Whose Music of a Century? Performance, History and Multiple Voices

  • Nicolas Cook


It's the small words that do the most cultural work. THE MUSIC OF A CENTURY, the title of the conference for which this paper was written, imputes a spurious singularity to a multiplicity of cultural practices, and begs the question of in whose interests this singularity is being constructed. An alternative question, 'WHOSE MUSIC OF A CENTURY?', could be explored in political terms (and nowhere more fruitfully than with reference to South Africa), but in this paper I focus on the broader intellectual and ideological factors that lead us to construct music in this manner. I do this by showing how, through its emphasis on score and structure, musicology silences the multiple and divided voices of music in performance, and argue that the same restrictive assumptions pervade our writing of music history. The fundamental problem in doing justice to the historical development of twentieth-century music is that of writing multicultural history.

(SA J Musicology: 1999/2000 19/20: 1-14)

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eISSN: 0258-509X