I concluded the previous post with the claim that theatre is the condition by which musical worlds are made possible. While music exists in the ‘real world’ only as exception, its presentation within a ‘theatrical world’ requires us to experience it as inherent to that world: indeed, as one of the very conditions of that world’s coherence. These worlds are ‘musical’, because music belongs to them in a way that it doesn’t belong to the ‘real’ world. In a musical world, music is something more than or other than ‘just music’.
Nevertheless, the precise nature of what music is within any given musical world—its function, role, power, efficacy, value, meaning, presence, etc.—is always unique, often protean, and generally difficult to pin down. The logic of a musical world, and thus the place of music within it, is intuited by the audience as they process their sensory experiences of the theatrical world and its development through time and narrative.
This final essay in my series on music theatre is an attempt to demonstrate that some generalisations are possible in the mapping of this infinity of musical worlds, and the most important system of generalisation within our listening culture is what we call genre.