Authentic Performance of Music: From Bach and Handel to Elvis, Ray Charles, and the Blues Brothers

Dr Mark Perlman
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There has been a major movement in the last 30 years to pursue authentic performance practice of classical music. Also known as historically-informed-performance (HIP), musicians have sought to use scholarship on historical performances and original instruments so that they can perform baroque- and classical-era musical works in an authentic manner. Moreover, some go so far as to argue that it is incorrect to play such music inauthentically, or even that we have an artistic duty to seek authenticity in performance, or that authentic performances will be aesthetically superior to inauthentic ones. The philosophical discussions of authenticity in musical performance have also centered on classical music, whether in performing music 200 or 300 years old we ought to seek to play in an ‘authentic’ way, as one might have heard in Bach’s, Handel’s, or Mozart’s time.

This context makes it appear as if the authenticity debate depends on old music, for which we have written scores but no original recordings. I argue that this is not the case, and that authenticity is not a mere historical problem – it revolves around musical styles and genres. Authenticity is a stylistic and aesthetic problem that potentially can arise in any genre of music, from any era. With examples from Be-Bop, R&B, Blues, Country/Western and Rock-and-Roll we can see that certain styles are ‘authentic’ in a genre, and others are not. With musical examples from Elvis to Ray Charles to The Blues Brothers, I will show how the same kinds of authenticity questions that arise with baroque and classical music arise in contemporary pop music. I will use this phenomenon to shed some light on the issue of musicians’ obligation to play music authentically, or at least to strive to do so, and whether authenticity automatically yields aesthetically superior performances.

[This presentation will utilize audio and video clips as examples, and is designed to generate an interactive discussion. Given that playing clips takes time, 60 minutes is far preferable to 30. Will require CD player and TV/DVD]

Keywords: Aesthetics, Music, Performance, Authenticity, Style, Genre, Classical
Stream: Analysing Artforms, Meaning and Representation
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: Authentic Performance of Music

Dr Mark Perlman

Associate Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Western Oregon University
Monmouth, Oregon, USA

Mark Perlman came from a musical family in which his father, David Perlman, was Principal Bass of the Cleveland Orchestra (1966-1981.) He began playing guitar at the age of 7, and string bass at 13. He has played string bass in many orchestras, and also in jazz. He studied philosophy, anthropology, and music (including conducting) as an undergraduate at Ohio State University, and spent a year abroad studying in Munich, Germany in 1985-86. In Spring 1994 he completed his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Arizona. He taught at Arizona State University from 1993-1998, and since 1998 has been in the Department Of Philosophy And Religious Studies at Western Oregon University. He is currently the Music Director and Conductor of the Willamette Falls Symphony in Oregon, as well as Associate Conductor of the Hillsboro Symphony and the Salem Chamber Orchestra (in Oregon).

He is the author of "CONCEPTUAL FLUX: Mental Representation, Misrepresentation, and Concept Change" (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000) and co-editor (with Robert Cummins and Andre Ariew) of "Functions: New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology" (Oxford University Press, 2002). His philosophical specialties are Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Psychology, Cognitive Science, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Law, and Aesthetics (particularly Philosophy of Music).

Mark Perlman also continues to be active in music. He was Associate Conductor of the Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra from 1994 - 1998, and in 1997 he conducted the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 on a CD recording with pianist Nicholas Carey and the Scottsdale Symphony. After moving to Oregon, he began as Music Director of the Willamette Falls Symphony in 2001. He is also a bassist in and Associate Conductor of the Salem Chamber Orchestra, and is the Associate Conductor of the Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra. In February, 2003 he was featured with the Salem Chamber Orchestra as narrator of poems accompanying Saint-Saëns’ "Carnival of the Animals". For more information, see: and

Ref: A06P0527