This thesis investigates the multiple and contested spaces of belonging that may be evoked by ritualised musical performance. It makes an ethnographic case study of the Zorn Badge Auditions in Sweden, in which musicians play before a jury in the hope of being awarded a Zorn Badge and a prestigious but also contested title: Riksspelman.
Building on theories of ritual and performance in combination with Sara Ahmed’s theorisation of orientation, the thesis attends to sensory ways of experiencing and knowing music while tracing the various ways in which Swedish traditional music is performed, felt, heard, sensed and understood in audition spaces. It draws on interviews with players and jury members, participant observations of music auditions and the jury’s deliberations, showing how musical value is negotiated through processes of inclusion and exclusion of repertoires, instruments and performance practices. The study also illuminates how anxiety and uncertainties are felt on both sides of the adjudication table. The auditions trigger feelings of belonging and harmony, but also rupture and distance. A brimming of felt qualities contributes to the sensing of history, tradition, memory, place and geography, as well as close emotional connections between music and individual performers. The thesis reveals how gradual adaptation, and the lived experiences of time within tradition, allow the Zorn institution to negotiate change and thereby maintain its position within Swedish society.