Music Making and Civic Imagination (Book)

A Holistic Philosophy

This book explores the idea of music making (musicing) - the ‘performance’ of human relationships through music - as a resource for imagining possible futures. Through practical examples, it highlights the value of musicing as a resource for human evolution and sustainable development, through the power of human musical connection. 10 b/w illus.

Category: Music


In a world facing multiple existential crises, music might be seen as little more than a distraction. However, in this synthesis of ideas developed over a decade, a timely re-appraisal of the potential of musicing for human flourishing is presented, emphasising its role in the history of human evolution alongside its potential as a resource for sustainable development. 

A holistic philosophy of music is outlined which recognises the complex web of meaning which spreads across complementary musical dimensions of performance and participation, whilst emphasising the ‘paramusical’ benefits which arise from both. Highlighting the notion that the social bonds which arise from musicing share much of the neurobiological underpinnings of attachment and love, musicing is presented as a resource with the potential for facilitating ethical human connection.

The humanistic values which are thereby materialised during musicing – love, reciprocity and justice – form the experiential grounds for inhabiting alternative social realities. The book addresses how such a holistic philosophy of music might be implemented in practice, drawing on the author’s professional praxis as a performer, educator, community musician, composer and researcher, in particular their experience of musician education at Sage Gateshead, Royal College of Music and Trinity-Laban Conservatoire in the UK.

Dr. Dave Camlin’s musical practice spans performance, composition, teaching, Community Music (CM) and research. He lectures in music education at the Royal College of Music and Trinity-Laban Conservatoire and was Head of HE / Research at Sage Gateshead from 2010-19.


1. Music in an Uncertain World
- An uncertain future
- The value of musicing
- Hysteresis
- Changing value of music
- Key themes 
- Musicing, musicking, ‘musicians’ and musician–researchers
- Musician-as-researcher 
- Being human
- Diffraction/waveform interference
- Terrapolis
- Bumps in the road
- Inequalities of cultural access
- Devaluation of music 
- Summary
- Who is this book for?
- Structure and contents
2. Libraries Gave Us Power
- This is my truth…
- Sage Gateshead and beyond
- Praxis
- Thinking about music 

3. Music as a Complex Adaptive System
- 600+ Mechanisms
- Complex adaptive systems (CAS)
- Music as a polyvalent system
- The advocacy trap
- All roads lead to complexity
- Music as gestalt
- Music in human evolution
- Music as communicative medium
- Entrainment 
- Communicative musicality
- What’s love got to do with it?
- What is love anyway?
- The limbic system
- Interpersonal neurobiology 
- Feeling felt
- What’s music got to do with it?
- Agential realism
- Entanglement and intra-action 
- Diffraction 
- Apparatus
- The aesthetic ‘cut’
- Music as a vitality 
- ‘Affect’ attunement 
- Conclusion 
4. Performing Works, Performing Relationships 
- Background
- Sage Gateshead
- Praxis
- Music in three dimensions
- Dimensions
- Musical dimensions
- Aesthetic – The performance of musical ‘Works’
- Participatory – The ‘Performance’ of relationships 
- Musical continuum
- Paramusical dimension 
- Assumptions
- Reflective questions
- Holistic 
- Holistic assumptions 
- Reflective questions
- Implications
- Holistic philosophy of music 
- Quality is contingent 
- Dialogue 
- Dissensus 
- Epistemology 
- Praxis 
- Conclusion 
5. Music, Politics and Society
- Honourable and dishonourable traditions
- The ‘polis’ 
- Bonding and bridging social capital 
- Feeling felt
- Musical citizens 
- Music and the family 
- Music and the community
- Limits of human cooperation
- Music and the people
- Music and the nation-state 
- Music and national identity 
- Estonian singing revolution 
- Music as a national political resource 
- Injustice and the difference principle 
- Vigilance
- Rational communities of music 
- Doxa 
- Intervention 
- The community of those who have nothing in common 
- Addressing cultural inequalities 
- Application of knowledge 
- The word ‘cope’ and the word ‘change’
6. Music Making and Civic Imagination
- Citizens of the planet 126
- Cosmopolitanism 127
- Critics of cosmopolitanism 128
- Post-nationalism 129
- Terrapolitanism 130
- What is civic imagination? 132
- Dialects of civic imagination 133
- Disavowal of politics 136
- Sovereignty of the states 137
- European project as civic imagination 139
- Music making and civic imagination 141
- Music and the dialects of civic imagination 142
- Disavowal of politics through artistic expression 143
- Vigilance as qualifier 145
- Music’s floating intentionality 146
- Mobilization of terrapolitan identity 147
- Intertextuality 148
- Terrapolitanism is not a competition 149
- The performance of values 151
- Nationalist/capitalist values 152
- Humanist values 152
- Performing love 153
- Performing reciprocity 154
- Performing justice 154
- Performance of virtue 155
- Problems of humanism 156
- Musicing in a post-human world 156
- Musical citizens of the planet 158
- Music and the universe next door 159
- Practical applications 161

7. This Musician
- Socially engaged student performances at Sage Gateshead
- Example 1: We are who we can be
- Example 2: Big about Corby
- Example 3: Fram fest
- Example 4: Disability dilemmas
- Assessing quality
- Student encounters with participatory music at the Royal College of Music
- Participatory projects
- This place
- These people
8. Musician Education
- What are we educating musicians for?
- What is music for?
- Portfolio careers in music
- Praxis
- Skills, attributes and values
- Authenticity
- Diffractive pedagogy
- Organizational dynamics
- Situational music education pedagogy 
- Situational leadership 
- Limitations 
- Conclusions


Camlin has an uncanny ability to uncover and make visible the fundamental truths about musicing that we intuit from practice. Camlin’s quest to understand the phenomenon of musicing has led him to read widely from many different disciplines, which moves us towards a consilient understanding of why music is of such tremendous value now, more than ever.  This book is a tremendous contribution to the discourse on what it means 'to music' and what music can mean for the survival of our species, and the planet.

Melissa Forbes, Associate Professor in Contemporary Singing, University of Southern Queensland, on Giabal and Jarowair Country, Australia
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