd International Congress of Musicology

Athens Concert Hall, 4-6 November 2003

Paper Abstracts

Nicholas Cook

In Real Time: Music as Performance

Translation in Greek: George Fitsioris

If, as I argue, musicology has never really come to terms with music as a performing art, then the reasons are both historical and ontological: the discipline came into being on the model of philology, and hence has always sought to understand music as a text that is reproduced in performance. This ontology, profoundly antipathetic to proper recognition of the performer’s role in musical culture, is so familiar – and so engrained in language about music – that it is hard to see it as the historically contingent construction it is. In this paper I aim to reveal it as such through comparing traditional musicological thinking about performance with the practices and concepts of three very different traditions: jazz improvisation, the music of the qin or Chinese long zither, and the notational practices of contemporary “art” music. Central to my argument is the role of the score: the central question for a musicology of performance, I claim, is not “how does the performance reproduce the score?”, but rather “what sort of performance event does the score prompt?”.

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