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Defining performance: the categories of creativity in music and law

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Authorship and performance have traditionally been classified as two distinct categories, upheld by Romantic ideals about creativity: authorship representing the work of creative genius and performance that of mere interpretation of the author’s work. These ideals have permeated the practices (e.g. session work) and institutions (e.g. conservatories, copyright law) surrounding professional musicianship. In my project I ask what the impact of these ideals might be on the everyday lives of professional musicians across a variety of genres. In this paper I discuss the results of my first set of 20 interviews with performers (out of an anticipated total of 40), reflecting on issues of ownership, regulation and making a living. The interviews suggest that musicians skilfully negotiate different degrees of creativity depending on the amount and speed of payments, credits and rights, and so resist categorisation of their work: rather than a binary, their work represents a continuum between authorship and performance. Yet negotiations are consistent with the constraints offered by the market, and so copyright law in principle appears flexible enough to accommodate these different forms of creativity. I thus reflect upon alternative ways of thinking about creativity as a form of labour in the context of this interdisciplinary conversation between music studies and law.

Ananay Aguilar’s current project as Leverhulme Early Career Fellow investigates how performers make a living and use the legal framework available to them. The project is based at the Faculty of Music and is supported by the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge. Ananay took her first degree and Masters at Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and Universidade Estadual de Campinas in Brazil, and completed a PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London on the label of the London Symphony Orchestra, LSO Live. Her interests lie in the production and circulation of recordings, with a focus on aesthetics, economics, technology and law.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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