This chapter argues that musical interaction is often also economic
interaction, involving interdependence and power. It elaborates upon these
ideas, discussing both the music industry and the interplay of music and
capitalism in doing so. It concludes with a discussion of the distinction
between mainstream and alternative music.
This chapter picks up on the idea of the mainstream, introduced in the
previous chapter, and also the concept of ‘music worlds’, briefly discussed
earlier in the book. It elaborates further upon both, developing a concept
of a musical universe comprising both a mainstream and multiple alternative
music worlds. The chapter concludes with an empirical demonstration of some
of these ideas.
This chapter begins by asking what music is. It first considers the idea that
music is ‘humanly organised sound’ before progressing to a definition of
music as social interaction. This idea is unpacked throughout the chapter
and it is argued that musical interaction is embodied, multivalent and
This chapter picks up and further develops the idea of ‘networks’, which has
been introduced in earlier chapters. Drawing upon formal social network
analysis and the body of literature associated with it, it explains how we
might think about networks in relation to music, how and why they develop
and why they are important. There is an extended discussion of social
capital and its relevance to music.
The final chapter considers the various ways in which musical interactions
might be considered political interactions. It begins with a critical
discussion of Adorno’s account of the politics of avant-garde and popular
music respectively, moving on to a discussion of the ways in which music
might help to create a public sphere. It then considers both how music might
serve as a political resource and politics as a musical resource, before
discussing the ways in which music worlds sometimes serve to incubate
alternative values and identities, potentially prefiguring wider political
changes. Music worlds can be political worlds too.
Continuing and further developing the theme of meaning from the previous
chapter, this chapter explores how music is used by listeners, particularly
in the context of their identity work, and how this affects their tastes. It
is argued that our stronger musical preferences are often for pieces,
artists or genres who have in some way become bound up with our identities
and the ongoing work of maintaining them.
This chapter argues that musical interactions orient around meaning, that the
meaningfulness of music is one key reason for its sociological importance,
and it offers a discussion of one facet of musical meaning: semiotic
meaning. Drawing upon the work of C.S. Peirce in particular, it is argued
that various aspects of music function as (meaningful) signs, and that music
has both internal and external meanings.