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Musicking: The Verb that Wikipedia Forgot

Updated on March 6, 2008
The written notes are not God to Christopher Small.  (Photo by Paige Foster)
The written notes are not God to Christopher Small. (Photo by Paige Foster)

Musicologist Christopher Small asserted that "music" is not an event, rather it is an action in which everyone participates. So why does Wikipedia not have an article on "musicking," complete within the context of Small's book of the same name? The book has received plenty of attention in the United States, and the idea certainly merits a Wikipedia article.

So I'll do "musicking" one better and give it a HubPages hub instead. Take that, Wikipedia!

Why a Verb?

Small challenges the idea that The Composer is this almighty power whose ideas rule supreme, with the musicians and audience members merely bowing to his genius (the audience members being lesser than the musicians, of course, as the former are merely spectators).

Instead, he insists that every person and thing involved in a musical performance is musicking because -- and this is the controversial part -- they all have an impact on that performance.


While it might not make immediate sense to you why one audience member in an audience of thousands would have an impact on the overall musicking experience, Small is quite convincing.

Consider this: That one person has got to be standing next to someone else or have influenced another audience member to come. In fact, that one person helped finance (or, in the case of a free musicking experience, support) the music that much more. It's much like the ripple effect.

Small seeks to bring the musicking experience back to the people as a whole instead of placing all the power in the hands of (at a symphony performance) the conductor and ultimately the composer. He has spent much of his time studying the music of various tribes and clans across Africa and therefore has an understandable bias towards music that incorporates everyone, musicking as a social experience.

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Changing Perspectives

This theory must be true because since I have read about it, music in my life makes so much more sense. When walking by a saxophonist in Central Park or standing next to someone in an elevator whose headphones are on far too loud, I am influenced, whether I want to be or not. And by hearing the music, I am, in turn, influencing.

Musicking is a spectacular verb with which more people should be familiar. Because the book may not be worth reading for a completely nonmusical person, but a Wikipedia article would sure be worth taking a look at.


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