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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Who is your musical 'idealized other'?

I am singing in a shanty choir these days. When talking with some of the members, they assure me that shanty is not too popular in the Netherlands (despite the vast amount of shanty choirs over here - but these choirs don't attract much audience, my choir mates tell me), but in Germany that's completely different.

And indeed. Yesterday we sang in a restaurant in Germany, and it was filled with about 200 people, who had a great evening. They sang along, they swayed from left to right and back again on the music's metre, some of them danced, and they stayed till the end of the concert. Very German - "You don't find that in the Netherlands", one would think.

The funny thing: on the way back in the bus we estimated that about 80 percent of the audience was Dutch.

It may well be the case that my choir mates are right, and that shanty indeed is more popular in Germany than in the Netherlands. Or it may be just an image they have. But for me, the 'truth' of the contention is less important than the contention itself. Because the contention may be an example of the fact that we need musical 'idealized others' - a place to long for, people whose behavior we see as a model for the ideal world. And then we try to become them, and behave like them. Hence the Dutch audience crossing the border and becoming a German audience; or what they believe a German audience is.

Which makes me think of all those people doing the same in other contexts - dressing up for an opera and becoming their personal idealized opera-lover; dressing up as a death-metal fan and becoming their personal idealized metal-head; me dressing up in jeans and a lumberjack shirt, playing the fiddle and mandolin and becoming my personal idealized bluegrass musician.

Music is performance in many ways.

Who is your musical 'idealized other'?

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