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Performative Listening

Hearing Others in Qualitative Research

Chris McRae

Performative Listening: Hearing Others in Qualitative Research offers an alternative theory of listening – as a performative act, or as a relational stance and performance in which listeners ethically engage in an act of learning from others across difference. This theory emerges from an interdisciplinary approach to performance studies, communication, musicology, and critical pedagogy in order to present a nuanced theory of listening as performance that is always linked to questions of context, individual experiences, and cultural expectations. Working from examples of the music and autobiography of Miles Davis, this book offers a clear and practical guide for applying performative listening in the contexts of qualitative, narrative, and arts-based approaches to research and inquiry. By emphasizing the embodied, relational, and creative functions of the highly contextual and cultural performance of listening, Performative Listening presents a theory and method that can be used to rethink the ways scholars and students engage with others in a wide variety of qualitative research and educational contexts.
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Chapter 2. Performative Listening

Extract

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PERFORMATIVE LISTENING

One of, if not the very first, recordings of Miles Davis I listened to was the 1970 album Bitches Brew. I was 13 years old and had been playing the trumpet for three years. When I heard the music on this album for the first time I was confused. The rhythms and instrumentation sounded strange. I remember waiting, for what seemed like an eternity, to hear Davis’s trumpet on the opening track. After almost two and half minutes, my lack of musical patience was rewarded with a brief phrase played by Davis. Needless to say, I found the album frustrating. My expectations and desires were not met. I was instructed by my band directors, that by listening to other trumpet players, I could learn to be a better trumpet player. On that first attempt to learn by listening to Davis I realized that this album, without any additional context or experience, was going to be a difficult starting place.

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Listening provides a unique starting place for engaging in qualitative research in terms of communication, relationships, pedagogy, and pleasure. In this chapter, I define performative listening as a method or mode of listening that might modify or complement a variety of existing qualitative research methods.1 Performative listening is an embodied practice of critically and reflexively engaging with and learning from others in qualitative research. ← 31 | 32 → Performative listening specifically emphasizes the pedagogical and potentially transformative role of the researcher as...

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