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Music, Time, and Dance in Orchestral Performance: The Conductor as Shaman

Cottrell, S.J. (2007). Music, Time, and Dance in Orchestral Performance: The Conductor as Shaman. Twentieth-century Music, 3(1), pp. 73-96.


This paper explores the relationship between music, time, and movement in those Western art music rituals within which orchestral performance occurs. It begins by reviewing some of the literature on the symphonic performance event itself, particularly the work of Christopher Small, who has written about this at length. It goes on to consider the nature of the conductor’s gestures within these events, and argues that these can be construed as a form of dancing, and that the functional ambiguity of these gestures serves only to enhance their symbolic significance; their greater importance, in fact, is in connection with the creation of another world of time. Finally, the paper compares the work and gestures of conductors with shamanistic practice in other cultures, both in terms of the conductor’s role within the concert hall and as a result of the images of them presented to us in various media.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
SWORD Depositor:
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