26 Speaking of others
This chapter is still to be fully written. But let me outline the case.
Chapter 12.2 touched on some of the ways in which music can seem to behave like a person.
As normatively performed today, the people it makes are very familiar to us; we feel comfortable in their company. They are like us, but more perfect and more articulate about themselves.
Non-normative performances of the sort advocated in this book make very unfamiliar people, starting from these same scores; they unsettle those who want music to reassure them that all is well with their world. The hatred of critics for even small unexpected details in performance (Chapters 9.2, 9.4) shows how easily the musical ‘other’ generates prejudice and encourages exclusion.
But it follows that, with goodwill and a determination to be inclusive and welcoming of difference, non-normative performance could allow us to make many very different others from the scores we know and love, and that those others could be interesting to us and welcomed by us into our culture. Non-normative performance could thus offer a safe space in which to exercise empathy, with benefits for our lives well beyond music.
In turn, this offers a way for western classical music to escape the values of the far right (Chapter 30.1) and foster instead values of generosity and inclusivity. As a result it could also be more welcoming and more interesting to much more diverse audiences, and provide work for many more fine performers.
I make this case, with examples, in a YouTube talk created for a concert by the Orchestra for the Age of Enlightenment at King’s Place in December 2020. Watch a run-through here (19 minutes).
Continue to Chapter 27: The right to be different