Professional Music-Making in London: Ethnography and Experience

Professional Music-Making in London is an engaging yet innovative study which examines the lives and work of Western art musicians from an ethnographic perspective. Drawing in part on his own professional experience, Stephen Cottrell considers to what extent musicians in Western society conform to Alan Merriam's paradigmatic assessment of them as having low status yet high respect, as well as being given an unusual degree of licence to deviate from convention. The book draws on a wide variety of approaches from scholars elsewhere: from ethnomusicologists such as Bruno Nettl and Henry Kingsbury, performance theorists such as Richard Schechner and Victor Turner, as well as psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein. This rich intellectual heritage provides the framework for discussion of a variety of themes, including how musicians conceive their self identity and how this is negotiated in the professional musical world; how the deputy system facilitates musical exchange and engenders gift relationships; how humour lubricates social and musical relationships and mitigates the stresses of musicians' lives; and how the events in which musicians participate can be viewed as quasi-rituals, and thus related to analogous events in non-Western cultures. The focus of this study is on professional music-making in London, one of the world's busiest centres of musical performance. Yet the issues raised and explored are deeply relevant to other major centres of Western art music, such as New York, Berlin or Sydney. Ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, musicologists, performers, teachers and concert-goers will find this book a stimulating insight into, and investigation of, Western art musicians and their place in today's world.