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Experience and meaning in music performance / edited by Martin Clayton,

Byron Dueck and Laura Leante. OUP

Acknowledgments vii
List of contributors ix
About the companion web site xi
1. Introduction: Experience and Meaning in Music Performance 1
Martin Clayton, Byron Dueck and Laura Leante
2. Entrainment, Ethnography and Musical Interaction 17
Martin Clayton
3. Social Co-Regulation and Communication in North Indian Duo Performances 40
Nikki Moran
4. Groove: Temporality, Awareness and the Feeling of Entrainment in Jazz
Performance 62
Mark Doff man
5. Performing the Rosary: Meanings of Time in Afro-Brazilian Congado Music 86
Glaura Lucas
6. Self-consciousness in Music Performance 108
Andy McGuiness
7. Rhythm and Role Recruitment in Manitoban Aboriginal Music 135
Byron Dueck
8. Imagery, Movement and Listeners Construction of Meaning in North
Indian Classical Music 161
Laura Leante
9. Embodiment and Movement in Musical Performance 188
Martin Clayton and Laura Leante
References 209
Index 223


Andy McGuiness
This chapter explores the subjectivity of music performers in the course of felicitous
and creative performance. The kind of music performance described in this chapter
is creative in the very moment of performance, and by presenting a newly created
subjectivity, without either predetermining or censoring it, risks shame. I argue that
this kind of performance ( creative performance or felicitous performance for short)
depends on a particular state of self-consciousness, which this essay aims to describe.
Although I refer to a field study of alternative rock bands, which exemplify this
approach, the kind of performance concernedand the subjectivity that, I argue,
is associated with itis not necessarily confined to that style. In fact, arguments by
Naomi Cumming (2000) in relation to performance of Western classical music help
to delineate some of its features. Western classical music and rock music (generally)
share the fact of a set text which is performed without changes to its basic elements
of rhythm and pitch, and so allow for the mechanism of control, which I postulate
here as giving rise to felicitous performance.
Th is essay combines analysis of ethnographic fieldwork with approaches from
formal aesthetics. Writings on the phenomenology of shame are used to bridge the
two. Th e tools of philosophy of mind and of developmental studies are employed
to dissect the structure of shame in order to construct a model that will account for
the fi ndings of the ethnographic study and that can be reconciled with Cummings

Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 109

One more preparatory remark is in order. For simplicity, I have restricted the
topic to the subjectivity of a single performer in relation to the audience, ignoring
the relationship between co-performers. Th is is not meant to discount the sociality
of music making, nor the importance of relationships between performers.
However, consideration of between-performer relations seems likely to introduce
the issue of joint attention and recursive awareness (I am aware of your awareness
of meand so on), which would complicate and obscure the central issue
of my argument. Th e present discussion of self-consciousness of the individual
performer might serve as a starting point for an inquiry into the more complex
situation of co-performers.
Drawing on an ethnographic study of alternative rock bands, undertaken
in London and Bristol in 2007, I argue that the bands interviewed implement
rehearsal strategies that promote motor activity without cognitive involvement,
including overlearningthat is, practising songs so that their performance
becomes automatic. Th e musicians interviewed rely in performance on what is
sometimes called muscular memory 1 that is, the movements required to play
the correct notes at the correct time occur without awareness (in the moment of
performance, at least) of what the correct notes or timing actually are. Where a
musician has practised
a particular work through repetition and without focusing on knowing what the
notes are, they will oft en be unable to name the notes they are playingthis applies
also to Western classical musicians. Th e goal of the strategies employed by the alternative
rock musicians interviewed appears to be a sense of bliss in performance.
I argue that overlearned movements are a way of abandoning predetermined action

goals in performance in order to achieve a particular kind of creativity.

What are the features of this kind of performance? Writers on music speak of performances
where the outcome is uncertain and subjective identity cannot be completely
controlledwhere, in fact, the performers subjectivity or sense of self is put
at risk (Frith 1996: 214; Cumming 2000: 36ff ). Deliberate control of performance
would produce only a kind of musical play acting of a subjectivity that has been
objectively grasped by the performer. By contrast, commitment to a performance
the outcome of which is uncertainuncertain in terms both of how the performance
will be shaped, and of how that unpredicted shaping will be received by the
audienceprecludes deliberate, distanced control.
Th e position of the subject in this kind of committed musical performance can
be related to Jean-Paul Sartres (1958) picture of shame, with its structure of prerefl
ective doing followed by refl ective self-consciousness as the doer (the performer)
becomes aware that they have been observed by the Other (the audience). According
to Sartre, the structure of shame is intentional,
110 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

it is a shameful apprehension of something and this something is me . [ . . . ]

Th rough shame I have discovered an aspect of my being. [ . . . I]t is in its primary
structure shame before somebody. I have just made an awkward or vulgar gesture.
Th is gesture clings to me; I neither judge it nor blame it. I simply live it. I realize
it in the mode of for-itself. But now suddenly I raise my head. Somebody was
there and has seen me. [ . . . T]he Other is the indispensable mediator between
myself and me. I am ashamed of myself as I appear to the Other.
(Sartre 1958: 2212, italics in original)
In order to explore Sartres conception of shame and how it might apply in the special
case of music performance, I introduce Dorothee Legrands (2007a) analysis of
fundamental (prerefl ective) consciousness, the level of consciousness at which (in
Sartres words) we simply live our actions and a gesture is realised in the mode of
for-itself . Th is prerefl ective consciousness is based in nonrefl ective motor awareness
and is foundational for refl ective consciousness. Psychological and psychoanalytic
models of the development of the Self 2 in early childhood support this analysis. Two
such models are briefl y discussed that recognise the existence of an integrated motor
sense of the selfa knowing-how of the body in relation to the surrounding environment
prior to the emergence of a consciousness of the Self as seen by others (Stern
1985; Rochat 2003). Importantly, these diff erent levels or layers of the Self are argued
to persist into adulthoodadults are constantly in transition between the diff erent
layers of the Self that arise in the sequential developmental stages of childhood.
Th e analysis of self-consciousness provides a means of mapping the structure of
shame onto the structure of performance. A special feature of performance is its
ongoing nature: rather than a completed action followed by awareness of observation
by the Other, performance (of the kind I describe) is an ongoing process of
prerefl ective doing complemented by refl ective awareness from the stance of the
Other. Performance, I argue, is paradigmatically simultaneously doing in a prerefl
ective stance and observing in refl ective stance; without, however, either mode of
consciousness interfering (at the conscious level) with the action of the other. Th e
separation between them is temporal: refl ective observation is of the actions of the
prerefl ective self in the preceding moment.
I begin with an account of the approach to rehearsal and performance taken by
the bands interviewed in my ethnographic research.
Rehearsal and Performance Processes of Alternative Rock Music
Th e material in this section is drawn from an ethnographic study of alternative rock
bands, undertaken in London and Bristol in 2007. Th e bands interviewed have

Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 111

released self-recorded albums through small record labels and play gigs at small clubs
in London and other cities in England.
Th e two bands whose members are quoted most extensively here are Cove and
biRdbATh . Recordings of the bands can be found online (biRdbATh 2006; Cove
2006). Th e lineup for biRdbATh consists of drums, bass, guitar and vocals. Cove
is a trio (drums, bass, guitar) and has no dedicated vocalist, although the guitarist
sings at times. While the term alternative is used to refer to widely disparate musical
styles, these two bands share some features of style. Th e music of both bands is
riff -driven rather than utilising chord progressions. Th e bands both have drummers
who (at least to my perception) tend to lead the beatthis is in contrast to, for
example, pop bands or heavy metal bands, where the rhythm guitar usually leads the
beat and controls the tempo. Vocals are sometimes present, but lyric content is not
foregrounded (although biRdbATh utilises more vocals and their lyrics are more
intelligible in performance than is the case for Cove). A sense of song structure is
also more important for biRdbATh than for Cove, but for both bands there is a tendency
for sections within the song structures to be static. Th e songs tend to remain
almost exactly the same from performance to performancethe music is not improvised
and any changes tend to be incremental. Song structures typically consist of
two or three diff erent riff s, each iterated in a few seconds but repeated many times
in the song. A riff might be repeated many times before the change to a diff erent one
in the new section, or two riff s might alternate in a section (each being played several
times in succession).
Although some of the musicians of both bands were involved in other musical
projects as well, music was not the main source of income for any. Performance events
tend to take place in small clubs, where three (or more) bands will be scheduled to
play on one night. Audience numbers vary from about twenty upwards (including
members of bands not actually on stage at the time). Neither band banters a great
deal with the audience; the guitarist of Cove may address only one remark to the
audience before he and the bass player turn their backs (to face the drummer) for
the rest of the set. Although some people in the audience may socialise and chat, the
audience generally faces the stage, stands still and watches. At Cove gigs in particular,
there are oft en a small number of people standing very still, close to the stage, and
watching the musicians as if riveted to the fl oor; this is particularly striking when the
band plays a two-note riff , without change, for up to a minute.
It is clear that the emphasis of value is on the process of performance, even more
than the musical achievement brought out by that process; this is evident both in
the interviews and in the musicians observable behaviour. I make this point partly
to forestall any tendency to think of the approach to rehearsal and performance that
emerges from the interviews as resulting only from a lack of formal musical training
112 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

and the kind of skills valued in music conservatoria. Th ese skills certainly have not
been developed to a high level amongst the musicians I interviewed (and it is evident
that the processes they use have been conditioned by the relative absence of
music theoretic knowledge). However, the musicians are defi nitely aware that their
creative compositional process (as opposed to their performance process) depends
in part on not knowing music theory. Th is quote is typical:
[Music theory is] with me all the time but I dont know every note, I only
sometimes know what Im playing, in fact to be honest with you I think if
I really learnt that and I was always really aware of it, I dont think Id write the
same music when were jamming. 3
Simon, guitarist/singer, biRdbATh
Th e value of not knowing music theory carries over to performancemusic theoretic

concepts and note names are not used to remember what to play. Instead, these
musicians (in common with many rock musicians) rely on so-called muscular memory
memory that is bodily rather than cognitively encoded:
I dont know I think a song that you know really well its just um (( shaking
head)) 4 the same as how you remember anything. You know, kind of like, how
do you remember where your front door is? Its probably the same as that, you
just know, dont you, cause youre always walking out it.
Simon, guitarist/singer, biRdbATh
[I] ts about physical memory as well, if youre just playing it you know, your
hand you just remember, it just becomes a sort of second nature of thats how
the song is, thats where the fi ngers go, you know. . .
Ben, bass guitarist, biRdbATh
. . . . its not very musical, I dont thinkits not played by ear, its not like hearing
a note and instinctively knowing where the next note is, itsits more
Tim, guitarist/singer, Th e Sailplanes
Riff s are drilled into memory through repetition:
How do you remember the actual riff ? [ . . . ] A lot of the time, thats with repetition
as well, (just) playing it again and again.
Ben, bass guitarist, biRdbATh
Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 113

[W] e wrote a new song today and we played it continually for a couple of
hours. And I think, through repetition, thatll be drilled in now.
Simon, guitarist/singer, biRdbATh
When a riff is to be played again, the mechanism by which it is recalled is typically
not explicitly conscious:
Errrm . . . I remember the area of the guitar . . . [ . . . ] . . . and . . . (( 3 second pause))
I dont know, yeah, I dont know actually.
Simon, guitarist/singer, biRdbATh
Just as there is an antipathy to music theory, there is a reluctance to count bars to
keep track of an arrangement:
NoI dont personally, I know theres some people that do. Er . . . its just a
natural reaction, I think, once youve played it a few times [ . . . ] once youve
played them through a few times it just becomes embedded.
Tim, guitarist, biRdbATh
[I] f theres [ . . . ] something thats sort of twelve bars or something like that we
kind of get a bit confused and even though we should be trying to simplify it
and sort it out, [ . . . ] we just leave Simon to sing his part and well remember
when hes got a certain vocal line that we can hear, Th ats the time to come in.
Yeah, yeah, thats it.
Ben, bass guitarist, biRdbATh
Generally, the musicians limit their cognitive awareness of where they are in the
arrangement to awareness of the next changethat is, what the riff in the next section
will consist of:
I try and think, just like . . . the next change (( chuckles)) [ . . . ] [I] n my mind it
all kind of links together, kind of like a little map. But if I kind of look at the
whole thing, its just like, itd be just like . . . a mess basically.
Dave, guitarist, Cove
I dont really think ahead as such [ . . . .] Th at kind of makes me think of people
playing chess, you know? And sort of thinking what theyre going to do next.
Tim, guitarist, biRdbATh
114 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

. . . its almost like, when youre playing, if you think about it, thats when you
mess up . . . I fi nd, then you sort of get that blank, if you think too many . . . steps
ahead. . .
Dave, guitarist, Cove
However, the state of consciousness in performance is not merely an absent-minded
repetition of overlearned materialideally, there is an alertness that, however,
should not interfere with the processes of control via muscular memory:
Its weird its kind of concentrating but . . . a mixture of concentrating but kind
of at the same time relaxing and not thinking about what youre playing too
much, and sort of jinxing yourself, if you really think about it, soI dont
know, its weird, its some kind of stored (( Left hand rises as if fr etting guitar)) . . .
Dave, guitarist, Cove
In summary, these musicians approach to performance systematically eschews any
strategy that involves mental thought about how the music is to be played. As this
essay will discuss later, the mechanisms by which instruments are played are conscious
at a prerefl ective, physical, level, but not at a refl ective, mental, level. Th is is
not simply a rejection of music theory in favour of a vernacular system of mnemonics
such as fourth fret; rather, the musicians seem to wish to abdicate all mental control.
Th e fi nal quote above, with its reference to a mixture of concentrating and not
thinking, hints at the presence of a dual consciousness. It is this dual consciousness
that I aim to explicate via the structure of shame. First, however, the next section
discusses the relation of music performance to shame.
The Risk of Shame in Music Performance
I will argue that the approach of the musicians interviewed during fi eldwork gives
rise to an uncensored performance of subjectivitythat this is, in fact, the implicit
purpose of the strategyand that the performance of uncensored subjectivity carries
with it the risk of shame. I do not claim that uncensored subjectivity is the
unique province of these particular musicians, or of any genre of musicrather the
contrary. In discussing the examples that follow, I want to bring to mind the kind of
music performance where the subjectivity of the performer is an essential component
of the performance. Th e artistic outcome of such performance is uncertainin
at least three ways, as I shall explainand it therefore carries some risk for the performers
sense of Self.
Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 115

Naomi Cummings Th e Sonic Self (2000) centres on the aesthetics of performance

of works from the canon of classical violin music, but many of her insights are
generalisable to other music as well. Cumming asks,
where is the work, except in the performance? It does not have life if the performer
fails to risk herself for it. Only by taking the risk of spontaneity, in playing
with nuance, can a performer give the work a liveliness that will also convey
her own interpretive character.
(Cumming 2000: 412)
Th e notion of spontaneous nuance to which Cumming refers seems to suggest an
element of improvisation in the expressive details of performance, or at least the
possibility of change from performance to performance. My defi nition is somewhat
broader, encompassing both unchanging nuance and nuance that changes between
performances. Th e unifying property across such performances, in my view, is that
the nuance is not coded by the performer in such a way that it can be consciously
reproduced at will. Th us, I have retained an image from the fi rst time I heard Cove
perform (April 2006), of the guitarist repeating a slow two-note riff without change
for an extended periodmore than a minutewhile a small knot of onlookers
(including myself ) stood riveted, watching and listening closely. In the notes I made
for later recall, I wrote that this experience was compelling, gripping and fascinating.

Th e fascination was not with any instrumental virtuosity, nor with melodic,
harmonic or rhythmic inventiveness (also absent at this point of the performance),
but found its source in some unspecifi ed nuance. It is the argument of this essay that
nuance must be unspecifi ed (in the sense that it is not codifi ed by the performer)
in order to achieve the simultaneous construction and projection of subjectivity in
felicitous performance.
While the shunning of mental thought during performance is (as noted above)
a characteristic of the approach to performance of the alternative rock musicians
I interviewed, it is much more common for classical musicians to be intensively
trained in expressive nuance through a process of verbalisation by the teacher. Th is
fact makes Cummings insistence on spontaneity the more remarkable.
In Cummings view, projection of the performers subjectivityhis or her Self
in the performance is not an optional extra but rather the one thing that will make
the performance live. Not just the distanced involvement of the performers subjectivity,
but commitment to the spontaneity of performance is required. Rather
than the detached projection of a predetermined subjectivity that the performer
calls forth and presents to the audiencelike a ringmaster at the circusCumming
116 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

describes a subjectivity that is displayed in the procession of moment-to-moment

actions in the course of performance.
Th ere are three closely linked uncertainties in this kind of performance. First,
according to Cumming, the artistry of music performanceaft er all requirements
of physical technique, stylistic convention and even of expressive devices have been
satisfi edcannot, fi nally, be grasped and retained as though it were a material entity
(2000: 31). Aspects of successful music performance can be conceptualised and
reproduced at will, but some essential component of it remains beyond the certain
grasp of the performer. Cumming notes Jonathan Dunsbys (1995) recognition of
Western classical music performers impotence in the face of this fact:
Performers appear to [Dunsby] as inherently anxious, aware of the potential
for a negation of their past prowess, and constantly responsible for its maintenance,
without the surety of success. Sounds of Sartrean existentialism emerge
in this consciousness that the artistry of a performing self is an ephemeral
notion, requiring continuous recreation in ongoing acts of performance, yet
never sure. [ . . . ] To perform, then, is to take a risk of losing the artistic self.
(Cumming 2000: 312)
Th is sense of uncertainty is not confi ned to the formal world of classical music but
can also be found among rock musicians. From interviews with JK, the bass player
of a moderately successful self-described indie, alt-folk, pop band, Geeves and
McIlwain concluded:
Th e inherent uncertainty in music performance resulting from its vulnerability
to temporal and contextual specifi city is, ironically, of greatest threat and value
to JK. Feelings of exclusivity, privilege, success, and accomplishment stem from
the informed yet inevitable gamble with uncertainty JK must take during performance
and the sense that it has, on this occasion, paid off . Yet uncertainty
also serves as the biggest obstacle to JKs desired experience, with performance
being a fl eeting, nonreplicable creative experience.
(Geeves and McIlwain 2009: 418)
Spontaneous performance is uncertain of achievement at all, but a second uncertainty
concerns just what a performance will project. It is precisely in the spontaneously
determined details of performance that the performers subjectivity is not
just displayed but formed. Exactly what course the performance will take in its fi ne
details cannot be predicted, and therefore the Self that is created and displayed in

Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 117

performance cannot be examined beforehand but is discovered in the moment it is

created in performance (Cumming 2000: 42).
A performance that forms and displays the uncensored Self is risky. As Simon
Frith notes, the ultimate embarrassment for a performer is the performance that
does not workbut whether a performance works or not can only be decided by
its eff ect, whether the audience responds appropriately or not:
Th is is a normal aspect of everyday performance too: a risked intimacyan
endearment, a caressis always a risked embarrassment; its the response
which decides whether it was, indeed, fi tting.
(Frith 1996: 214)
It is unbearable, writes Maurice Merleau-Ponty, when we feel our actions are not
taken up and understood, but observed as if they were an insects (1962: 360), precisely
because we are aware of the possibility of an appropriate response:
But even then, the objectifi cation of each by the others gaze is felt as unbearable
only because it takes the place of possible communication.
(Merleau-Ponty 1962: 3601)
Th is is the third source of anxiety regarding committed performance. Since the performer
cannot know precisely what subjectivity will be displayed, there is the risk
that the audience will not respond appropriately. Th is particular risk of performance
is real and is felt as such by the performer. Geeves and McIlwain note both the fundamental
need for a dynamic and reciprocal connection between performer and
audience and the element of uncertainty of the connection (2009: 418).
I propose that the embarrassment of a performance that does not receive the
appropriate response is at least partly responsible for the anxiety that a performer
feels regarding his or her artistic Self. Th e musical performing Self is susceptible
to the same sense of risk (and potentially, discouragement) as the performance
of everyday intimacies that Frith describes. Since the performing Self cannot be
grasped objectively and reproduced at will, anxiety and discouragement can make
its achievement elusive. While the musicians I interviewed were not explicit about
their sense of subjectivity in performance (and nor were the interviews oriented in
that direction), there are indications of an absence of calculation in the reliance on
mechanical playing and the determined avoidance of cognitive activity concerning
the music during performances. Musicians variously reported in the midst of
performing: thinking Very little (Luke, drummer, biRdbATh ); a tendency to just
118 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

drift off (Dave, guitarist, Cove); and doing it without thinking [ . . . ] not making
any conscious decisions (Mark, drummer, Cove), Th e picture I have painted of performance,
then, is of the coincidence of newly realised Self with the revealing of it
in a social setting: it is here that the possibility of a performed subjectivity arises and
with it, the risk of shame.
The Structure of Shame
Part three of Sartres (1958) Being and Nothingness is titled Being-for-Others; the
fi rst chapter of it begins with a lengthy discussion of shame. As Sartre describes it,
the key to the structure of shame is an initial unrefl ective action, which is followed by
a sudden awareness of the action from the perspective of the Other. Sartres famous
example in Being and Nothingness is of being caught spying through a keyhole, and it
is archetypal precisely because in that situation one is expecting to see without being
seen. Th e focus is not on oneself, but on the practical negotiation of objects in space;
one is absorbed in acting.
Th e unrefl ective action is followed by discovery. Since the individual so discovered
has been wholly engaged in their actions without refl ection on their social meaning,
they are defenceless against the Others apprehension of them as the actorthey do

not have an alternative self-view to off er:

Nevertheless I am that Ego; I do not reject it as a strange image, but it is present
to me as a self which I am without knowing it; for I discover it in shame and, in
other instances, in pride.
(Sartre 1958: 261, italics in original)
Th ere is then, the possibility of pride arising out of the structure it shares with
shame: the point is that one must fi rst make an uncensored action out of the unrefl
ective core self, and only under the gaze of an audience will it be determined
whether or not its (social) meaning results in pride orunbearablyin shame.
In our inner imagination of what we arein everyday life and in music performance
we assume a perfect correspondence between our impulses and the way
they are received and understood by others, but when we realise those impulses in
the real world this may not be so:
In our experience (or imagination) of our own bodies, that is to say, there is
always a gap between what is meant (the body directed from the inside) and
what is read (the body interpreted from the outside); and this gap is a continual
Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 119

source of anxiety, an anxiety not so much that the body itself but its meaning
is out of our control.
(Frith 1996: 206)
What Frith says about bodies applies equally to music performance, and Cumming
also recognises that
I am unable directly to express some inner state through music, apart from
the manipulation of its micro-structural shaping [ . . . ] Signs can take on a life
of their own, becoming displaced from the meaning intended for them.
(Cumming 2000: 37)
What is key here is the separation between my inner state and the I who seeks to
express it. Th e I that chooses a meaning to express may regret a miscommunication
but this evasion is not available to the meanings of the whole selfthe self which
is not merely expressed, but actually formed in action. As cultural theorist Steven
Connor asserts, it is the essence of shame that the separation of actor from action is
Th e meaning of shame is that suddenly I am to have no innerness any more,
that I am all in all the me that is exposed to anothers gaze.
(Connor 2001: 218)
Guilt, by contrast, can be acknowledged: I did something bad. Th e acknowledgment
of guilt places a saving distance in the self between what it is and what it has done
(Connor 2001: 218); but the subject of shame is always on the side of his shame,
there being no other side for him to take (Connor 2001: 219).
There is something paradoxical about the nature of shame, which the contrast
with guilt brings to light. One is caught in oneself, ones whole self is caught, and
at the same time one sees ones whole self this seems impossible. A closed-circuit
television system, no matter where the camera is pointed, will always be unable
to show some part of itself (the camera lens, for instance) on the monitor
surely the self is like this? How can shame be so structured as to involve the
whole self, and yet allow a detached I to exist as observer? According to Sartre,
I am ashamed of myself as I appear to the Other (1958: 222). The Other who
we find observing us can only provide the model; to experience shame, we must
somehow take on the same stance as the Other. How can this occur while preserving
the inescapable pervasiveness of the whole being that is so essential to
the nature of shame?
120 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

I want to propose that the separation between the self observed and the (internal)
observing self is temporal. Shame arises in the moment of transition between prerefl
ective consciousness and refl ective consciousness, where the refl ective consciousness
is modelled on the gaze of the impassive Other. A sequence is required. First we make
some action prerefl ectivelyan action that, since refl ective consciousness is absent, is
for the moment meaningless from the refl ective stance: . . . I neither judge it nor blame
it. I simply live it (Sartre 1958: 222). Th is is followed by the sudden apprehension of
how we appear to the Other. Th e separation between the whole Self and the observing
self does not arise within the subject but is simply the subject in two diff erent
stances, prerefl ective and refl ective, temporally separated. Th e refl ective stance looks
backwards in time to the whole Self; the whole Self (including the part in refl ective
mode) is now caught in shame. In the experience of shame, the transition to refl ective
consciousness traps the individual in the action just made in the prerefl ective mode:
Because of the outwardly small occasion that has precipitated shame, the
intense emotion seems inappropriate, incongruous, disproportionate to the
incident that has aroused it. Hence a double shame is involved: we are ashamed
because of the original episode and ashamed because we feel so deeply about
anything so slight that a sensible person would not pay any attention to it.
(Lynd 1958; as quoted in Connor 2001: 21920)
Finally in this section, I want to say something about the positive potential in the
structure of shame. To say that the same structure can lead either to shame or pride
does not convey either the pervasiveness or the sense of possibility involved. Shame
gives you to yourself, in an agonising entirety you might never have had before
(Connor 2001: 218). In achieving shame, the Self escapes the confi nes of its own
idealised conception of itself, the unexamined whole being is brought onto the
stage and allowed to mean. Th e Iwhich normally controls how the Self is presented
to the worldis relegated to a passive role of observation, in imitation of
the Other: I . . . must take myself to be the me that is all that others can make of me
(Connor 2001: 218). With the loss of control, the I also loses its position of censor
or fi lter of the Self. Rather than the Self being diminished, it is given to the whole
being of the person to achieve subjectivity:
In shame, the I spreads and swells grandiosely to meet with its infi nite belittling
as the me , which is perhaps why Blake thought shame was the secret name
for pride.
(Connor 2001: 218)
Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 121

The Prereflective Self and Observational Consciousness

I have so far used the terms prerefl ective and refl ective with regard to the self, without
detailed explanation. Th is section deals with the self in terms of self-consciousness ,
correlating phenomenological and philosophical viewpoints with developmental
perspectives. What I aim to show is that prerefl ective awareness of the body as subject
is a necessary substrate of refl ective consciousness. Th e importance of the body
in music performance is obvious: it is the body that performs the actions that produce
the sounds of music. Identifying the diff erent kinds of bodily awareness that
constitute prerefl ective self-consciousness will not only justify mapping the structure
of shame onto music performance, but also help tease out some of the special
characteristics of the kind of performance under discussion. Specifi cally, clarifying
the components of prerefl ective consciousnesssensory perception and motor
awarenessenables the separation of aspects of music performance into categories
of prerefl ective and refl ective consciousness.
Refl ective consciousness is sometimes referred to as observational consciousness,
and the terms are henceforth used interchangeably. Dorothee Legrand clarifi es the
diff erence between observational and prerefl ective consciousness with the example

of ones left hand touching ones right hand:

Experience of the touched hand corresponds to an observational consciousness:
the touched hand is taken as an intentional object of consciousness.
Experience of the touching hand is diff erent. It corresponds to what I call here
pre-refl ective bodily consciousness. At this level, the body is not an object of
experience, it is the subject of experience and it is experienced as such.
(Legrand 2007a: 499)
Th e basic diff erence, then, is between a subjective experience of the bodythe body
in the position of subjectand the experience of the body as an intentional object
What does it mean to take something as an object? Drawing on the phenomenology
of Edmund Husserl, Dan Zahavi notes that objecthood is constituted for us
when we experience something as a unity or identity that transcends our diff ering
experiences of it (Zahavi 2006: 7).
As Zahavi argues, the continuity of identity of the object through the diff erent
experiences that the subject has of it requires that subject and object are not the
same thing. If I observe myself now as happy, now as sad and so on, continuity and
unity are not found in the diff erent emotions I observe but in the existence of the
subject that observes them. Th e self observed in introspection must be my own
122 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

self, since it is available to my introspection; but, Zahavi argues, I cannot identify

the introspected self as myself unless I know it is the object of my introspection
(2006: 6). Th erefore:
My pre-refl ective access to my own mental life in fi rst-personal experience is
immediate, non-observational and non-objectifying. It is non-objectifying in
the sense that I do not occupy the position or perspective of a spectator or
in(tro)spector on it.
(Zahavi 2006: 6)
Legrand argues that the prerefl ective dimension of consciousness is paradigmatically
(although perhaps not necessarily) anchored to the subjects body (Legrand
2007b: 577). Th e prerefl ective self cannot be knownat any one moment in time
though self-refl ection or introspection. Th e foundational prerefl ective experience of
the self must therefore depend on what Legrand calls self-relative information
which is (at least in large part) the experience by a single self of the ways that motor
movement (eff erence, or output, from the organism) and sensory perception (aff erence,
or input) interact:
Th e present proposal is thus that a foundational bodily experience is
pre-refl ective and rooted in sensori-motor integration, rather than primarily
on aff erence or primarily on eff erence.
(Legrand 2007a: 51314, italics in original)
Sensori-motor integration between motor output and sensory input via the ear is,
of course, fundamental to musical performance, and most people will readily agree
that there is some level of motor skill in the playing of music which escapes control
by the refl ective selfjust as riding a bicycle requires something other than a conscious
following of rules (no matter how precisely formulated). Playing music and
riding a bicycle both depend on some degree of autonomy at the prerefl ective level.
Th e emphasis that the interviewed musicians placed on drilling in materialso that
playing it was mechanical, second nature, with hand and fi ngers knowing the parts
without the need for cognitive involvementmarks a route to greater autonomy of
the prerefl ective self. Th is particular route is perhaps not the only one available, but it
is of a piece with these musicians style of music, their preference and their training.
Legrands view of the prerefl ective self as rooted in sensori-motor integration
concurs with the developmental perspective. Developmental psychoanalyst Daniel

Stern identifi es what he calls the sense of a core self which coheres in infants over
the period between two and six months of age:
Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 123

Th is sense of a core self is thus an experiential sense of events. It is normally

taken completely for granted and operates outside of awareness. A crucial term
here is sense of, as distinct from concepts of or knowledge of or awareness
of a self or other. Th e emphasis is on the palpable experiential realities
of substance, action, sensation, aff ect, and time. Sense of self is not a cognitive
construct. It is an experiential integration.
(Stern 1985: 71)
As in Legrands account of the prerefl ective self, the core self integrates sensory input
and motor output in a unifi ed body. As with the characterisation of the prerefl ective
self as nonobservational and nonobjectifi ed, the sense of the core self is not a cognitive
constructnot something which it is necessary to think about but the subjective
integration of experiences. Sterns core self corresponds closely to what Philippe
Rochat identifi es as Level 2 self-awareness in a fi ve-stage model of the development
of consciousness:
By 4 months, normally developing infants become touch all or touche a
tout as the French say. Th ey express systematic eye-hand coordination. [ . . . ]
In addition, they calibrate their decision to reach in relation to their postural
degrees of freedom, whether they are more or less able to move forward toward
the object without losing balance and falling onto the ground.
(Rochat 2003: 724)
Here there is sensori-motor integration (of which eye-hand coordination is an example)
together with an awareness of posture and balance, as in Legrands account.
In the developmental story the emergence of the refl ective self at about 18 months
of agethe fi rst appearance of an integrated Selfsucceeds the initial development
of the prerefl ective or core self. Th is is the age at which infants fi rst become aware
that the image in the mirror is themselves. A further development occurs at about
age three. At this fourth stage of development, the sense of self is maintained even
without the immediate experience of the mirror. In Zahavis (2006) terms, the self is
objectifi ed; it transcends and perdures through its diff erent appearances. A permanent
self is expressed: an entity that is represented as invariant over time and appearance
changes (Rochat 2003: 722).
Th e fi nal level in Rochats model is full-blown observational consciousness.
Individuals become aware not only of what they are but how they are in the mind
of others, how they present to the public eye. Importantly for the model of performance
I propose, the public eye is internalised and projected in the mind of others:
124 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

Th e public outlook on the self is simulated for further evaluation of how one is
perceived and valued by others. Th e result of this evaluation, more oft en than
not is either a devaluation or a delusion, linked to so-called selfconscious
emotions or attitudes such as pride or shame.
(Rochat 2003: 722)
Th e internalisation of others evaluation of the Selfawareness of how the audience
is likely to respondis the other essential component of self-consciousness
in music performance. Like the involvement of the prerefl ective self, the involvement
of the observational self in this way seems unproblematic. It is the precise relationship
or interaction between the two which is key to the model of performance
developed here.
Interestingly, the fi rst appearance of the (still-developing) observational self,
between two to three years of age, appears to result in spontaneous feelings of

shame. Children at this age oft en begin to express embarrassment, especially when
confronted with a mirroras if the image made them suddenly aware of how they
present to the world. Th ey behave not unlike criminals hiding their face [from] the
cameras (Rochat 2003: 718). Th us, there appears to be a sound developmental basis,
in addition to the philosophical one, for the structure of shame as described above.
Furthermore, Rochat proposes that the diff erent levels of self-awareness that he
identifi es as developing sequentially through infancy are not stages that are abandoned
as each succeeds the last, but rather layers of the self which persist through
adulthood. Each layer or level of consciousness may be more or less activated at any
moment (and the simultaneous activation of, and relation between, the bottom layer
of sensori-motor integration and the refl ective self is fundamental to my account of
creative performance).
Legrand sees the prerefl ective self as underpinning observational forms of consciousness.
Rather than being one possible form of consciousness among others, it is
a foundational state, in the sense that it conditions the very possibility to recognise
oneself as such at the observational refl ective level (Legrand 2007a: 498).
Unity and Duality in Performance
I have argued that the structure of shame is temporal and that it occurs in a moment
of transition from prerefl ective action to refl ective awareness of that action from the
stance of the Other. In this section I want to link the structure of shame to accounts
of dance and music performance, as a preliminary to teasing out what is actually
occurring in performance.
Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 125

Legrand (2007a) contrasts a dancer learning a new choreography with an

expert dancer who knows the choreography or is skilfully improvising. Th e
dancer learning new steps will probably need to consciously control the position
and movements of the body, which implies an observational stance to it
an I that directs the body in the movements it makes. But for the one whose
dance is skilful, observational consciousness is not only not necessary (according
to Legrand) but might interfere with their performance: the expert dancer
embodies the dance. Without observational consciousness, the dancer enjoys a
prerefl ective experience of the body, which Legrand calls (following Gallagher)
performative awareness (Legrand 2007a: 501). Th is is very close to the model
of creative performance elaborated in this essay. In both, the prerefl ective bodily
self acts without interference from the observational or refl ective self. Th e crucial
diff erence is that the observational self is an essential component of my model,
although still without interfering with the actions of the prerefl ective self. Th is
is the trick of performance, the elusive poise that some people simply have (and
others dont) and that for many performers is there to a greater or lesser degree
during any performance.
Without the refl ective component of consciousness, there will be no performance
but simply an absent-minded doing. On the other hand, the absence of prerefl ective
doing manifests in the performer as an inability to act fl uently and responsively.
A balance between the two modes of consciousness, indeed, the simultaneous activation
of both modes, appears to be a feature of at least some approaches to performance
in music and dance. Diff erent disciplines exhibit diff erent approaches to
the independent activation of the prerefl ective self, together with the simultaneous
activation of the observational self. In butoh dance, for instance, Toshiharu Kasai
argues that not using mirrors during training aims at the nonobjectifi cation of the
body, a means by which control can cease to be a volitional directing of the body, and
be returned to proprioceptive sensation, the internal physical sense. Nevertheless,
there are reciprocal relationships of the objectifying self and the objectifi ed self
(Kasai, 2000: 358).

Similarly, both kinds of consciousness were reported as present in performance

and rehearsal by professional dancers within western European traditions, interviewed
by Susan Ravn:
[T] he ballet dancers focus on the visual appearance of the body, but the latter
is always regarded as forming the other side of what they all describe as a
sensing from insideand which, according to both these dancers and their
instructors, is the most important sense of movement for becoming a good
dancer. [ . . . ]
126 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

Th e [ . . . ] dancers in diff erent ways focus on proprioception but they also

describe a constant fl ow of internal (e.g. proprioceptive) and external (e.g.
visual) information. As one of the dancers puts it: I have almost the rhythm of
like perceiving outsideperceiving internalperceiving outsideperceiving
internal, so there is constant fl ow or fl ux . . . .
(Legrand and Ravn 2009: 400, emphases removed)
Th ese quotes are typical of the duality of consciousness that many performers
describe. Th e notion that the music performer must internalise the ear of the audience
is a commonplace. Th e emphasis which in Western music pedagogy is placed
on being able to hear what you are playing as it sounds to the audience (rather than
what you imagine it sounds like) is an indication of the diffi culty of the separation
between action and observation (audition).
Naomi Cumming draws on Richard Schechners (1990) description of theatrical
performance as a model for music performance. Schechner argues that for a passionate
performance to be successful requires both the passionate immersion of the actor
in the role and the maintenance of a monitoring level of consciousness:
Th e monitoring capacity described by Schechner is like that developed in
many disciplined practices of performancenot a form of self-assessment but
a dispassionate observational mode allowing control even when passion is
being expressed.
(Cumming 2000: 35)
Similarly, Simon Frith argues that pop singers are
involved in a process of double enactment [ . . . ] the performers skill is to objectify
an expressive gesture at the very moment of its expression[.]
(Frith 1996: 212, italics in original)
Th e objectifi cation of the expressive gesture might not always be smoothly and comfortably
carried out. Here is Greil Marcuss description of Janis Joplins stunning version
of Ball and Chain that would mark her as an overnight blues sensation (Doyle
2009) at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967: 5
One minute into this performance and shes not wearing her heart on her
sleeve: all of her internal organs are draped over her body like a hideous new
skin. [ . . . ] Its no fun: theres an instant in the last chorus of the performance
when Joplins voice goes . . . somewhere else, and its simply not credible that the
Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 127

music then ends with an ordinary fl ourish people can cheer for. How did she
get back?
(Marcus 1993, cited in Frith 1996: 203; italics in original)
Cumming, however, translates the objective, monitoring level of awareness simply
as that involved in the control of each aspect of the musical performance, thus losing
the aspect of the detached and uninvolved observer. Th e omission of the impassive,
disinterested observer from the picture betrays an ambivalence that can be found in
the pages of Th e Sonic Self (2000). On the one hand, Cumming wants to preserve
the idea that the performer is engaged in expressing an inner statewhich seems to

imply a separation between the performers subjectivity and its expression. In line
with the notion of an inner state which it is the performers job to express, Cumming
argues that what is needed
is a specifi c awareness of how music is a pattern of signs, where inner states
fi nd their character through the molding of audibly material form.
(Cumming 2000: 41)
Awareness of how music is a pattern of signs is necessary, according to Cumming,
because fr om the point of view of the audience the performer does not have a musical
self apart from its sounding form (2000: 41).
On the other hand, she argues that (rather than apprehending and then expressing
an inner state) performers subjectivities are actually constituted in their acts;
that performers discover themselves in their actions; that they are per-forming
themselves through those acts (Cumming 2000: 42). Th is is consistent with my
argument here: I hold that the musical self of the performer (at least, in the kind
of performance with which this essay is concerned) is created (rather than merely
expressed) in the performance, not just for the audience but in reality. Th e audience
will read the whole performance, not just what the performer wants it to mean.
Th ere is always some part of myself that I cannot seeit will include, at least, the
part that does the seeing. Th e musician who seeks to present a predetermined meaning
(separate from his or her whole, unexamined Self ) to the audience will inescapably
present meanings that are extra to those objectively apprehended. Th e totality
of meaning of a performance always exceeds what the performer can apprehend
objectively. Th ese are the performances where the performers subjectivity is not at
riskbecause it is not created in the very process of performance.
Th e performance that risks the Self, by contrast, makes no separation between
the actions of performance and the Self that is formed in them. For this to occur,
the monitoring level of awareness cannot (contrary to Cummings view) be involved
128 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

in the control of the performance, but must function as a detached, uninvolved

observer. Active thought is involvedbut the thinking is done via motor processes.
In (felicitous, creative) performance,
doing and thinking are so aligned that thinking proceeds to deploy what the
doing is to be, and doing provides the thinking with a manifest presence.
What is thought out is precisely what is done, the thought-out dance and
danced-out thought being one and the same . . . dances are events brought forth
by performing.
(Beiswanger 1973; quoted in Frith 1996: 208)
Compare this statement regarding the process of experimentation in rehearsal:
. . . literally um . . . . not know what the hell Im going to do the second I do it.
Simon, singer/guitarist, biRdbATh
Experimentation or improvisation (changing what is actually played) is at best a
minor feature of performance for the bands interviewed. Nevertheless, the interviewed
musicians approach can be characterised by a minimising of cognitive
involvement in the moment of performance, of not thinking about what youre
playing too much. Th e observational self can still be assumed to be active, internalising
the audience response to the performance by the prerefl ective self. However,
the absence of refl ective involvement in the detail of the sound indicates a level of
independence or autonomy for the prerefl ective level of consciousness.
Performance Creativity
So far, I have explicated the structure of shame in terms of the prerefl ective and
refl ective modes of self-consciousness; and I have established that the simultaneous
activity of bodily doing and refl ective monitoring is recognised among performers
from several performance traditions, including Western theatre, dance and classical

music, Japanese butoh dance and alternative rock musicians. In this fi nal section,
I want to say more about what the duality of consciousness provides in performance
and how it maps onto the structure of shame. I want also to make an argument
about how the two modes of consciousness are balanced and interact in creative
I have argued that the structure of shame is temporal, that it occurs in a moment
of transition from prerefl ective action to refl ective awareness of that action from the
Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 129

stance of the Other. Creative performance, I argue, preserves the fundamental structure
of shame while also exhibiting an important diff erence in its dynamics as I have
so far described them. Th e creative performance mode establishes a continuous balance
between two simultaneous modes of self, the refl ective and the prerefl ective.
Th e diff erence from the ordinary experience of shame is that, in performance, the
moment of transition between prerefl ective doing and observational awareness of
the act is extendedor rather, suspended on the fl ow of the music. In creative performance,
each moment brings a new action, a new event in the fl ow of performed
music, and that new action becomes the object of refl ective consciousness in its turn.
By contrast, in the ordinary experience of shame, the transition to refl ective
consciousness traps the individual in consciousness of the action just made in the
prerefl ective mode. In sport, the colloquial term choking refers to a breakdown
of prerefl ective motor action caused by refl ective consciousness obstructing the
temporal fl ow:
Interestingly, if one rises to the next levels of explicit self-awareness [i.e., those
above sensori-motor integration] while engaged in skilled actions such as playing
tennis or golf, this transition is associated with dramatic changes in performance,
typically a deterioration. Tennis and golf players will tell you that
if they step into explicit self-consciousness, erring into explicitly thinking and
refl ecting on what they are doing, their game tends to collapse.
(Rochat 2003: 729)
In music performance, the moment of transition must be dynamicrather than
being caught and immobilised by shame, the performer must continuously re-expose
themselves to the risk of shame via new prerefl ective doing. Th e performative state
is the ongoing maintenance of both prerefl ective doing and refl ective observation.
In felicitous performances, musicians sometimes report a feeling as if the music
were playing itself, or as if the music were coming through the performer, rather
than from them. Th e following quote conveys something of the experience, together
with the sense of value associated with it. Geeves and McIlwain (2009) report this
statement from an interview with JK:
If youre not nervous and [the] crowd is already into it . . . and if its a song
that you know backwards . . . you just go into a little bit of a zone . . . . In that
blissful moment its the same feeling you have when you really enjoy anything
I think . . . . Your body knows what to do, and you just go into this trance [ . . . ]
Its just bliss.
(JK, quoted in Geeves and McIlwain 2009: 417)
130 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

Similar to JKs ideal of bliss in performance is the notion of higher enlightenment

in performance in this quote from my interview with the bass guitarist of biRdbATh :
[I] ts a Zen, its a Zen thing I think. [ . . . Y]ou know youre almost on another level
youre almostyoure not conscious of what youre doing, you get to that stage
where youre kind of almost like a higher enlightenment kind of thing. [ . . . Y]
oure not quite sure what youre doing and youre pushed beyond another level.
Ben, bass guitarist, biRdbATh

What is most interesting about these two quotes is the dissociation between the
skilful body and the thinking self, a dissociation experienced as a state of bliss or
higher enlightenment. Th e statement that your body knows what to do can be
taken in this context to indicate that the observational self is not controlling the
performance, while the phrase youre not quite sure what youre doing indicates
a separation between refl ective consciousness and prerefl ective bodily doing. Th e
blissful sense of higher enlightenment represents, at least, a special state associated
with performance. Th is sense of bliss is an ideal stateachievable, although for most
performers not with certainty.
In order to map these accounts of felicitous performance onto the structure
although not the experienceof shame, it is necessary to make explicit the distinction
between agency and ownership of the body. A great deal has been written on
the topic: what is important here is to establish the possibility of a sense of ownership
of the body without a sense of agency. Th is is important because I want to argue
that the approach to performance of the alternative rock musicians interviewed,
involves a loss of agency.
Gallagher defi nes the sense of agency as Th e sense that I am the one who is causing
or generating an action [ . . . ], while the sense of ownership is Th e sense that I am
the one who is undergoing an experience for example, the sense that my body is
moving regardless of whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary (2000: 15).
From these defi nitions, it appears that a loss of the sense of agency may yet leave the
individual with their sense of body ownership intact.
In normal experiences of willed or goal-directed action, the sense of agency and
the sense of ownership coincideownership of body and action are indistinguishable
(Gallagher 2000: 16). It is perfectly possible, however, to experience involuntary
movements that are recognised as movements of ones own body but without
the sense of causing or controlling the movement:
Th e agent of the movement is the person who pushed me from behind,
for example, or the physician who is manipulating my arm in a medical
Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 131

examination. Th us, my claim of ownership (my self-ascription that I am the

one who is undergoing an experience) can be consistent with my lack of a sense
of agency.
(Gallagher 2000: 16)
With this kind of sense of ownership 6 of the body in movement there is still a sense
of self, of mine-ness. As Gallagher puts it:
[A] lthough the body schema does not involve a consciousness of the body as
a direct intentional object, body schematic processes may generate an ongoing
pre-refl ective experience of the body as it performs and moves in ways that are
intentional as well as sometimes automatic[.]
(Gallagher 2005: 239)
Automatic is just how the experience of performing overlearned actions from muscular
memory might be described. A familiar example of a loss of agency at the
prerefl ective level is of someone intending to drive somewhere (to a shop, say) but,
from habit, automatically taking the turns to their home street. In the same way, for
the alternative rock musicians interviewed, remembering a riff is like remembering
where your own front door is: you just know, dont you, cause youre always walking
out it (Simon, guitarist/singer, biRdbATh ). Statements such as Your body knows
what to do, and you just go into this trance (Geeves and McIlwain 2009: 417) and
youre not conscious of what youre doing (Ben, bass guitarist, biRdbATh ) also
seem to describe a loss of agency.
To describe movements as automatic, rather than intentional, indicates that the
movements are not goal-directedthat is, that the musical result of the movement

is not represented in imagination at the time of its execution. Th is is in line with

Cummings view that the performers subjectivity is constituted in their acts, rather
than pre-established and merely expressed in performance: in felicitous performance,
the prerefl ective self does not preconceive the eff ect of the actions it makes.
Th e musical choices which display subjectivity are made directly in terms of motor
actions, with the eff ect of those motor actionsthe performed music, exhibiting
nuances of timing, loudness and timbrebeing available simultaneously to the
audience and the performers refl ective self. Th us the refl ective self does not make
musical choices, but simply observes (listens).
Th e prerefl ective self continues its motor actions without interference from the
refl ective self. Th e separate functions of these two layers of consciousness are independent.
Th at the two layers of self-consciousness do co-exist in the present moment
is axiomaticas argued above, the prerefl ective self is foundational in the sense that
132 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance

it conditions the very possibility to recognise oneself as such at the observational

refl ective level (Legrand 2007a: 498). Similarly, refl ective consciousness is the prerequisite
for being-for-others, which would appear to be essential to any notion of
performance. Th e repetitive drilling to achieve overlearning can be seen as a strategy
for removing refl ective consciousness from any role in the mechanics of playing,
including making moment-to-moment choices in how to play individual musical
gestures. What defi nes creative performance (as described here) is the continuous
attention of the refl ective self to the actions of the prerefl ective self in the preceding
moment, but without attempting to control present or future actions.
It is an interesting question, to what extent diff erent performance traditions
may prove to correlate with the idealised account of performance that I have
given in this essay. It seems likely that, even in traditions where something like
what I have described is usual, there will be diff erences both between individual
performers and between more or less felicitous performances by any individual.
Nevertheless, there does appear to be, at the very least, activation of both refl ective
and observational consciousness in the performance traditions of diff erent
the artistic disciplines and diff erent cultures mentioned (Western theatre and
dance, Japanese butoh, Western classical and rock music). Within Kasais writings
on butoh, in particular, there appears, further, a tension between the two stances
of consciousness, which correlates with my model. Indeed, the very awareness
by performers (such as the dancers surveyed by Legrand and Ravn) of the need
for attention to both modes of consciousness might be taken to indicate a relationship
between the two in performance that is diff erent from that required for
nonperformative activity.
In addition to being idealised, the model is also simplifi ed. For theatre, at least,
Schechner makes the sound argument that an actor must preserve an awareness of
the consequences of their actions, in order that Othello in a murderous rage does
not actually cause the death of the actor playing Desdemona (Schechner 1990: 37;
as quoted in Cumming 2000: 35). Similarly, in pop music, Simon Frith writes
of the necessary separation of musician-as-performer from artist-as-character
(1996: 212). Th e need for a modicum of control by the monitoring part of the
actor, which Schechner notes and which is not a part of my idealised model, is
perhaps also necessary in cases where the performer play-acts an imagined reality,
so that, for instance, Janis Joplin must monitor her impassioned extemporisations
in the performance of Ball and Chain so that they fi t the predetermined structure
of the song.
In teasing out the roles of diff erent layers of self-consciousness, the relationship
between them, and the mechanism by which the relationship can be maintained
in performance, I am aware that important questions have been raised and left

Self-Consciousness in Music Performance 133

unanswered. In particular, if prerefl ective consciousness acts independently from

observational consciousness, then how does observational consciousnessinternalising
the public outlook on the self in order to evaluate others perceive and value
the Selfaff ect the course of the performance? According to the argument in this
chapter, prerefl ective consciousness operates at the conscious level without infl uence
from observational consciousnesswhich suggests the activity of some nonconscious
process. However, an investigation of this question is beyond the scope
of this chapter.
Th is chapter has outlined a mode of felicitous performance that allows the simultaneous
formation and projection of an uncensored subjectivity of the performer, via
the performance of nuance that escapes capture by any system of conscious codifi cation.
While the focus has been on alternative rock bands interviewed during fi eldwork
in 2006, I have adduced arguments drawn from the literature that suggest that
a similar mechanism of performance can be found in Western classical music and in
some forms of dance.
Drawing on the literature on shame (beginning with Sartre) I have drawn a parallel
between the structure of self-consciousness in felicitous performance and that
in shame. Th e essence of this structure is that the prerefl ective self acts without
interference from the observational or refl ective self, which subsequently provides
a simulation of others evaluation of the action made from the prerefl ective self. In
the ordinary experience of shame, awareness in the refl ective or observational mode,
of the action made in the prerefl ective mode, leads to a paralyzing sense of shame. In
felicitous performance, a continuous state of prerefl ective doing and refl ective (but
non-interfering) observing is maintained. In both performance and in shame, there
exists a sense that the individual is exposing their whole Self to the perception of
others, without censorship.
I have argued that the particular mechanism by which the alternative rock musicians
I interviewed achieve this kind of performance is through the avoidance of
cognitive activity during music rehearsal and performance, together with a reliance
on so-called muscular memory and overlearning of the music. Th e ultimate goal
of this approach is a blissful state in which performance is experienced as felicitous
in a special kind of way. Th e characteristics of this kind of performance include a
loss of the sense of agency, together with the feeling that the body proceeds with
the performance in a particularly successful way, and without interference from the
nonbodily self.
134 Experience and Meaning in Music Performance
1 . Despite the term muscular memory, the encoding is more probably in motor areas of the
brain than in the actual muscles involved.
2 . Where Self is capitalised, it refers to an integrated subject, situated in relation to other people.
Th e uncapitalised self , I have used to refer to individual aspects or layers of self-consciousness.
3 . Unless otherwise credited, quotes from interviews are from fi eldwork undertaken by the
present author in 2007.
4 . Italicised text in double parentheses is used to annotate nonverbal activity, such as gestures
and movements. Text in parentheses in the interview transcripts indicates speech that is either
unclear or spoken particular quietly.
5 . Several videos of this performance can be found on the Internet.
6 . Th e sense of ownership appears to rely (at least in part) on proprioception, the internal
feedback to the brain regarding limb position and movement (Legrand 2007a: 494)although
it seems probable that, especially for whole-body movement, feedback from areas responsible for
balance, such as the vestibular, would be involved. Both are aspects of the body schema, that is, the
set of mechanisms that enable us to maintain our posture in the presence of gravity and to readjust

posture in order to carry out motor actions (Paillard, 1991: 167). As such, the body schema underpins
prereflective consciousness, but is not identical with it, as Legrand (2005: 413) warns. Rather,
the body schema structures and is the precondition for bodily awareness (Carman, 1999: 219).