Artistic performances can be thought of as “doings”—things that are done—that share the following features of performances in general: they involve actions aimed at achieving some result; they are open, at least in principle, to public scrutiny and assessment; and they are usually presented to a relevantly informed public with the intention that they be appreciated and assessed, and perhaps also with the intention that some practical goal be achieved. A performance can be classified as “artistic” in a descriptive (rather than normative) sense if it bears in one of the following ways upon the appreciation and evaluation of a focus of artistic appreciation:1 either (a) the performance is itself a focus of artistic appreciation, or (b) the performance plays an essential part in the artistic appreciation and evaluation of something else that is a focus of artistic appreciation by virtue of being an instance of the latter.
Many performances in the performing arts are described and treated as performances of something else that is itself an artwork of some kind. We can term the latter a “performed work” and the former a “work-performance.” A work-performance, insofar as it is an instance of a performed work that bears upon its proper artistic appreciation and evaluation, qualifies as artistic in sense (b). Arguably, a work-performance can itself be an object of artistic appreciation and evaluation and thereby also qualify as artistic in sense (a).2 Where we have an artistic practice in which some acknowledged artworks are designed to be performed works, the practice qualifies as what I shall term a “performance art.” The latter is an artistic practice in which our access to, and appreciation of, works (as receivers) is at least in part mediated [End Page 23] by performances of those works. Drama, music, and dance are usually taken to be performance arts in this sense. Intuitively, our access to performed works in the performance arts is at least in part mediated by performances because certain qualities of those works—relevant to their proper appreciation as the particular works they are—are only realizable, and thereby made apparent to receivers, in performances.
Philosophical discussion of the performing arts has largely been concerned with performances taking place in the performance arts as characterized above, and thus with performances of performed works. Indeed, most philosophical discussion of the performing arts has focused on performances of performed works of classical music, the assumption being that the model seen to apply to such examples—what we may term “the classical paradigm”—also applies, with very few exceptions, to performances in other musical genres (in particular, jazz and rock) and to performances in other performance media (in particular, theater and dance). In all of these cases, it has been widely assumed, performances are generally of works, and the work-performance relationship is to be understood on the model of the classical paradigm. Performances not obviously open to such an analysis—free improvisations in music or dance, for example—have been viewed either as limiting cases of the classical paradigm or as of only marginal interest for a philosophical treatment of the performing arts.
One among the many virtues of James Hamilton’s book is that it challenges the hegemony of the classical paradigm in the performing arts by questioning its applicability to theatrical performances. He argues instead for an “ingredients model” of the relationship between a literary script and a theatrical work. According to the ingredients model, the text produced by a playwright is merely one ingredient that theatrical performance companies take into account when they set out to create a performance.3 It is taken to be a consequence of this that “a [theatrical] performance is . . . never a performance of some other work nor is it ever a performance of a text or of anything initiated in a text.”4 The alternative idea that theatrical works are to be understood in terms of the classical paradigm is what Hamilton terms the “text-based” view of such works. But adherents of the views that he opposes to the ingredients model may deny that theatrical performances are performances of texts. For this reason, it...