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Musical Performance and Audiences

Origins And Types Of Performance, Performance Considerations, Bibliography









Arabic and Turkish music are all highlights









Musical performance is an organized presentation of musical sounds (and, arguably, controlled silences), usually for the entertainment, edification, or enrichment of listeners. The parameters of a performance are often determined by culturally understood boundaries—symphony audiences disregard the warming up and tuning of orchestral musicians, whereas listeners to Indian classical music understand the ālāpa (a slow, improvisatory exploration of a rāga, or traditional melodic pattern) to be an intrinsic part of the performance, if not comprising the entire performance itself. Audiences must be conditioned, therefore, to understand the norms of performance and their own roles as listeners. An Indian audience might quietly snap along with a tala (a traditional rhythmic pattern), whereas the symphony audience is expected to maintain a strict silence until the final section of a multimovement work has concluded. A jazz audience, on the other hand, might chatter and drink beverages during a jazz combo's club performance, but would also respond to individual artistry during the course of a piece by applauding after each improvised solo (as seen in figure 1); an otherwise quiet opera audience would cheer a well-performed aria, and might even, in exceptional cases, demand an encore.

Despite the recognition that there are expected behaviors for performers and audiences, defining "musical performance" is as difficult as the attempt to pinpoint the nature of music itself. The immense diversity of human musical activity has led to a host of attitudes regarding the nature and purpose of musical events. The lines of demarcation between composer and composition, composition and performer, and performer and audience are sometimes almost impossibly blurred. Moreover, no universal standard exists by which to measure "good" performance; this assessment, too, is dependent on variable cultural and aesthetic expectations. However, the ongoing attempts of historians, ethnomusicologists, and philosophers (as well as composers and performers) to articulate and isolate various Figure 1. Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald performs for an audience that includes bandleader Duke Ellington. Photographed in 1948 by Herman Leonard. HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES Figure 2. Young Greek woman playing an aulos. © BETTMANN/ CORBIS parameters of musical activity help us to understand both the diversity and the similarities within musical performances.

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