StevensonMusics of the WorldProfessor Henderson12/12/17Book Review of Professional Music-Making in London Professional Music Making in London: Ethnography and Experience is a 199 page informative and scholarly book which focuses on the culture surrounding classical music in London. It is written by Stephen Cottrell, a music professor at City, University of London. Because this type of music only observes minute changes over time, the contents of this 2004 book are still applicable to the community that makes up classical musicians in London today. Professional Music Making in London: Ethnography and Experience is broken down into eight chapters, all of which help explain this niche group of musicians that are often overlooked.
To readers like myself, Cottrell welcomes you into an unknown music world that largely focuses on the individualism of the musician at hand, and the culture that embodies it.Chapter one, entitled Points of Departure, acts as an introduction which first explains Cottrell’s experience as a musician in London for nearly ten years. In the first person, he highlights his discovery of enthromsicology through teaching, and explains how music-making in London is indeed ethnomusicological. Cottrell has a dense excerpt about ethnomusicology and how its educational value can be as significant as other topics like psychology and sociology. The author then explains what it entails to be considered a professional musician in London, guiding the reader to a better understanding of the musical discipline that goes into this particular field.
Chapter two, Musicality and Individuality, is Cottrell’s explanation of the art of being a musician, and the technicalities that go along with it in the Western music world. He enlightens the reader of how musicians often differ in the perception of sound and how they conceptualize it. Cottrell goes into how the individuality of a musician is a defining aspect in their professional music life, and how that relates to musiciality. Many of Cottrell’s chapters do not exactly build on eachother, but rather explain his point in sections that are often loosely related.
Chapter three, Self-Conception and Individual Identity: the Deputy System, again has a large role in the analysis of the individuality in this field. He uses short stories to give examples of the topic at hand. Cottrell later highlights the “job” aspect of being a classical musician in London, and briefly discusses how the job market operates. Lastly, he considers the economic aspect of music-making in London, and at one point uses a graph to explain the most profitable form of performance. Chapter four, Musicianship, Small Ensembles, and the Social Self, again preaches the importance of the individual side of musicality, and how important roles in a particular ensemble present different musical challenges and responsibilities.
Cottrell also incorporates the explanation of how small ensembles operate, mentioning the relationships of people an instruments within the group. Chapter five, Orchestras, the Self, and Creativity in Musical Performance, covers a similar approach as the previous chapter, yet focuses more on the situational aspect of professional musicians performing in group, rather than a historical one. He uses his own experience to help explain his points, especially in terms of creativity. Cottrell covers the different perspectives of how creativity lives within music, and how creativity incorporates itself into a profession. His personal experience is especially evident in these chapters which ensures the readers of his qualification and expertise on the topic. In chapter six, Myth and Humour, Cottrell takes a more broad approach in portraying some of the myths that are popular among Western musicians, with association to figures like Beethoven and God. He also explains how the professions in music are often misinterpreted and misunderstood by the general public.
This section provides a background on not only musicians in London but the entire Western world. Cottrell then helps the reader understand some of the jokes and mockery that some musicians are subject to. In this section, I feel some of his points are too strenuous and long to maintain focus on. Chapter seven, The Performance Event: Ritual, Theatre, Play, is about the several varieties of performance, such as orchestras and solo recitals. Cottrell opens his lense of ethnomusicology to analyze how different performers and performances are often associated with a spiritual-like ritual in which they operate. He uses several examples of London performances to support his case. Cottrell also explains the characteristics of different types of performances and how they differ from one another.
Lastly, in chapter eight, entitled … da capo al fine…, Cottrell again speaks of his musical past and how he came to this stage in his life. He exemplifies the experience he has gained over his years of a musician and musical teacher and how it incorporates into this book. In his concluding pages, he reflects on how the social status of musicians can differ and how this relates to his personal situation. Overall, I found Stephen Cottrell’s Professional Music Making in London: Ethnography and Experience to be quite interesting and thought provoking. Often times, I thought that certain sections of the chapter were far too detailed and heavy to remain engaging.
In my opinion, the sophistication level is quite high in the understanding of this book, yet I believe Cottrell remained fair and moderate to his audience. I enjoyed exploring a topic that I have never previously learned about because it gave me insight to an undiscovered world of music.