Judicial Interpretation and Musical Performing Practice: A Comparison

By Flavia Marisi.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Music and law are closely related to one another, because of their common textuality and subsequent necessity for performance. Experts of both disciplines give performance to a text, solving interpretation problems and choosing the appropriate meaning for the text itself. Judges and lawyers, on one hand, and musical performers, and choir and orchestra conductors, on the other, in trying to resolve interpretation problems, have devised specific strategies, which present interesting common features. Therefore it is possible to highlight analogies and differences between interpretation theories pertaining to the judicial and the musical field, gathering these theories in branches. Indeed, the judicial interpretation theories of formalism, purposivism, doctrinalism, and developmentalism can be compared, respectively, with the musical interpretation theories of historicism, intentionalism, traditionalism and modernism.
The adoption of a specific interpretation theory in the judicial or musical
field must be legitimated by public consent, because law and music are both
related to a specific society, and must reflect this society’s thoughts and
values. This legitimation is necessary above all in those cases in which
specific interpretations have wide political repercussions. This occurs, for
instance, in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court, which can
interpret the Constitution and its Amendments in a broad or in a narrow
sense, extending or vice versa reducing the range of civil rights.

This article aims to highlight the analogies between judicial and musical
interpretation theories, allowing experts and audience to keep a distance
from the most controversial points, learning from each other, and achieving
a shared understanding of their roles and duties in the society they live

Keywords: Judicial Interpretation, Musical Performing Practice, Strict Constructionism, Textualism, Original Meaning, Historicism, Purposivism, Intentionalism, Doctrinalism, Traditionalism, Developmentalism, Modernism

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.289-302. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 660.001KB).

Dr. Flavia Marisi

Graduate, Faculty of Law, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

Flavia Marisi graduated in Law at University of Milan (2007). She studied also at Nice University (France) and at Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom). As a flutist, she studied at Pescara Conservatory. Winner of many literary and cultural prizes, she authored one book, three essays and many articles in refereed journals. Since 2009 she was appointed as Coach assistant for the team which represent the University of Milan at prestigious legal competitions. In 2010 this team came in the best 16 in the 17th Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, held in Vienna (Austria).


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