Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 September 2021
Genre is a fluid, performative concept, which involves the audience’s expectations as much as a set of preconceived rules and gestures to which a composer must comply in order to have produced a work that is in a recognisable genre. As Jeffrey Kallberg has written, genre is a ‘social phenomenon shared by composers and listeners alike’.1 It is how a generic term is used, within which contexts and traditions, and how it is perceived by composers and audiences, that gives genre meaning. Indeed, genre is ‘a communicative concept’. A ‘generic contract’ is developed between composer and listener, in which the composer uses some of the key characteristics associated with a genre and the listener agrees to interpret these conventions in a way ‘conditioned by the genre’.2 The knowledge that a listener is about to hear a symphony creates a number of expectations about the number and type of instruments involved, for example, how those instruments might be handled, the length of the work and number of movements, the types of forms used, even the setting in which the work should be performed and where in the world it may have been composed. Genre can inform the way the listener interprets associated norms and any deviations from those norms.