Join us for the Music Research Forum session with Dr Sam Horlor, Durham University, chaired by Tom Graves.
In recent years, the neologism audiency has emerged in theatre and performance studies as a direct counterpart to the term performance. It announces audience research inclined to understand phenomena of witnessing as action, in contrast to a more familiar focus on groups of people (“audiences”) and their constituent role identities (“audience members”). I harness this audiency perspective to explore the active, embodied nature of witnessing, perception and reception in mundane musical encounters of the streets and squares of regional metropoles in China, especially the city of Kunming. I offer thick description and analysis of video material to get at the range of fleeting and fluid ways in which people help perform musical situations through activity broadly involving witnessing. This all evinces what I call ubiquitous audiency, a notion building on the orientation towards affective (rather than structural) dimensions of listening behind Anahid Kassabian’s idea of ubiquitous listening. I consider ways in which different kinds of attention are significant, especially when looking beyond musicians and their most engaged auditors in favour of apparently more peripheral actors like passers-by. I advocate transcending focus on musician-audience bilateralities by taking up a broader perspective on musical situations, these being constructed through an intersection of attention in different dimensions of experience and on different sensory levels.
Samuel Horlor is a Teaching Fellow in Ethnomusicology in the Department of Music, Durham University. Previously a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Ethnomusicology, Yunnan University (China), he is an ethnomusicologist and scholar of Chinese popular music interested in various ways in which musical encounters are part of everyday life in urban public space. He is the author of Chinese Street Music: Complicating Musical Community (Cambridge University Press), and co-editor (with James Williams) of Musical Spaces: Place, Performance, and Power (Jenny Stanford).