Although competitions in classical music have a long history, the number of contests has risen dramatically since the Second World War, all of them aiming to launch young artists' careers. This is not the symptom of marketization that it might appear to be. Despite the establishment of an international governing body, competitions are plagued by rumors of corruption, and even the most mathematically sophisticated voting system cannot quell accusations that the best talent is overlooked. Why do musicians take part? Why do audiences care so much about who wins? Performing Civility is the first book to address these questions. In this groundbreaking study, Lisa McCormick draws from firsthand observations of contests in Europe and the US, and in-depth interviews with competitors, jurors and directors, as well as blog data from competition observers to argue that competitions have endured because they are not only about music, they are also about civility.
In The Press
'Music competitions, as Lisa McCormick shows us in this very clever book, place music and civility in contradiction. This contradiction gets played out as judges, musicians and audiences are converted into publics engaged in debate over what should count as talent, beauty, and perfection. Performing Civility will be of interest to cultural sociologists, political scientists, musicians, and anyone who aspires to be a member of civil society, musically conceived.' Tia DeNora, Exeter University