In a short essay entitled "Musica Practica,"" semiologist Roland Barthes wrote that "there are two musics (at least so I have always thought): the music one listens to, the music one plays."" The former requires the individual to be passive "acting as a point of reception for a stream of melodies that is (to put it bluntly) imposed. It is the latter type of music "the musica practica, "the music one plays- "which offers the individual an active role within the entire musical procedure. Simultaneously auditory and manual, practical music renders the practitioner's body as "inscriber and not just transmitter, simple receiver."" Thus, intimately associated with practical music "indeed, one of its fundaments "is "the notion of doing,"" of engagement in an activity which necessitates a bodily participation (not merely an auditory commitment to hear or listen). .
We might say, therefore, that Barthes envisioned musica practica to have been a site of self-determination and autonomy for the individual-player. However, Barthes (mistakenly?) believed that practical music was on the wane. "This type of music has disappeared.To find practical music in the West, one has now to look to another public, another repertoire, another instrument (the young generation, vocal music, the guitar)."" At this juncture, I feel it imperative to pose a few questions: What does it mean to say that practical music is both "disappearing- and able to be found "in another public?- And why would we want to look for musica practica only in the West? Apparently, any music that is not encountered in the concert halls of the West passes under the radar of the semiologist; inasmuch, non-Western music and the music of those other "publics- become dismissible, unworthy of analysis. .
In an anti-Barthesian spirit then, I propose that we expand the scope of our analytic questioning.