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The social life of music
Author: Nick Crossley

This book argues that music is an integral part of society – one amongst various interwoven forms of social interaction which comprise our social world; and shows that it has multiple valences which embed it within that wider world. Musical interactions are often also economic interactions, for example, and sometimes political interactions. They can be forms of identity work and contribute to the reproduction or bridging of social divisions. These valances allow music both to shape and be shaped by the wider network of relations and interactions making up our societies, in their local, national and global manifestations. The book tracks and explores these valances, combining a critical consideration of the existing literature with the development of an original, ‘relational’ approach to music sociology. The book extends the project begun in Crossley’s earlier work on punk and post-punk ‘music worlds’, revisiting this concept and the network ideas underlying it whilst both broadening the focus through a consideration of wider musical forms and by putting flesh on the bones of the network idea by considering the many types of interaction and relationships involved in music and the meanings which music has for its participants. Patterns of connection between music’s participants are important, whether they be performers, audience members or one of the various ‘support personnel’ who mediate between performers and audiences. However, so are the different uses to which participants put their participation and the meanings they co-create. These too must be foci for a relational music sociology.

The musical universe and its worlds
Nick Crossley

In the previous chapter, I introduced the idea of a mainstream music world connected to various alternative worlds in what I will henceforth call ‘the musical universe’ (see also Crossley and Emms 2016 ). The musical universe is the set of all musical activities within a particular society, either national or global. It comprises different worlds of musical activity, including – but not exclusively – a mainstream world. In this chapter, I unpack and discuss these ideas, sharpening up my concept of ‘music worlds’. I begin with ‘the mainstream

in Connecting sounds
Publics, protest and the avant-garde
Nick Crossley

are problematic but they need to be discussed and serve as a useful foil for progressing to a better perspective. Next, I consider the idea that music can generate a political public sphere, a suggestion which sparks the further idea that music can be a political resource and, indeed, politics a musical resource. Finally, I reflect upon the idea that some music worlds constitute alternative spaces which facilitate experimentation with different forms of life, potentially prefiguring political change. Adorno and the avant-garde Adorno is best known in

in Connecting sounds
Abstract only
Nodes, ties and worlds
Nick Crossley

In the previous chapter, I suggested that music worlds are social networks, or more precisely – as the festival network demonstrated – distinctive clusters within the broader network comprising the musical universe. Musicking is interaction, but not just dyadic interaction. It is collective action involving multiple parties whose interactions and relations concatenate, simultaneously drawing upon and generating a wider network. All musicking belongs to this network, but it is possible to identify distinct clusters of activity – sub-networks – within it

in Connecting sounds
Abstract only
Nick Crossley

themes, from meaning, taste and identity, through social division, cohesion and the dynamics of economic and political life, to the various social worlds (‘music worlds’ as I call them) which form around different clusters of musical interactivity. Underlying all of this, however, is a relational conception of both social life and music. There are several competing versions of ‘relational sociology’ in the literature (Depelteau and Powell 2013 ), with the perspectives of Born (e.g. 2010a ) and Bourdieu ( 1984, 1993 ) proving particularly influential within music

in Connecting sounds
Musicking in social space
Nick Crossley

, I extend my argument, suggesting that music worlds, as defined in Chapters 4 and 5 , are positioned within social space. Much of the discussion in the chapter is focused upon the impact of wider social divisions upon music and the tendency of music to reproduce those divisions. I conclude the chapter, however, with a discussion of the ways in which music can provide a way of bridging and challenging social divisions. As noted, the chapter revisits the concept of taste, discussed in the previous chapter, focusing now upon its social distribution. It is

in Connecting sounds
Capitalism, industry and the mainstream
Nick Crossley

economy. The great depression in the US in the early 1930s decimated its recording industry, for example, with the result that some genres – notably ‘race records’ – ceased to be recorded at all for a number of years. In a different vein, the decline of manufacturing in the UK during the 1970s and resultant closure of warehouses and factories made useful spaces available to musicians at cheap prices, providing a resource which contributed significantly to a number of the celebrated music worlds of the early 1980s (Cohen 2007 ; Crossley 2015a ). I am not

in Connecting sounds
Embedded, embodied and multivalent
Nick Crossley

. This is not only a matter of the sheer existence of music, but also its wider meanings and value. It is somewhat ironic that classical music scholarship should reduce music to sonic properties given the pomp and ritual that typically frames classical music performance, from the hushed silence of the audience to the superior air of the conductor and the reverence of commentators and teachers. Every music world has framing conventions, however. Classical music is not alone. And these conventions vary markedly between worlds, as Finnegan ( 1989 ) demonstrates. The

in Connecting sounds
Meaning, communication and affect
Nick Crossley

, it is also because our perception and understanding of musical signs draws upon interpretive conventions, sedimented experiences, habits and embodied know-how which are widely shared. And not only by audiences but also, to reiterate, by composers and performers who deliberately invoke them – knowing them to be shared reference points. Such meanings aren't shared by everybody and may be restricted to the members of particular music worlds (which in this respect are akin to Danto's ( 1964 ) ‘art worlds’ and Fish's ( 1980 ) ‘interpretive communities’, as

in Connecting sounds
Use, taste, identity
Nick Crossley

-cultures (Clarke et al. 1993 ; Hebdige 1988 ; see also Kahn-Harris 2007 ). Alternative music worlds, it would seem, often serve as a refuge for those who feel that they do not fit. Lyrics too are important in helping listeners who are seeking to make sense of their lives. Certain of Willis's ( 1978 ) hippies, who were undergoing some form of existential crisis, used music to make sense of and achieve a degree of mastery over their feelings, for example. They found music therapeutic, believing that their preferred artists understood their situation far better than

in Connecting sounds