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Classical music as enforced Utopia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-336
Number of pages12
JournalArts and Humanities in Higher Education
Issue number3-4
Early online date12 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


King's Authors

Research outputs


In classical music composition, whatever thematic or harmonic conflicts may be engineered along the way, everything always turns out for the best. Similar utopian thinking underlies performance: performers see their job as faithfully carrying out their master's (the composer's) wishes. The more perfectly they represent them, the happier the result. But why should performers not have a critical role to play in re-presenting a score, just as actors are permitted - required even - to find new meanings and new relevance in texts? And what or whom are performers obeying, the long dead composer (and what is the ethical basis for that?) or a policing system (teachers, examiners, adjudicators, critics, agents, promoters, record producers) that enforces an imaginary tradition from childhood to grave? Starting from the evidence of early recordings, showing that composers are misrepresented, this article seeks to unpick some of the delusions that support classical music practice.

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