Small’s Book One of Only a Few About Listening to Music

Palmerston North-born musicologist and writer Christopher Small’s book Musicking is one of three books, “and there aren’t many” – “about listening as process and reaction and ritual, how our listening might change music”– recommended by New York Times critic Ben Ratliff. “In 1998, Small, who taught in England for most of his academic career and eventually retired to Spain, published his final book, Musicking. He was fascinated by how playing music and listening to it were equal partners in the construction of a culture. ‘The act of musicking,’ he wrote, ‘establishes in the place where it is happening a set of relationships, and it is in those relationships that the meaning of the act lies.’ The concert experience was a life-affirming, matrix-building, two-way ritual for Small, and on both sides of the stage-lip: not only for the musicians, but for those in the audience banging their heads or subtly nodding along in row J. (Even roadies, he insisted. Even the tech crew.) The book includes some deep criticism of classical-music culture; he called the typical symphony concert ‘bedtime stories told to adults,’ though he unapologetically loved his Haydn and his Mozart. But Musicking always has bigger fish to fry.” Small died in Sitges, Spain in 2011 aged 84. In his obituary, Ratliff wrote: “Musicking argued that music is an action, not an object – a verb, not a noun, as the title implied. Small’s aim, he wrote, was to ‘decipher the signals that are everywhere being given and received.’ He stressed that all people involved in a musical performance – the musicians, audience, roadies, publicists, cleaning crew – are part of its ritual.”


Tags: Christopher Small  Musicking  New York Times (The)  

Singing Shared Just How Marlon Williams Likes It

Singing Shared Just How Marlon Williams Likes It

Group singing has been central to New Zealander Marlon Williams’ life, journalist and author Jenny Valentish writes for The Guardian. He likens it to a spiritual practice, “without the theory or…