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The Search for Efficiency


Musical instruments are made by specialists. In some societies, instruments are made by castes whose members specialize in working with metal or wood. This art requires knowledge of the instrument's acoustic properties, morphological balance and aesthetics.

Instrument makers often use elements of the occult to invest instruments with their power as mediators. An instrument's efficiency depends on the sacred character it acquires during rituals in which words, gestures and the manipulation of objects come into play to confer upon the instrument an effectiveness that goes beyond the empirical and the playing of the instrument. These rites are usually performed only in the presence of initiates.

Construction d'un tambour sur cadre (teueikan)/Gérard Siméon, Musée amérindien de Mashteuiatsh

At sports events, the players and their fans engage in practices aimed at influencing fate. Borrowing as much from magic as from religion, these practices often have elements of fetishism. For example, people might carry an object associated with a victory, always wear the same clothes or shoes, or repeat gestures such as the sign of the cross to overcome the uncertainty of competition. The players and fans believe in their rituals without really being sure if they work . . . because you never know!