Unpicking The Musical Object In The “Western” Imagination

Christopher Small explains that “Music is not a thing at all but an activity, something that people do. The apparent thing “music” is a figment, an abstraction of the action, whose reality vanishes as soon as we examine it at all closely” (1998: p2). If that is the case, why then am I concerned with contributing to a discourse with the intention of unpicking this non-existent object? The answer lies further on in Small’s first chapter of Musicking, where he suggests that historically Western scholars of music have, almost unanimously, agreed that the essence of and meanings within musical activity are best found in the resulting musical object. He also asserts that the musical object given the most privileged status historically, aesthetically, and socially is that which arises from the practice of Western classical music.

I find this problematic when I take a moment to reflect upon how many important actions and determining circumstances within that musical space have been and can be overlooked without question by influential producers, teachers, and commentators as a result. Furthermore, how seemingly invisible and self-naturalising parameters have clearly been set within this specific musical space as a means to restrict its access and critique, whilst also enabling qualitative examination of all other musical spaces in relation to it. This is proven in Radano & Bohlman’s observation that historically, “the more extensively categories and constructs of “music” solidified – became exclusive rather than inclusive in their metaphysics – the more European concepts of music insinuated themselves into non-Western culture” (2000: p24). This highlights how existing discourses around music and music making are in no way separate from the colonial and capitalist sociopolitical structure of the dominant culture of Europe, the U.S.A. and some of its remaining colonies – the ideological shorthand of which is referred to as the “West” or “Occident”. Moreover, how Western classical music, like its encasing social structure, has been reliant upon conditioning and cultivating ideas of difference via race, gender and class to establish its self-determined, hegemonic and oversimplified objective identity (Said 1979, McClary 1991, Small 1998, Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000, Radano & Bohlman 2000, Taylor 2007).

These ideas of difference central to the very possibility of music existing as object, rely heavily on their manifesting in the Western imagination (Said 1979, Radano & Bohlman 2000, Taylor 2007). Radano & Bohlman explain that “the imagination of race not only informs perceptions of musical practice but is at once constituted within and projected into the social through sound. Intersecting the musical and discursive, it becomes a “soundtext” that circulates within and across national boundaries” (2005: p5). Susan McClary (1991) and Timothy Taylor (2007) also make clear that the conditioning of the Western imagination to perceive engagement with a musical space as engagement with an object, forged from its naturalised set of material practices and associated codes, is one where racialised and gendered narratives intersect.

I feel it is important therefore to state that I, as a white European male who has benefitted from musical training and experience inside and outside of the Western classical environment, have tried in my following analysis to form a narrative that shows awareness of how my own experience and imagination will affect my perceptions and conclusions. Using resources such as Les Back and Vron Ware’s contributions in Out Of Whiteness (2002) has been a helpful starting point for understanding the intersections of racialised and gendered experience internally and externally. An example can be found in Ware’s quote from Ien Ang:

“subjective knowledge” of what it is to be “at the receiving end of racialized othering” is “simply not accessible to white people” – the same way as “the subjective knowledge of what it means to be a woman is ultimately inaccessible to men.” In her view, however, those moments of incommensurability” can be used as a starting point for political pursuits if we acknowledge them and “accept that politics does not have to be premised on construction of a solid, unified “we” … but on the very fragility, delicacy and uncertainty of any “we” we forge.” p273

Ware also points out that “the power of the imagination must be linked to any program of action against white supremacism” in order to “envisage a world without injustice and exploitation [which is a] vital [component] of the abolitionist consciousness required to act decisively in the name of politics” (2002: p285). Therefore it is in the imagination, where the musical object in its full non-existence is initially lodged, that I have chosen to unpick the social surrounding in which it is disseminated and the history of its material, aesthetics and associated coding. This follows the instruction of Radan & Bohlman’s suggestion that “to hear beyond the [European] centre would mean simply to position the invented tradition of ‘European music’ within the world around us” (2000: p3), therefore through unpicking an imperialist discourse, contributing to a narrative that “[sees] to it that [it is important for] people [to] freely determine their own history” ([Kovel in] Ware 2002: p285). I will then focus on the attempted progress of ideas from the Western avant-garde and experimental movements of the mid twentieth century to dislodge and diversify the musical canon. I will highlight how, in many cases, despite well meaning intentions the old objective norms continue through modern manifestations of for example orientalism, scientism and constructed objectivity ([Corbett in] Radano & Bohlman 2000, Taylor 2007, Crooks 2011, Burkhalter, Dickinson, & Harbert 2013). Finally I will suggest how approaching this musical practice as a socialised space following more recent theoretical narratives within ethnomusicology, musicology and sociology, can be helpful for those engaged in musical practice to form dialogic musical relationships with greater sensitivity towards the possibility of any number of alternative musical and social modernities (Burkhalter, Dickinson, & Harbert 2013).

The normalised social experience


I will use Small’s observations about the trickle-down nature of the experience within a Western classical musical space from composer to performer to audience as a guideline to examining how meaning is perceived to “reside uniquely in musical objects” (1998: p5). He points out that the “musical performance plays no part in the creative process, being only the medium through which the isolated, self-contained work has to pass in order to reach its goal, the listener” (1998: p5). I find this not only, as Small mentions, indicative of a practice from within a wider art culture that worships above all else the object produced, but of a practice that is fully reflective of and participant in a capitalist social structure where the means of production has little importance in relation to the producer’s objective creation of the autonomous product and the consumer’s reception. The conceived autonomy of the composer’s work in this context is important as it is the beginning of the conception of the musical object. Small likens the composer to “a kind of prophet, the score his sacred text” (1998: p89). This mythical hero is granted freedom to explore the world as he wishes and then to represent himself and the subjects of his explorations accordingly in his works. These representations will be taken as truths resulting from his seemingly objective lens (Said 1979, McClary 1991, Small 1998, Taylor 2007). I can see connection between this and Susan McClary’s analogous depiction of, the patriarchal character, Bluebeard’s “symbolic self-representation” that he “wishes to claim – his wealth, strength, political dominion, love of beauty, and so on” (1991: p3). It is important to note, then, her observation that upon her investigations in the field of musicology to explore issues of musical signification, they were “fastidiously [declared as] off-limits” (1991: p4). In other words, questioning the gospel of the “structures graphed by theoreticians and beauty celebrated by aestheticians” that appear to be “often stained in violence, misogyny and fear” is to question the the credibility of the autonomous work at the hands of the mythical, often assumed to be white and male (McClary 1991, Radano & Bholman 2000, Taylor 2007), composer. A useful way to destabilise the classical canon from within, then might be to re-imagine the role of composer, by incorporating composers of any number of potential identities into historic musical discourse and concert programmes.


The apparent omnipotence of the composer and his or her work’s autonomy, in the imagination of the recipient, is reinforced in Small’s analysis by the relationship performers seem to have with the work. He points out that “we hear little about them, at least not as creators of musical meaning. It seems that they can clarify or obscure a work, present it adequately or not, but they have nothing to contribute to it; its meaning has been completely determined before a performer ever lays eyes on the score” (1998: p5). Small’s earlier religious analogy can also be likened to modern capitalist means of production (Small 1998, Ware & Back 2002, O’Toole 2005). The composer as company, the work as product, the performers as workers. Within this framework there are those with a greater stake in carrying the musical meaning such as conductors and virtuoso soloists, analogous to company directors and CEOs. However, in order to maintain their position of respect, they must still dutifully tow the company line. This power dynamic, be it priestly or industrial can be observed in the bodily limitations placed upon those performing a Western classical work. Small points out in his chapter ‘A Separate World’ (1998) how the players are uniformed, their behaviour understated and their actions may only be those permitted by their superiors. In fact, following the “rank and file” (1998: p69) nature of the modern orchestra, seemingly very little “notice is taken of those who play in, for example, the second violins; they are anonymous entities who, as long as they measure up to a certain level of competence and experience, are to all practical purposes interchangeable.”

Despite the power dynamic in the work’s execution, there is an important direct link between the imagination of the performer and the musical object. They must be fully committed to meanings and values attributed to the work’s structures and aesthetics,(through musicological discourse, personal experience or a combination of both). Also, fully committed to the notion that what they are indeed participating in is in fact the aural construction of an object. Patricia O’Toole highlights issues arising as result in her article ,‘I Sing In A Choir But I Have “No Voice!”’ (2005). She talks of “choral pedagogy designed to create docile, complacent singers who are subject to a discourse that is more interested in the production of music than in the labourers” (2005: p2). This pedagogy of correct performance technique is based on what she states as “a litany of male achievement, [which] has established a prohibitive discourse that prevents the “body” of female musicians from fully participating in music” (2005: p5). She goes on to explain how the naturalised, patriarchal orders of discipline play out upon the bodies of the choir (male and female):

“They are practiced within a choral rehearsal, docility is achieved through architecture. The choir is enclosed in a room and distributed upon the risers according to voice type, and possibly according to talents. The director is then positioned in front of the choir, so singers see the director primarily and each other only peripherally. All attention and focus moves vertically toward the director. Horizontal interaction that might create “dangerous” community among the singers is strongly discouraged by the director as a distraction from the focus on music-making, that is, from the director’s control.” p8

The parallels in Small and O’Toole’s description clearly point to the possibility then, that to  take part practically in establishing the imaginary musical object, is to be at the mercy of the composer’s documented imagination. Additionally, at the hands of the leader and their imagination of what they suppose the composer imagined. Then the performer’s body and imagination must fall in line to contribute to this collective, but still at every point isolated, act. This will culminate in a presentation of sound, which will be projected upon the restricted body of the audience, to lodge firmly in their, similarly necessarily conditioned, imagination (McClary 1991, Small 1998, O’Toole 2005).


There are a number of other factors at play to facilitate the necessary objective listening experience. This includes the venue, its operators, its marketers and so on. Small (1998) explains that all of these are truly involved in musicking but, to be successful in the illusion of creating an object, they too must be invisible. This also applies to the audience, who, despite sharing an experience, must be invisible to one and other as well as to the performers. They cannot interact, they cannot join in and they must try as best they can to limit their bodies from committing any possible extramusical sounds that might disturb the event. This includes coughing. They may only show their appreciation at the end of a performance. From this, Small concludes that the social codes in place allow for “a narrow range of impersonal encounters among people of more or less the same social class (predominantly white and middle class), where each goes his or her own private way without being impinged on to any significant extent by others” (1998: p42). This being the case has implications for how the social construction from composer to audience, with the learned values along the way, has created a situation where music is perceived as an object, but also how that perception has been reified in relation to its “others” both within and outside of the Western classical musical environment.

The Object: its material self

In order to form an imagined musical object, its internal systems and processes must be naturalised. To achieve this, it must be placed in opposition to what is perceived to be its “Other” (Said 1979, McClary 1991, Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000, Radano & Bohlman 2000, Taylor 2007). Taylor aligns the “Modern Self-Fashioning” (2007: p23-24) in the eighteenth century Western consciousness with the “rise in tonality”, which he argues facilitated representations and appropriations of Europe’s cultural Others. He has come to this conclusion by sidestepping the more common musicological line of enquiry, of tracing the musical and theoretical origins of tonality, instead he examines the context surrounding why it came to dominance.

Looking at the establishment of equal tempered tonality as a preferred modal system is useful for unpicking the musical object, as what transpires is that its cultural dominance was down to several determining social factors, rather than it being the most successful mode of expression. Taylor argues that:

“tonality arose to a long supremacy in western European music in part because it facilitated a concept of spatialisation in music that provided for centres and margins, both geographically and psychologically.” (2007: p25)

He links its popularity with other colonial elements of the Western consciousness of that time, such as cartography. While “space was conquered with maps” (2007: p26) to create the object of nationstate in the European consciousness, sound was conquered with tonality in order to create the musical object. Both seem to have aided the ideological ring-fencing of Europe off from its others.

McClary also draws comparison with the conception of tonality and key with patriarchal colonialism. She points out that the narrative musical structure usually at play is:

“The masculine protagonist makes contact with but must eventually subjugate (domesticate or purge) the designated Other in order for identity to be consolidated, for the sake of narrative closure”

She goes on to explain that:

“large scale instrumental music was not feasible before the development of tonality, which draws on the model of these powerful narrative paradigms. In its early manifestations […], the course of a movement traces the trajectory from a home base (tonic), to the conquest of two or three other keys, and a return to the tonic for closure.” (1991: p14)

It is this process which helps give the illusion of the autonomous musical work. The system allows for easy expansion as the clear guidelines make it easier for more performers to take part, so long as they follow the rules. Furthermore, with equal temperament there is scope to continually explore new tonal territory. Therefore, through conquest solidifying the idea that this is the natural order of things.

Richard Middleton explains how sonata form “was particularly conducive to the depiction of “other” spheres, either through differentiation of themes (for instance, the second theme of a sonata-principle movement was routinely described as “feminine”)” ([in] Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000: p63). He also observes how the tonic minor was seen as a distant key to the tonic major, “and one always suggesting something disturbing [and] foreign” (2000: p63). Middleton also mentions how the extrapolation and appropriation of  material from “Other” musical spaces – with terms to describe the resulting objects as “archaic, folk, foreign, exotic” – to function as embellishment to the natural tonal system and as imaginary narrative signifiers, is indicative of the perception of all music existing in relation to tonal structures. He points out:

“Ironically, it is the development of elaborate meaning systems in the Western culture that makes possible the depiction and annexation of these others: only when a sophisticated method of manipulating (mediating) semiotic difference is in place can immediacy [of other musics] be portrayed.” (2000: p60)

The result of meaning deriving only from the autonomous musical work that represents the “selfhood”, that is the imagination, experience and location, of the composer has led to a linear Western musical history.  Consequently, as Radalno & Bohlman assert, “[musical] scholarship [is] commonly [only] grounded in aestheticist assumptions about “the music itself” (2000: p2). Therefore, due to discourse seeming to overlook what, would be claimed as, irrelevant concerns about such factors as the body, ritual and social context (McClary 1991, Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000, O’Toole 2005, Taylor 2007), the idea of music as an object made up of material to be qualitatively examined in relation to itself and others prevailed comfortably into the twentieth century.

The “Avant-Garde” Object

What all of the movements associated with the overarching term “avant-garde”  (including “modernism”, “experimentalism” and “post-modernism”) share is an apparent desire for music in the Western consciousness to change, develop or evolve. What is commonly referred to as the “death of tonality” at the turn of the century could be seen as an awakening to the problems such a limiting and self-naturalised system causes. McClary states for example that Schoenberg perceived tonality as a set of oppressive conventions that were in no way natural, and his  subsequent work within the “second Viennese school” has been widely celebrated. However, she goes on to explain that the first embodiment of his treatise that was celebrated as the “emancipation of the dissonance” (and filled with colonial and patriarchal imagery to justify his position), was upon the body of a female character framed as a lunatic in his opera Erwartung (1991: p107). The material investigation of the male composer was made safe to the necessary musical authorities by affiliating it with the, this time gendered, other. This clearly differs very little from the codings and appropriations of the Other in the nineteenth century (McClary 1991, Taylor 2007).

John Cage went much further than divesting in tonality. He “advocat[ed] that music should no longer be conceived of as a rational discourse, concerned with manipulating sounds into musical shapes or artefacts (motives, melodies, twelve tone rows)” (Nyman 1974: p32-33). John Corbett outlines that:

“By eliminating the governing principle of structure and supplanting taste with process, Cage sought to explicitly divorce composing from “the mind as a ruling factor,” and thereby liberate sounds from their social and political connotations.” ([in] Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000: p166)

However, Cage formed a large amount of his theories and practices through orientalist essentialisms, referring to, for example, Zen, Indian music, and “the Orientals” interchangeably in his lectures. And although as Corbett explains:

“Cage creates conditions for certain events to happen, the concept of which may be roughly based, for instance in an Asian source. The resulting music, however, may have little or nothing aesthetically to do with the originary system [and so] his conceptual work may not seem Orientalist, [but] in the final analysis the ends never totally escape the means.” ([in] Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000: p171).

It might not be seen as problematic that Cage saw non-Western music and philosophy as a means of disrupting the Western preoccupation with harmony structure and intentionality ([Corbett in] Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000). However, his Orientalist oversimplifications can be, as Edward Crooks points out, “unconsciously complicit in epistemic violence related to the colonial legacy” (2011: p259) and in keeping with Kay Dickinson’s view that much of the European-American avant-garde composers work was a result of simply going about “arming itself with fresh weapons for combating its own culture’s stagnancy” (Burkhalter, Dickinson & Harbert 2013: p3) in a non-dialogic manner.

Why is it that composers, who seem committed to breaking with many of the old hegemonic traditions of the Western classical musical space, were unable to free themselves from the lens of the patriarchal coloniser? Dickinson points out that the “sense of “progress”, so crucial for stimulating avant-garde ambience, frequently (often unwittingly) stems from acts of plunder and subordination, in the artistic field as well as others” (Burkhalter, Dickinson & Harbert 2013: p2). It is definitely helpful therefore to understand, as Corbett puts it, “the underlying epistemic framework which provides a context for American and European classical music’s overwhelming turn to the music of “other” cultures” (Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000: p163).

Corbett explains that:

“American avant-garde music is about looking for new forms, processes and materials conducting experiments without predicting or manipulating results [with the] intention of ideological blankness and Universal scientificity [which differed from the] older model for scientific inquiry as the apex of control and rationality [which] was the discursive formation in which serialism was elaborated, [instead] experimentalism takes the image of science as inquiry and looks forward to new paradigms of fuzzy logics, chaos theory, possibility and chance” (Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000: p164-165).

What I find striking in this observation is that the aspiration to undergo any form of ideological blankness is dangerous. There is an undeniable colonial undertone inherent to any claim of universality (Said 1979). It would seem that the self-naturalising narrative embedded in the rise of tonality was present in these new forms of making musical work in three notable ways: firstly, that Western experimentation was the next inevitable step in a linear musical history in the same way tonality was the next inevitable step out of “previous” (rather than “alternative”) modal systems (Taylor 2007). Secondly, the assumption that the product of these experiments had universal importance upon musical meaning, in the same way tonality was seen to be the universally correct way to order sound (McClary 1991, Radano & Bohlman 2000, Taylor 2007). Finally, that this seemingly inevitable discovery was projected as a result of modern Western, white and male innovation with influence from other forms and other people that were only allowed to operate in their fixed state, rather than being the result of several dialogic interactions ([Corbett in] Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000, Burkhalter, Dickinson & Harbert 2013). This correlates with the tonal system and counterpoint being seen as a European invention to be decorated with foreign fixed elements, courtesy of any interchangeable ‘Other’ (McClary 1991, Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000, Radano & Bohlman 2000, Taylor 2007).

This can be reinforced by the particular narratives formed in subsequent discourse about the avant-garde: Kay Dickinson lists the majority of the literature on the history of the avant-garde (much of which was in my Composition Bachelor core reading list) and highlights how it is made up of “capacious cast-lists of Largely Western (and male) heroes”, the journey of ideas rebounding between “Europe and North-America exclusively and, while there are sporadic allusions to “African” and “Asian” colours and textures, their histories and inheritances, their passages along colonial trade routes, are never plotted out” (Burkhalter, Dickinson & Harbert 2013: p4 – my emphasis). So if I compare this with earlier observations about the entitled role of the composer within the social framework of musicological discourse, it would seem not a great deal has changed, developed or evolved when the lens is refocussed to view the situation surrounding the making of musical works. This is supported by Corbett’s argument that:

“This notion of discovery or exploration helps undergird the idea that the composer is engaging in a value-free, experimental endeavour, even as it allows us to suggest the colonialist impulse submerged in its rhetoric. It is assumed that the discoverer-composer, out on the open seas of aural possibility, surely will bring back ideas and practices from distant lands, perhaps ones that will enhance the quality of Western musical life. Musical experimentation becomes metaphorical microcolonialism. To be a cultured mid-to late Twentieth Century Westerner, then, means to appreciate the spoils of such musical exploration, to be a healthy relativist.” ([in] Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000: p166)

Not only do McClary’s and Small’s previously mentioned analogies spring to mind, it would appear also that, because musical meaning in the Western classical space is still attributed to the object, reflective in its form of the composer’s ability to explore new territory as a “rugged cartographer of new lands” ([Corbett in] Born & Hesmondhalgh 2000: p166), the same social role is at play. It is just that material to conquer is no longer limited to keys but to incorporate any number of aural possibilities for aesthetic appreciation. This, Cage imagined, was liberating all possible sounds and actions (Nyman 1979) by assimilating them into the aesthetic realm of the universal object by removing their meaning to become material parts of equal value. What was actually going on was the liberation of his and his contemporaries’ musical lens to judge all within its scope as aesthetically important. They are not the same.

A Socialised Space

Martin Stokes writes that it is important “to see music less as a fixed essence with certain definable properties than as a wide field of practices and meanings with few significant or socially relevant points of intersection. Without understanding local conditions, languages and contexts, it is impossible to know what these practices and meanings are” (Stokes 1994: p7). This is central to why I have chosen to focus this essay on unpicking some of the social surroundings of the Western classical musical environment that create a situation where the composer, performer and audience are imagining what they are engaging with is a universal “fixed essence”. The fixed essence, or object, itself, is socially constructed from an assumption that its material parts are of greatest importance and the surrounding environment in which it is presented is a subordinate detail to be overlooked.  Furthermore, (and it is possible that the two are connected), that this object created – regardless of what makes up its parts – is what is to be universally recognised as “music” (McClary 1991, Stokes 1994, Small 1998, Taylor 2007).

Evidence of this lies in works that represent apparent musical “developments” within the constructed linear history that supports the above, allowing for aesthetic interest and appreciation of a greater number of performed sounds and movements to be acceptable within this socialised musical space. This is because the cartographic grids that tonality seemed to facilitate, as a means of imbibing and rationalising the ideologically fixed notion of Others to stimulate a relational but constructed aesthetic sense of self in the imagination of all involved from composer, performer to audience, are still in place when tonality, is removed. The classical fixed essence becomes the modern fixed essence, which becomes the post-modern fixed essence. All the while, the composer is still the holder of universal truths, the performers still act in servitude and the audience still sits in passive submission with the only form of engagement to be that of a private internal aesthetic fantasy. Is it possible that the rituals and actions within the Western classical musical space have been pulling the strings all along?

Stokes goes on to say that:

“Musics are invariably communal activities, that bring people together in specific alignments, whether as musicians, dancers or ‘ listening audiences. The ‘tuning in’ (Schutz 1977) through music of these social alignments can provide a powerful affective experience in which social identity-is literally ’embodied’” (Stokes 1994: p12)

It could be possible, therefore, to conclude that the specific “tuning in” in the Western classical musical environment – regardless of the material – has developed out of the seemingly unseen ritual that has, whether consciously or not (most likely a combination), sought to play out and reinforce the imagined identity of the “West” and its sense of “self” (Said 1979, Taylor 2007) that has been created on the back of its colonial history and patriarchal social structures that are responsible in large part for class boundaries, and racialised and gendered Othering (Said 1979, Öcalan 2013).

I haven’t constructed this argument to conclude that the Western classical space or its resulting works, because of its entanglement with a violent and misogynistic history, should be undone because, as Corbett points out, “utopian separatism is not feasible” (2000: p163). Rather, by examining the chosen histories within the related musical discourses and the practices and imaginations that surround and have come out of these histories, there is possibility to  as Radano and Bohlman suggest, ideologically re-place Western classical music “in the world around us” (2000) with a correct de-elevated status – within a world that is grappling with the results of globalisation (Turino 2003). What is necessary is for those involved to recognise that its “music” is, like any other, a socialised space, the works only making up part. Therefore, as Small alludes, sending Bach into space would not be boasting (1998). Furthermore, attributing, as I have intentionally done throughout the course of this essay, this practice to a geographical location is unhelpful. So is it also unhelpful to assume that because elements and values associated with this practice have seeped, oppressively or otherwise, into other traditions that these elements and values are universal. This can be best summed up by Feld’s point:

“This is where aesthetics might best be understood as an iconicity of style, rather than a formal homology of sonic (musical/verbal/natural), visual, and choreographic structures.” 1994: p77

Using this as a perquisite to musical engagement allows for the possibility of avoiding fixed, essentialist reductive constructions of Other as a way of aesthetically naturalising the “self”.

The works from the current discursive definition of the “avant-garde” played a helpful part in removing the authority of tonal structures and concerning themselves with the beginnings of an approach that was more in line with recognising what was actually going on. However, to fully reimagine the musical object, and its hierarchical dissemination from composer to audience, is to recognise that the composer is compiling instructions for performers to carry out via a flexible but well-defined coded system, the score is a script for these performers to use to allow a synchronised realisation to take place. The audience is receiving the outcome of this production and can choose to interact with this accordingly. They need not be sold short with a reductive and essentialised history.

Finally, I would suggest part of a “reimagining” process would be to account for works in programs and in musical discourse by composers throughout the linear musical history who are not just white, male Europeans and Americans. There are a number of composers of musical works using the notated (and associated practices) tradition that can flesh out this history and account for a multiplicity of social histories therein associated: Hildegarde Von Bingen, Barbara Strozzi, Chevalier de Saint Georges, Maurice Arnold Strothotte, Halim El Dabh. As Dickinson asserts regarding the discourses around the possibility for a formation of “Alternative Modernities” intersecting with one and other, as can Alternative Intersecting Histories be formed (Burkhalter, Dickinson & Harbert 2013).


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