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The Future?

Lawson, Colin and Stowell, Robin 2012. The Future? Lawson, Colin and Stowell, Robin, eds. The Cambridge History of Musical Performance, The Cambridge History of Music, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 817-833.

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Jonathan Dunsby (Performing Music, Shared Concerns, 1995) has suggested that, with the influence of mechanical and acoustic, and later electronic recording on performance in the twentieth century, ‘We may be witnesses, the only direct witnesses there will ever be, to the beginning of the music of the future. Is it not easy to imagine that two thousand years or five thousand from now people will say that Western music really only got going properly during the twentieth century from which distant time there date the earliest proper sonic and visual records, following that strange “mute” early period of music history that spanned the Greeks (of which we know essentially nothing), via medieval polyphony (of which we know a certain amount), to, say, Mahler, the last great pre-technological composer (of whose work and times we know much more but not, really, enough…)?’ Musical performance no longer has a lost, silent history; but in a recent discussion of the role of music in society it has been plausibly argued that gains in public accessibility have been outweighed by the loss of something vital, the sense of a living culture, of people being directly engaged in music and, indeed, music of their time. A new symphony once had the appeal that a new play or film would have today. The authors discuss how the recording industry has brought about this change, how music has become a commodity - something to be sought and bought – and how the process of listening has gradually become sanitised away from the touch, taste and smell of social interaction. They speculate on 21st-century developments in the world of musical performance and the performer’s future role, in particular his obligation to elucidate and communicate, which will demand immense resourcefulness and imagination in an age of sound bites, constant visual titillation and ever-increasing aural distraction.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9780521896115
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Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 02:59

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