“Performance, Technology, and the Good Life,” by Tiger Roholt (Philosophy), is now available on Oxford Academic Online. The chapter will be published in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Phenomenology of Music.
This chapter explores the relations between musical instruments, performance, sociality, and well-being by drawing upon Albert Borgmann’s philosophy of technology. In-passing, Borgmann categorizes musical instruments as “focal things.” He does not consider the implications of this characterization; this chapter does. Borgmann does not place musical performance in the associated category, “focal practice”; this chapter does. Among the benefits of examining performance and instruments through Borgmann’s framework, we are given the conceptual tools for understanding just how some technologies make a positive contribution to performance (in terms of what the author calls “technological paraphernalia”) and just how other technologies threaten the focal practice of performance (what Borgmann calls “technological devices”). More broadly, Borgmann has a unique way of articulating what it is to treat performance and instruments as ends in themselves rather than as means. Through this articulation, we see that performance and instruments can contribute to a good life through what Borgmann calls “centering.”