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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 punk and post-punk worlds of Manchester, London, Liverpool and Sheffield, 1975–80
Author: Nick Crossley

This book argues that punk and post-punk, whatever their respective internal stylistic heterogeneity, enjoyed 'sociological reality' in Samuel Gilmore's and Howard Becker's sense. It elaborates the concept of 'music worlds', contrasting it with alternatives from the sociological literature. In particular it contrasts it with the concepts 'subculture', 'scene' and 'field'. The book then outlines a number of concepts which allow us to explore the localised process in which punk took shape in a sociologically rigorous manner. In particular it discusses the concepts of 'critical mass' and 'social networks'. The book also applies these concepts to the London punk world of 1976. It considers how talk about punk migrated from face-to-face networks to mass media networks and the effects of that shift. Continuing the discussion of punk's diffusion and growth, the book considers how punk worlds took shape in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. In addition, however, the book offers a more technical analysis of the network structures of the post-punk worlds of the three cities. Furthermore, extending this analysis, and combining qualitative and quantitative forms of analysis, the book considers how activities in different local post-punk worlds were themselves linked in a network, constituting a national post-punk world.

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Nick Crossley

This chapter introduces the book, outlining its main argument, setting it in context and providing a brief summary of the content of the chapters which follow.

in Connecting sounds
Embedded, embodied and multivalent
Nick Crossley

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 multiply embedded.

in Connecting sounds
Capitalism, industry and the mainstream
Nick Crossley

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.

in Connecting sounds
The musical universe and its worlds
Nick Crossley

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.

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

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.

in Connecting sounds
Meaning, communication and affect
Nick Crossley

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.

in Connecting sounds
Use, taste, identity
Nick Crossley

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.

in Connecting sounds
Musicking in social space
Nick Crossley

This chapter continues the discussion of taste begun in the previous chapter, considering how tastes are socially distributed. This issue is usually discussed with reference to the work of Bourdieu in music sociology, but this chapter suggests another, more fruitful, path based upon the importance of mutual influence in social networks and Blau’s conception of social space. Much of the chapter is devoted to a discussion of the ways in which music both reflects and reproduces existing social divisions. However, it concludes with a discussion of the ways in which music might bridge and help to narrow social divisions.

in Connecting sounds