To have "music" in the familiar sense of audible performances, someone must first take action to make music or "music!" Musical works are not only a matter of sounds, they are also a matter of actions. Put another way, musicing is an inceptional property of music as an auditory presence. 1
The word musicing may sound odd at first. This is understandable. The aesthetic concept of music-as-object obscures the more fundamental reality of "music!" as a form of deliberate doing and making. But consider how easily people speak of dancing, drawing, or painting, or how we use the word dance in multiple ways to mean the dancing a dancer does, a gathering of dancers, or the outcome of a dancer's dancing.
Musicing is an important term. It serves to remind (and re-mind) us that long before there were musical compositions there was music making in the sense of singing and playing remembered renditions and improvisations; that many cultures still view music as something people do; and that even in the West where composers and composing are essential aspects of the musical tradition, compositions remain silent until interpreted and performed by music makers. Most of all, musicing reminds us that performing and improvising through singing and playing instruments lies at the heart of MUSIC as a diverse human practice. As the philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff insists, "the basic reality of music is not works nor the composition of works but music making." 2
From this viewpoint, the question "What is music?" subdivides first into two closely related questions: (1) What is the nature of musicing? and (2) What does it mean to be a music maker? This chapter begins to answer both questions. But since we cannot say everything at once, and since improvising is a kind of performing, and since composing, arranging, and conducting usually imply the presence of musical performers, it seems reasonable to start with an emphasis on performing. (Thus, I shall often use musicing interchangeably with performing in this chapter.) Note, however, that most themes in my discussion apply to all forms of music making. Later chapters will develop these themes in relation to improvising, composing, arranging, and conducting.