Nicholas Cooke (Royal Holloway)
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My topic is how music can create spaces for social interaction and transformation, and I shall explore this through three contrasting case studies, the last of which is the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. And it’s via the concept of space, and the closely related concept of place, that I want to approach the issue of music and social interaction. In essence I shall argue that music can create its own spaces for social interaction, purely musical spaces if you like: that is, spaces that don’t have a fixed relationship to real-world locations, that are in that sense utopian. (Quick definition of utopia: space without place.) Seen this way, the key question that arises in relation to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is the extent to which what happens in a purely musical, utopian space carries over into the world beyond it—the real world, as we ordinarily say, though of course music is its own form of reality.
This is an adapted version of a paper first presented at the ‘Music, Sound and the Reconfiguration of Public and Private Space’ conference held in Cambridge on 18-19 April 2008, which will appear in a book of that name to be published by Cambridge University Press.