“Let’s Play!”: Professional Performers’ Perspectives on Play in Chamber Ensemble Rehearsal
This chapter explores the phenomenon of play in the context of professional chamber ensemble rehearsal and argues that play lies at the heart of it. The account begins with an interrogation of the concept of play and a distinction is made between “playing music” (that is, how the term play is ordinarily used in making music) and “play” (that is, the social and cultural activity that manifests in many contexts). Characteristics of play are identified according to existing research conceptualisations. Within the domain of musicology, it is noted that previous studies on play and music performance focus on activity about scores and sounds. To date, there is a lack of insight into music performers’ understandings of play, as well as little emphasis on the way in which play is experienced among co-performers, such as in small ensembles. A novel empirical enquiry was undertaken to gather professional chamber performers’ perspectives on play through post-rehearsal reflections using video recall of live footage. The performers revealed nuanced understandings and experiences of play and highlighted “moments” of play as uniquely positive experiences. Play was vital in enabling the performers to “make the music their own”. These findings are cross-compared with existing research perspectives, and the implications for the performers and researchers are discussed.