Enacting music through paratexts : a shifting politics of interpretation
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I engage with paratextual mediation of music through the lens set by Gérard Genette in Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (1997). I theorize some of the ways different systems of paratexts shape acts of interpreting a musical text through a series of case studies in musical scores, CDs, and digital music. My final case study considers Spotify as exemplary of the changing conditions surrounding the relationship between text and paratext through Internet technology. Musical texts in Spotify bear a loosened relationship with their interacting paratexts as compared to scores and CDs; whereas a score presentation fixes these paratexts to a musical text by virtue of its materiality, the ways paratexts get attached to digital texts are diverse and highly fluid. Moreover, my case studies highlight the shifting relations of cultural power that lie behind these presentations of music through paratexts. Not all interpreters have the same agency to disseminate music through paratexts; with published scores, a select few hold an inordinate influence to frame interpretation for others in this way. Internet technology furnishes a shift in this cultural power, as more listeners gain more agency to affix paratexts to music in a way that can shape the listening experiences of others. Spotify presents music through paratexts by drawing on listener data, thereby democratizing a certain portion of this framing power to listeners. Even so, interpretation in Spotify is filtered through the network of technologies and actors representing Spotify's company, who perform a gatekeeping function on musical content through paratexts.