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Att agera musikaliskt: musikalitet som norm och utbildningsmål i västerländsk talteater


  • Sven Bjerstedt

Summary, in English

(Musicality in acting: musicality as a standard and an educational goal for Western spoken theatre)
This thesis takes its point of departure in the prominent use of the term ’musicality’ as a prestige word in theatre discourse where, obviously, not exactly the same reference and meaning is ascribed to the concept as in contexts of music. There seems to be very little previous research in this area, if any. The research question is formulated thus: What do theatre practicians mean when they speak of an actor acting with musicality?
The investigation is divided into three studies. Study A focuses on different perspectives on musicality in the field of music, based on explorative literature studies. Study B focuses on a sample of citations from literature on theatre where musicality and related concepts seem to be put forward in interesting and relevant ways in connection with spoken theatre. Study C is based on a series of explorative interviews with theatre practicians working as educators at Malmö Theatre Academy, Sweden.
The results of study A indicate that (i) references to art forms other than music are very rare among musicologists discussing the concept of musicality; (ii) there are reasons to distinguish between three different perspectives on musicality, introduced by Brändström (1997; 2006) as an absolute, a relativistic and a relational view; and (iii) there are reasons to distinguish also between two perspectives on music: an aesthetic view (Reimer, 1970/1989) and praxialism (Elliott, 1995).
Study B is divided in two sections, one chronological and one systematical. The historical overview presents a collection of citations related to three ideals or paradigms of theatre: the rhetorical, the realistic and the modernistic ideal. The systematic overview is structured in accordance with the different practitioners’ perspectives that are put forward: following a collection of citations related to ”musical dramaturgy”, the views of directors, educators and actors, respectively, are presented. Educational and professional theatre discourses through history as well as today are shown to include a great variety of perspectives on music and musicality.
A detailed analysis of the interviews in study C indicates that the concept of musicality as understood and used by the interviewees can be interpreted as a combination of abilities in the actor. These abilities are divided in three groups, all of which constitute necessary conditions for the actor’s musicality: acting and being ”here and now” with all senses (”presence”); apprehending, analysing and building structures (”structure”); and acting and being free, relaxed, active and open (”flow”).
In conclusion, the results of the study seem to indicate that the term ’musicality’ is often applied in the field of theatre in a way that could be understood as metaphorical. Based on these results, it would seem potentially fruitful to regard ’musicality’ in theatre discourse as a socially constructed concept or even as a fiction in Vaihinger’s sense. A number of suggestions for further research are put forward.






Examensarbete för masterexamen (Två år)


  • Performing Arts


  • musikalitet
  • spoken theatre
  • musicality
  • acting
  • talteater


  • Gunnar Heiling