J. Huizinga, Homo Ludens

Johan Huizinga's book Homo Ludens: A Study of Play Element in Culture (1938) gives a very broad perspective on relations between music and games. After all, games are just one kind of playing and music is a small element of culture. What's more, author's analysis centers around a very abstract "ludic element" and descriptions of actual practice don't happen very often (although if they do, they are most often exotic). The book is accessible and doesn't need any theoretical preparation to read. You can read it even now, taking advantage of the fact, that english translation is already in public domain. Here is the beginning of the chapter Play-forms in art.

PLAY, we found, was so innate in poetry, and every form of poetic utterance so intimately bound up with the structure of play that the bond between them was seen to be indissoluble. The same is true, and in even higher degree, of the bond between play and music. In an earlier chapter we noted that in some languages the manipulation of musical instruments is called "playing", to wit, in the Arabic language on the one hand and the Germanic and Slavonic on the other. Since this semantic understanding between East and West can hardly be ascribed to borrowing or coincidence, we have to assume some deep­rooted psychological reason for so remarkable a symbol of the affinity between music and play.
However natural this affinity seems to us it is far from easy to form a clear idea of its rationale. The most we can do is to enumerate the elements which music and play have in common. Play, we said, lies outside the reasonableness of practical life; has nothing to do with necessity or utility, duty or truth. All this is equally true of music. Furthermore, musical forms are determined by values which transcend logical ideas, which even transcend our ideas of the visible and the tangible. These musical values can only be understood in terms of the designations we use for them, specific names like rhythm and harmony which are equally applicable to play or poetry. Indeed, rhythm and harmony are factors of all three - poetry, music, and play - in an absolutely equal sense. But whereas in poetry the words themselves lift the poem, in part at least, out of pure play into the sphere of ideation and judgement, music never leaves the play-sphere.

Later among related topics you can find Plato's and Aristotle's approach to music, historical view of dominant performance situation, and relations between music and competition.

Homo ludens has a spot as a classic reference in the field of game studies (to the extent of not being cited anymore ;) ), but it's role is hard to overstate as it was the first modern scholarly book that took games and play seriously as its subject. It's acclaimed for providing also a definition of play: which according to Huzinga is an activity that:

  1. is free,
  2. is not "ordinary" life,
  3. is distinct as to locality and duration,
  4. creates order that is absolute and supremem,
  5. is connected with no material interest.

You can get full text of Homo ludens online.

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