Musical Works and Performances: A Philosophical Exploration

By Stephen Davies | Go to book overview

6 Authenticity and Non-Western Music

They are tourists and we are civilized. 1

In the previous chapter I discussed performances with respect to the authenticity with which they instance the works they are of. For the most part, this concern ignores the wider social setting for which the music was intended and assumes that works and performances can be contemplated for their own sake, rather than for the functional contributions they make to wider social practices. I confined my attention to the Western classical tradition, but some non-Western societies—those of the Middle East and of Japan, China, India, and Indonesia—have a 'classical' (court) practice that regards music in similar terms.

In general, though, a broader relativity is invoked in discussing authenticity in non-Western than in Western music. Ethnomusicologists are often interested in the characteristics of genres or styles, rather than in works taken as individuals. And, in the context of cultural studies, the social setting and function of musical presentations become the object of attention and are measured for their typicalness. In other words, questions about the authenticity of such music usually consider its relation to the wider culture, rather than focusing narrowly on works and performances regarded as autonomous individuals.

Earlier, I indicated that the New Musicology regards as 'mythological' talk of works and of the authenticity of their performances. Similar trends are apparent within anthropology and ethnomusicology as a new generation repudiates what it regards as the dogmas of its teachers. In consequence, the word 'authenticity' is now studiously avoided in these disciplines and the notion is debunked. In the following section, I sketch this attack on the old

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