The Ontology of Music and the Challenge of Performance: Identity versus Variety, and the Persistence of the "Text"

Pryer, Anthony J.. 2010. 'The Ontology of Music and the Challenge of Performance: Identity versus Variety, and the Persistence of the "Text"'. In: The Embodiment of Authority: Perspectives on Performance. Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland. [Conference or Workshop Item]

Ontology and Performance FINAL.pdf

Download (238kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

One of the central targets of modern performance theory has been the traditional hierachical distinction between the original work and its performances. After all, performance is the means by which many of the diverse ‘meanings’ associated with a work arise, and in some cases (for example, improvisation and performance art) it is performance that seems to create the work ‘itself’. This study pursues a cautious and analytic approach to the origins of variety in performance, and it questions whether such variety really does undermine the identity of the work. Can works simply ‘arise’ from the sum of their performances (if so, how do we know which performances are relevant)? And if it is not the ‘work’ that has primacy, what are musical performances interpretations of, and do they need to be ‘about’ anything at all? Equally crucially, are there any grounds for believing that something done with ‘artistry’ must inevitably lead to the creation of an ‘artwork’? Along the way this study offers a detailed analysis of the varied functions of performance, and the types of notation (‘strategic’ and ‘archival’ functions are distinguished) that give rise to such variety. Also, the usual dichotomy between notated and oral musical performance is replaced with one that makes an important distinction between ‘prepared’ and ‘unprepared’ presentations (whether in oral cultures or not). Finally a theory of the ‘double ontology’ of music is adumbrated, drawing on remarks in Aristotle’s Metaphysics.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Research Office > REF2014



Event Location:

Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

24 May 2013 08:54

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:51


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)