Music as Infantilisation

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Invited talk


Abstract Following the lead of Imberty (1997), Dissanayake (2008) and others, western art music can be seen as a creative adaptation, building on an evolutionary adaptation, of carer/infant vocalisation. This association brings to the practice and experience of music a deeply-rooted positive emotional charge, driving and sustaining performers through the demands of training and career. And it fuels the addiction to music characteristic of performers and audiences as participants in powerful group evocations of forgotten but deeply-present (or if not, then deeply desired), loving and reassuring infant experience. The obligation to the imagined (and usually long-dead) composer -- and subservience to a regime of examination, adjudication, and public criticism in which faithfulness to imagined traditions is the principal criterion for approval -- are considered as products and symptoms of this uniquely charged form of infantilisation. Combining this perspective with a view of music as a Utopian model of human feeling and behaviour offers new ways of understanding both classical music's rewards and its peculiar (and ultimately unsustainable) ideology of composer worship and performer obedience.
Period22 Apr 2016
Held atOrpheus Institute, Ghent, Belgium