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Moral judgement in response to performances of western art music

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRemixing Music Studies
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honour of Nicholas Cook
EditorsAnanay Aguilar, Eric Clarke, Ross Cole, Matthew Pritchard
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

King's Authors


This chapter examines the accusation of ‘mannerism’, levelled at musical performers by critics on Gramophone magazine regularly since 1923, by analysing the descriptors that critics attach to the word, which is used to label anything a performer does in sound that the critic finds unexpected and unwelcome. Mannerisms are said to be (among many other things) ‘irritating’, ‘intrusive’, ‘disturbing’. Performers guilty of mannerism are ‘self-indulgent’, ‘egotistic’, ‘preening’, ‘self-serving’, etc. Mannerisms are said to be ‘artificial’, ‘unnatural’, ‘strange’, ‘fussy’, ‘sentimental’, ‘arch’, etc. Such criticisms of the other in performance, like treatment of others in wider society, often draw on structural prejudice. Through such language musical behaviour is policed as if it were a matter of public morality in a narrowly patriarchal and hetero-normative society, aiming to constrain performers to strictly normative readings of scores.

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