Live Music Exchange Resources

Genre and the cultural politics of territory: The live experience of free improvisation – Chris Atton (2012)


Author: Chris Atton
Organisation/Affiliation/Publisher: European Journal of Cultural Studies 15(4), pp. 427-441.
Date: 2012

This article is concerned with the relationship between performers and audiences in the live performance of popular music, a relationship that is examined through the concept of genre culture and a microsociological study of improvised music as a territory for behaviour. Normative practices of musical performance and audience behaviour are generally understood to be regulated within the ‘social order’ of live performance situations. By contrast, and taking the live performance of freely improvised music as a case study, the article explores how disruptive interactions between performers and audiences might be considered not merely as challenges to the norms of a genre culture, but as constituents of that culture. Rather than conceptualising a genre in all cases as the negotiated outcome of sets of aesthetic and social practices and expectations, the article argues that this model of genre construction is less adequate for a consideration of more marginal and less stable music-making such as free improvisation.

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