Examining how performers engage and delight their audience through persona, appearance, and spectacle


The conventional way of understanding what musicians do as performers is to treat them as producers of sound; some even argue that it is unnecessary to see musicians in performance as long as one can hear them.  But musical performance, counters Philip Auslander, is also a social interaction between musicians and their audiences, appealing as much to the eye as to the ear. In Concert: Performing Musical Persona he addresses not only the visual means by which musicians engage their audiences through costume and physical gesture, but also spectacular aspects of performance such as light shows.

Although musicians do not usually enact fictional characters on stage, they nevertheless present themselves to audiences in ways specific to the performance situation.  Auslander’s term to denote the musician’s presence before the audience is musical persona.  While presence of a musical persona may be most obvious within rock and pop music, the book’s analysis extends to classical music, jazz, blues, country, electronic music, laptop performance, and music made with experimental digital interfaces. The eclectic group of performers discussed include the Beatles, Miles Davis, Keith Urban, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Frank Zappa, B. B. King, Jefferson Airplane, Virgil Fox, Keith Jarrett, Glenn Gould, and Laurie Anderson.

Philip Auslander is Professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“Auslander has earned a primary role in the interpretation of rock performance, especially for his approach to the expression of cultural identities and their mediation in the digital era. Scholars grapple with the myriad and complex parameters that shape musical subjectivities as they are displayed in a range of staged and mediated forms. This book will most certainly bring a larger set of readers into the fold.”
—Lori Burns, University of Ottawa

“An exciting and influential publication in the field of performance studies.”

—Jacqueline Warwick, Dalhousie University

"Ultimately, this book is an important publication in the field of performance studies and strikes me as particularly valuable for thinkers who desire a better understanding of shifts in performance discourse since the mid-1990s, or those who want to glean more productively precisely how musicians as performers function in contemporary culture."
—Craig Jennex, Theatre Survey

- Craig Jennex

"Philip Auslander remains an unquestionably influential figure in popular music and performance studies, and his new book In Concert: Performing Musical Persona underscores and updates his resounding achievements."
—Pascal Rudolph, Popular Music 

- Pascal Rudolph