Connecting Sounds: The Social Life of Music 152612601X, 9781526126016

An original and compelling account of the social nature of music and its interplay with the wider society to which it be

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Connecting Sounds: The Social Life of Music
 152612601X, 9781526126016

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Figures and Tables
1 Introduction
2 Music as Social Interaction: Embedded, Embodied and Multivalent
3 Economic Interactions: Capitalism, Industry and the Mainstream
4 Mainstream and Beyond: The Musical Universe and Its Worlds
5 Musicking Networks: Nodes, Ties and Worlds
6 Semiotic Interactions: Meaning, Communication and Affect
7 Practical Interactions: Use, Taste, Identity
8 Division, Inequality and Taste: Musicking in Social Space
9 Political Interactions: Publics, Protest and the Avant-Garde

Citation preview

Connecting sounds

Connecting sounds The social life of music Nick Crossley

Manchester University Press

Copyright © Nick Crossley 2020 The right of Nick Crossley to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Published by Manchester University Press Altrincham Street, Manchester M1 7JA British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 1 5261 2601 6 hardback ISBN 978 1 5261 2603 0 paperback First published 2020 The publisher has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for any external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Cover: Typeset by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited

For Michele and Jake


List of figures and tables

page viii

1 Introduction


2 Music as social interaction: embedded, embodied and multivalent


3 Economic interactions: capitalism, industry and the mainstream


4 Mainstream and beyond: the musical universe and its worlds


5 Musicking networks: nodes, ties and worlds


6 Semiotic interactions: meaning, communication and affect


7 Practical interactions: use, taste, identity


8 Division, inequality and taste: musicking in social space


9 Political interactions: publics, protest and the avant-garde


Discography 192 Bibliography 194 Index 207

Figures and tables

Figure 4.1 Local, trans-local and virtual dimensions. 4.2 A festival network. 4.3 A correspondence map of festival clusters and musical styles. 4.4 Nodes positioned by cluster. 5.1 Liverpool’s punk/post-punk world, 1975–80. 5.2 John and Jack at three degrees of separation. 5.3 Open and closed triads. 5.4 Liverpool’s core–periphery divide.

page 74 79 81 82 86 92 95 102

Table 4.1 Cluster characteristics.




Music is an important thread in the fabric of the social world. It is a form of social interaction; one amongst many forms which concatenate, interpenetrating and overlapping in the ongoing process which generates, reproduces and transforms our societies in their various local, national and global manifestations. That, at least, is the central claim of this book. It sounds simple. However, unpacking it and filling in its details gives rise to questions and complexities which it will take the whole book to tackle. The book covers a wide range of 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 sociology (Bennett et al. 2009; Born 2005, 2010b; Prior 2008, 2011, 2013; Rimmer 2010, 2012; Savage 2006). The discussion in this book converges with these different relational perspectives at points and departs from and disagrees with them at others (see also Bottero and Crossley 2011; Crossley 2011, 2013a). However, my conception of relationality is different and has been developed – partly in relation to music, but also in more general theoretical discussions – across a series of books and papers (Crossley 2011, 2013a, 2015a, 2015c, 2016). This intellectual trajectory, which the present book continues, elaborating further the distinctive relational approach to music sociology sketched therein, requires brief elaboration. Several years ago I wrote a book about the origins of punk and post-punk in the UK (Crossley 2015a). In this book, taking Becker (1974, 1982) as my point of departure, I developed a concept of ‘music worlds’ to capture, amongst other things, the network of participants involved (i.e. musicians, 1

2    Connecting sounds audience members and the assortment of managers, promoters, engineers etc. whom Becker collectively terms ‘support personnel’) and their various interactions and relations. The idea that early punks formed a network was central to this study and I used the techniques of formal social network analysis (SNA) to analyse this network (on SNA see Borgatti et al. 2013; Scott 2000; Wasserman and Faust 1994).1 The ideas originating in this work were subsequently developed across a number of papers. Working both alone and with others, I further elaborated the ‘music worlds’ concept and used SNA to analyse: Sheffield’s folk-singing world; the UK’s trans-local underground heavy metal world; UK music festivals and the artists who perform at them; and Turkish, university-based music festivals and their artists (Bottero and Crossley 2011; Crossley and Bottero 2014, 2015; Crossley and Emms 2016; Crossley et al. 2015; Crossley and Ozturk 2019; Emms and Crossley 2018; Hield and Crossley 2015). Networks are central to relational sociology; but not only networks. It is my intention in this book, in addition to further elaborating upon the importance of networks, to bring a wider range of relational concepts to bear upon music and also bring a wider range of music’s facets into relational perspective. I will make a start here by briefly sketching the foundational arguments of my relational perspective (see also Crossley 2011, 2013a, 2015c, 2016). My point of departure is a critique of those approaches to sociology which either reduce society to an aggregate of individuals or reify and hypostatise it as an individual in its own right with goals and the means to achieve them (Crossley 2011, 2013a, 2015c). Rational choice theory is an example of the former approach. Functionalism and teleological forms of Marxism exemplify the latter. In contrast to these approaches I propose that the building blocks of society are: (1) social interaction; (2) the more enduring social relations which form within interaction and subsequently shape it; and (3) networks of interaction and relations, which both shape and are shaped by them. And I propose that these building blocks are irreducible – sui generis as Durkheim (1979) would say. ‘Society’, on whatever scale we may wish to focus (e.g. local, national or global), is a network on this account; a huge and immensely complex network of interactions and relations operating on different scales and in different ways. Actors and their agency are important in relational sociology, not only in their human but also their corporate forms; that is, in the form of organisations – such as economic firms, governments, trade unions and pressure groups – which own and control resources and make and implement decisions in ways which are irreducible to the individual human actors who staff them (see Hindess 1988). Actors are not discrete atoms, however, and they do not pre-exist social life. They are formed in and by social interaction.

Introduction    3 This is obvious in relation to corporate actors, whose decisions and actions, whilst irreducible to those of the human actors who compose them, are nevertheless dependent upon them. Human actors too are the product of interaction, however. Infants interact with their adult carers from the moment of conception and must do so given their biological dependency. However, their capacity for interaction and agency is initially very limited and only develops by way of nurturing and learning within interaction. The infant becomes a social actor by engaging with others and thereby acquiring: a sense of self and identity; practical skills and embodied know-how; moral sensibilities; the capacity for rational deliberation; and both language and the capacity for reflective thought that it engenders. Biological organisms become social actors through social interaction, and interaction is therefore irreducible to ‘the actor’. Indeed, the human organism itself, as a product of evolution, was shaped by the demands of social interaction and relations. Collective living considerably enhanced the survival and reproduction chances of our primate ancestors, generating a selection pressure for traits conducive to it. Certain of our hardwired biological attributes were selected for in the evolutionary process because they better equipped us for social interaction and the formation of enduring social relations (Wilson 2012). In addition, actors never exist apart from networks of interaction and relations (‘the individual’ is an abstraction) and their thoughts, perceptions, interpretations, decisions and actions are shaped by these interactions and relations. Social interaction forms an irreducible system: A responds to B, who responds to A in a circular dynamic which can only be understood as a whole. As Merleau-Ponty argues in relation to conversation, interaction gives rise to sui generis dynamics. It is not decomposable into the individual contributions of its participants: my thought and his are woven into a single fabric … called forth by the state of the discussion … inserted into a shared operation of which neither of us is the creator … the objection which my interlocutor raises … draws from me thoughts which I had no idea I possessed …. making me think … It is only retrospectively … that I am able to reintegrate it and make of it an episode in my private history. (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 354)

These arguments call for a situated conception of the actor; situated, that is, within networks, social relations and interactions which both shape the actor and draw her into action. However, they do not dispense with actors as functionalist and structuralist arguments do. Actors are never entirely independent and autonomous from a relational perspective but, qua interdependent agents, they remain a driving force of society. Agency and its creative, inventive potential are central (on this point I agree strongly with Born (2005, 2010b)).

4    Connecting sounds A situated conception of agency has the advantage, moreover, of facilitating, indeed demanding, a focus upon social structure. This is not the place to discuss structure in detail. Briefly, however, it has three interpenetrating aspects as I conceptualise it (see also Crossley 2011). First, social structure is network structure. Social actors, human and corporate, are connected. That is what makes them ‘social’. And their connections concatenate to form structures whose properties generate opportunities and constraints for them, at different levels, simultaneously steering the social processes which arise within them. Second, participants in social interaction orient to conventions, forged within earlier interactions, which structure both them and the wider relations and networks to which they belong. ‘Conventions’, as I conceive of them, do much of the structuring work that Bourdieu (1992) assigns to ‘habitus’ and our orientation to them is often habitual. Used in conjunction with ‘habit’, however, ‘convention’ better captures this structuring work. For example, it allows for those cases, such as that of the neophyte who has yet to form a habit, where interaction is structured through self-conscious observance (of convention). More importantly, it better captures the relational nature of social structure. Habits (or habitus), even when collective, are localised in individuals. Conventions, by contrast, following Lewis’s (1969) definition of them as solutions to ‘coordination problems’, involve intersubjective agreement.2 They form between actors. Where habits steer individual behaviours, conventions structure interaction and relations. They allow actors to coordinate their actions and emerge from efforts to achieve such coordination. Finally, social life is structured by the distribution of a variety of resources, including statuses (such as gender and race), across the network of actors comprising a society. Different resources can be evenly or unevenly distributed, for example, in each case lending society a shape or structure. These structures, which combine in the context of the interaction they presuppose, are always evolving. A conception of social life rooted in social interaction is necessarily dynamic and processual. Interaction unfolds through time and so too, therefore, do the structures shaped by and shaping it. Network structures, for example, evolve as a result of interaction. New relations are forged and existing relations might either change or break. Even those which remain the same only do so by virtue of interactions which reproduce them. Structure-in-process is still structure, however, and it is fundamental to relational sociology. This brief outline of relational sociology bears directly upon the arguments in this book. As already indicated, I will argue that music is a form of social interaction; one of the many which collectively constitute our societies. Indeed, I will be suggesting that musical interaction is multivalent; that is to say, in doing music we often, simultaneously and by the very same actions, do much else besides. For example, musical interactions

Introduction    5 are also often economic interactions, political interactions, bonding rituals etc. In addition, participants in musical interaction are multiply embedded. In taking up the role of musician or audience member they do not thereby cease to be, for example, a mother, tax payer, citizen and neighbour, and their performance of their musical roles will both influence and be influenced by these other roles. As a consequence of multivalence and embedding, musical interactions are always inextricably interwoven with other interactions and dynamics comprising society’s network, affecting and being affected by them. In addition, I will be arguing: (1) that we become musical actors by way of participation in musical interaction, acquiring therein the embodied know-how necessary to play whatever roles (e.g. performer, listener and/ or support) we take up (see also Crossley 2015b); (2) that musical interaction typically involves a network of participants, who (3) orient to conventions; (4) and that music or ‘musicking’ – to borrow Small’s (1998) term – involves a mobilisation of various resources which are owned and controlled by specific actors within that network. Musicking both has, and forms part of, a wider social structure. In an ideal world I would have explored these ideas by reference to a wide variety of musical forms drawn from a diverse range of cultures and historical periods, picking up on the postcolonial stream in contemporary music studies. Such breadth would have come at a cost, however. Musical forms likely to be unfamiliar to a majority of readers require lengthy explanation, thereby eating into word limits (at the expense of analytic content) and rendering potentially concise discussion cumbersome – all without much hope of giving a vivid impression of them. And if the aim is breadth and diversity, then many such examples are necessary. In addition, following my abovementioned claims regarding multivalence and embedding, it would not suffice to offer a description of musical forms in abstraction from the webs of wider interaction in which they are embedded. A discussion of music’s economic aspect, such as I offer in Chapter 3, requires familiarity with the economic forms in which musicking is embedded, for example; and any discussion of music and politics, such as I offer in Chapter 9, necessarily hinges upon the particularities of political interaction in a given society. Taking musical diversity seriously, if done properly, is a huge undertaking and anything short of this risks superficiality and tokenism. For these reasons I have largely restricted my focus to contemporary Western music, with a further bias towards popular music. I have opted for depth over breadth. I can only hope that I will have the opportunity to revisit these ideas in relation to other musics in the future, or indeed that others will do so. The plan for the book is as follows. In Chapter 2, I make the argument that music is a form of social interaction, spelling out what this entails and dealing with a number of

6    Connecting sounds objections. The importance of both performing and listening is emphasised, I consider the technologically mediated nature of much musical interaction and I discuss the importance of resources. In addition, I stress the manner in which musicking is structured by the orientation of its participants to conventions. Finally, I elaborate upon ‘multivalence’ and ‘embeddedness’. In Chapter 3 I continue the discussion of multivalence and resources by exploring music as economic interaction. The capitalist context within which much musicking occurs, globally, is a key focus of the chapter, as is ‘the industry’, and I critically review several well-known perspectives on these matters – including Adorno’s critique of ‘the culture industry’. Chapter 3 ends with a discussion of ‘the mainstream’ and some of the music worlds which lie outside of it. This paves the way for Chapter 4, where the distinction between mainstream and alternative music worlds is further elaborated. My point of departure for conceptualising ‘music worlds’, as noted above, was Becker’s concept of ‘art worlds’. I could have started with a number of other concepts and writers but Becker is the best in my view, and in Chapter 4 I make the case for this, comparing ‘music world’ with the concepts of ‘sub-culture’, as posited by Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS); ‘neo-tribe’, as introduced by Maffesoli; Bourdieu’s concept of ‘fields’; and the more widely used concept of ‘scenes’. A great deal of fascinating and important research has been conducted under the banner of ‘sub-cultures’, ‘fields’, ‘neo-tribes’ and ‘scenes’ and I have no desire to dismiss this work. However, we need some sort of unifying concept under which to bring the various insights they have generated, and it is my argument in Chapter 4 that ‘world’ is the best vehicle for doing this. Chapter 4 ends with a discussion of a network of music festivals, drawn from an empirical project, which allows us to think about and begin to conceptualise relations between the mainstream and other music worlds in what I call the musical universe. This discussion spills over into Chapter 5 where, focusing upon a theme of much of my earlier work on music, I discuss the networked character of music worlds and the ways in which musicking is both enabled and constrained by the network in which its participants are embedded. Networks, as noted above, form an important part of social structure and Chapter 5 aims to unpack their key properties. The networks discussed in Chapter 5 tend to be specialised and to involve individuals with very particular musical interests and a high level of musical commitment. I conclude the chapter, however, with a brief discussion of everyday networks (e.g. with friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, etc.), arguing that these networks play a key role in individuals’ reception of music and the formation of their tastes. This paves the way for a discussion of taste and meaning which stretches over several chapters.

Introduction    7 I commence this discussion in Chapter 6 with a discussion of semiotic meaning, which I elaborate through a discussion of the work of Peirce. Many musicologists and philosophers – most famously, in historical perspective, Hanslick (1986) – have questioned whether (instrumental) music can mean anything at all, at least in the ‘external’ sense of representing a state of affairs outside of itself. Peirce’s semiotics suggest a number of very clear ways in which it can, whilst providing an equally compelling way of making sense of the ‘internal meaning’ hinted at by Hanslick and elaborated more usefully (albeit from a rather different philosophical perspective) by Meyer (1956). This is important because these meanings are integral to the uses to which people put music, the resonance they experience between music and their own identities and thus to taste. Use and identity are discussed in Chapter 7. The value that music has for social actors is, in large part, ‘use value’ and taste, too, relates to use. We like music because and to the extent that we are able to use it in our everyday lives. It is my contention, however, that not all uses figure equally in our tastes. Taste, as Frith (1987, 1998) suggests, implicates our identity. For many of us, specifying our musical tastes is saying something significant about who we are. This is a key theme of Chapter 7. Chapter 8 develops these ideas by returning to the networks within which these uses and our identities are embedded – and more specifically the ‘social space’, in Blau’s (1974, 1977) sense, in which such networks are themselves embedded. ‘Social space’ captures the way in which interpersonal networks are shaped by differences in status and resources and the social divisions and conflicts they are liable to generate. Given the importance of networks to music, this allows us to begin to reflect upon the way in which particular styles of music sometimes become associated with social status (e.g. ‘black music’, ‘youth music’ and the purported association between class and musical taste) and, indeed, the ways in which music might reflect and reproduce, but also help to combat, social divides and conflicts. Finally, picking up on many of the themes of earlier chapters, Chapter 9 explores music’s political aspect. Music is potentially political in many different ways. I begin with a discussion of the relative merits of the avant-garde for some political thinkers, before introducing the idea that music can generate, or at least contribute, to the generation of a political public sphere. From there, I argue both that music can serve as a political resource and that politics can serve as a musical resource. Music and politics are separate domains from this point of view, but they impinge upon and sometimes prove useful to one another. Returning to the idea of music worlds, the final section of the chapter suggests that some constitute ‘alternative spaces’ wherein alternative norms, values and identities are cultivated which have a political value.

8    Connecting sounds It will be apparent from this menu of themes and issues that music as a form (or set of forms) of interaction – situated amongst others and mutually constitutive, with them, of the networked structure which is our social world – is connected to many other social domains which, as I will argue throughout the book, it both affects and is affected by. Music is economic and political. It impacts upon personal identity and also social divides, etc. This is why music is such an important and fascinating topic for sociological investigation. Notes 1  All network analyses, both in the earlier book and this one, were performed using UCInet software (Borgatti et al. 2002). 2  This is not to suggest that we actively and consciously consent to them, or ever have, but rather that they entail mutual (intersubjective) expectations. If a convention exists, then actors (tacitly) expect certain behaviours from one another and expect that the other has certain expectations of them.


Music as social interaction: embedded, embodied and multivalent

In this chapter, I argue that music is social interaction. This argument connects to one of the central claims of relational sociology, discussed in the Chapter 1; namely, that social interaction is the most basic unit of sociological analysis and a building brick from which the more complex structures of the social world are composed. That is one reason for making the argument. By showing that music is social interaction, I frame it appropriately for relational analysis and understanding. However, it is also important to establish that music is social interaction if we are to avoid a common pitfall of music sociology: that is, exploring its context, uses and wider significance whilst leaving ‘the music itself’ to musicologists. There are differences of competence and remit between musicology and music sociology which are difficult to avoid and must be respected, but there is a danger that this division of labour creates an unhelpful dualism between music and its wider context which hampers our understanding of both. Music is not ‘in’ society as an object might be ‘in’ a box. It is of society; a form of social interaction embedded in the wider network of social interactions that comprise society, and it both shapes and is shaped by the dynamics of that network. Indeed, musical interactions are seldom just musical interactions. They are multivalent and musicking actors are multiply-embedded, with the constraints and opportunities this affords. By ‘multivalent’ I mean that the same interaction may take on different meanings and accomplish different ends simultaneously and indissociably. Musical interactions may be simultaneously economic and political interactions, for example, and may involve the doing of many other things besides. A band performing for a paying audience are simultaneously making music with that audience and engaging in an economic transaction with them (providing services for which the audience have paid). If the content of songs is political, provokes a political response and engages political views and identities, moreover, then the interaction is political too: artist and audience are 9

10   Connecting sounds co-creating a political public sphere (see Chapter 9). Furthermore, if the music, for example, speaks to racial identities and draws listeners with a shared racial identity together (at the gig), then it contributes to the ‘doing’ of race and racial division. Many different things are happening at the gig by means of the very same actions. Music influences the wider social world in these ways. The musical economy, for example, contributes to the wider economy (Tschmuck 2017) and the political publics generated by musical interaction can impact upon the polity. The reverse is also true, however; and for the same reason. Music is affected by events in the wider world. An economic depression will reduce the disposable income of potential audiences, for example, reducing ticket sales and thereby both the income of artists and the money they have available for future projects. It will affect the market to which most artists seek to adapt in their musical activity. Likewise, the wax and wane of pressing issues, not to mention forces of censorship within political society, affect both the output of politically engaged artists and their rapport with politically engaged (or not) audiences. By ‘multiply-embedded’ I mean that participants in musicking are involved in many other types of relation besides musical relations, which may influence and compete (for resources) with their musical activity. Artists and audiences alike often have families, perhaps other jobs, they are citizens and also often tax payers, and there is inevitably a two-way interaction between their musical and non-musical lives. Again, this allows music both to shape and be shaped by the wider social world. ‘Social interaction’ is sometimes understood to imply immediacy and co-presence, and musical interactions do sometimes conform to this description. This is a very limiting definition, however, and in many cases I mean something broader and more encompassing when I say that music is social interaction. Interactions may be mediated by recordings or written notation, for example (on mediation see Born 2005, 2010c; Prior 2018); the effect and influence of one person upon another may not surface until sometime after contact between them; and of course musicians often communicate, in the context of a gig or a recording, with a huge number of audience members simultaneously. In all cases, however, music is a human activity whose participants orient and respond to other participants, and it seems to me that deeming music a form of social interaction, or sometimes a set of multiple forms of social interaction, is the best way of capturing this. I begin the chapter with a discussion of Blacking’s (1973) classic definition of music as ‘humanly organised sound’. This is a useful definition, particularly if ‘organised’ is understood to include not only such musical structures as melody, harmony and rhythm but also the various ways in which sound is oriented to – and framed by – those party to it: namely, composers, performers, ‘support personnel’ (see below) and listeners. It is an incomplete definition, however, and I seek to embellish it in subsequent

Music as social interaction   11 sections by moving from ‘organisation’ to the more encompassing notion of music as social interaction. To this end, I engage variously with Small’s (1998) concept of ‘musicking’, Becker’s (1974, 1982) understanding of art as collective action, and the respective philosophies of Mead (1967), Merleau-Ponty (1962, 1965) and Dewey (1988, 2005). The gist of my argument, at this preliminary point, is that music necessarily and minimally involves interaction between two roles (which in the limit case may be played by the same person): performer and listener. The performer is responsible for providing the listener with auditory stimulation but this, in itself, is not music because music, following Blacking, is sound and sound – in contrast to the physical vibrations which become sound upon contact with our ears – is a sensuous experience which can exist only for a listener. The actions of the performer only become music when heard by the listener (even if they are one and the same person). Moreover, I argue that hearing is not passive reception but rather active and organising. What the listener hears is shaped and constrained by the actions of the performer and, insofar as both orient to the same conventions, the performer can to some extent anticipate and manipulate what the listener hears; however, the active engagement of a listener is a pre-condition of music all the same. Later in the chapter I introduce many other roles which are often involved in this interaction, including composers and the many different ‘support personnel’ – to borrow Becker’s (1982) expression – who work with the performer and/or mediate between performers and listeners. In this first instance, however, my contention that music is social interaction centres upon performer and listener roles. Musical interaction is irreducibly embodied and I aim to emphasise embodiment in my account. However, this is not at the expense of a consideration of music’s mindful aspect. Emphasis upon ‘the body’ is sometimes offered as a means of challenging mind/body dualism in sociology. However, this often reinforces dualism by foregrounding our physical being at the expense of our mental life. Human actors are mindfully embodied and musical interactions engage both aspects simultaneously. Because music is social interaction, its participants necessarily orient to conventions and mobilise resources – and this constrains them, shaping music in different ways. I discuss this in the final sections of the chapter. It is important to stress at the outset, however, that conventions and resources are integral aspects of musicking and should not be regarded as ‘external’ factors which influence it from without. Without conventions and resources there would be no music, and whatever influence and constraint they exert, therefore, should be conceived as integral and necessary to music, not a distortion of it. Of course, specific influences and constraints may be problematic and unnecessary, but the alternative is never music free of convention and resource mobilisation.

12   Connecting sounds Humanly organised sound? What is ‘music’? It can assume different forms, a point to which I return, but is there anything which these different forms share in common that can afford us a general definition? Blacking (1973) expresses a common view when he defines music as ‘humanly organised sound’. This is a reasonable starting point. Music, surely, is sound? But not just any sound. It is patterned and organised, in contrast to mere ‘noise’ (though see below), and more specifically organised and oriented to as music. However, even if we bracket out claims regarding the ‘music’ of non-human animals (see Higgins 2012)1 and temporarily sidestep Lomax’s (1959) contention that reducing music to sound – neglecting other aspects of performance and its contexts – reflects a bias of the Western classical tradition, there are two objections that we must address if we are to accept and build upon this. First, there are examples of humanly organised sound that we would not ordinarily regard as music; speech, for example. Speech is humanly organised sound but, notwithstanding its occasional use in music, it is not music. We might therefore be tempted to argue that Blacking’s definition is too inclusive. It encompasses non-musical sounds. Second, and conversely, there are cases of what some people would call music which, on first blush, don’t involve humanly organised sound: John Cage’s ‘4’33’, for example, whose score instructs musicians to lay down their instruments and sit silently for four minutes and thirty-three seconds, or Crass’ ‘The Sound of Free Speech’. When workers refused to press their EP, ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’, on account of its blasphemous opening track, UK punk group, Crass (for the first pressing of the EP),2 dropped the track and replaced it with two minutes of silence, which they titled ‘The Sound of Free Speech’. In Cage’s case, audiences are supposed to listen to ambient noises in the auditorium, so sound is involved but it isn’t necessarily human sound. In Crass’ case, though ambient noise is inevitable, it is precisely silence that the audience are supposed to hear. If these are examples of music then we might be tempted to argue that Blacking’s definition is too exclusive; that there are examples of music which it fails to encompass. One might respond normatively to these criticisms, insisting that music is humanly organised sound and that the counter-examples cited are not music. But on what grounds? And how would this help in relation to speech? We do not need a normative response, however, because the exceptions are more apparent than real. ‘4’33’, ‘The Sound of Free Speech’ and other such examples involve both an identified artist (e.g. John Cage or Crass) and an assumed audience who are expected, as the title of ‘The Sound of Free Speech’ implies, to listen. Even ‘silent’ pieces are sonically focused. In addition, both pieces are ‘framed’, to borrow Goffman’s (1974) concept, as pieces of music.

Music as social interaction   13 They are distinguished from other instances of silence by the fact that they are marked out for the listener, by performers and support personnel, as a piece of music to which they are invited to listen. ‘4’33’ will typically be ‘played’ in an auditorium, for example, with a band, conductor, printed programme, etc. Similarly, ‘The Sound of Free Speech’ appears on a vinyl record. It has a title, listed on the sleeve next to the other songs on the EP. These framings communicate to the audience that what they frame is music and should be engaged with as such. They organise auditory experience. Framed thus, moreover, these pieces work, insofar as they do, because audiences do not hear nothing but rather the absence of something. The silence makes a statement because it takes the place of sound, like a rest in a more conventional piece. Sound is organised in these cases. Both pieces organise sound by suspending it where it is expected. The silence is a sonic sign which conveys meaning to the audience (signs are discussed further in Chapter 6). The problem that these and other similar examples might pose to Blacking’s definition falls away if we include framing amongst the various ways in which sound is humanly organised in music. The organisation of sound, which makes it music, refers not only and not necessarily to melodic, rhythmic and harmonic structure, but also to the ways in which sounds are presented and oriented to – and specifically presented and oriented to as music. This argument can be applied to the first objection too, regarding speech and other examples of humanly organised sound that we do not want to call ‘music’. They are not music because they are not framed, and therefore not organised or oriented to, as music. Not all organised sound is music, but music is a specific organisation and framing of sound. This also applies to ‘noise’. I suggested above that organisation is what distinguishes music from noise. This claim could be challenged by reference to underground and avant-garde forms of music centred precisely upon ‘noise’ (Hegarty 2007; Graham 2016). However, the artistic appropriation and presentation of ‘noise’ necessarily organises it, making it ‘music’ and no longer merely ‘noise’. Framing alerts us to the physical arrangements, mediating technologies, symbols and practices which give meaning to music, not least the meaning ‘music’. In this sense it resonates with Lomax’s (1959) abovementioned critique of the overly narrow definition of music in Western musicology. Western musicology, informed by the culture of the Western art music tradition, defines music in terms of abstract properties of sound (e.g. melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre) divorced from the conditions in which they are made and appreciated, Lomax argues. This makes no sense in relation to folk musics, however, where the uses to which sound is being put and the way in which it is being performed and received are integral

14   Connecting sounds to its definition and understanding as music. To understand certain types of music, Lomax argues, we have to observe the when, where and how of their performance and reception. The concept of framing allows us to see that this is true of all music; that sounds (or the suspension of sound) become music only within a context where they are oriented to as such. 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 conventions of the folk world are very different to those of the classical world, which is different again to jazz and so on. My point is that these conventions, even when they cover such matters as seating arrangements and audience behaviour, are not incidental to the music but rather frame the way in which it is experienced and thus its very manner of existence. ‘Serious music’ – to use the label which Adorno (1976) applies to the Western art music tradition – is ‘serious’, in some part, because that is how its participants orient to it. We can elaborate further on this idea by reference to Danto’s (1964) concept of ‘the Art World’ and Fish’s (1980) discussion of ‘interpretive communities’. Discussing the use of everyday objects in art, specifically Andy Warhol’s ‘Brillo Boxes’,3 Danto argues that what distinguishes them from their mundane counterparts and what makes them ‘art’ is a shared understanding of the way in which they are being used; an understanding based in specific theories of art with which Warhol was associated and which he was orienting to when displaying his boxes. An everyday object takes on an artistic significance when framed by an aesthetic theory. The work is akin to a move in a game, such as chess, taking on meaning and value relative to the conventions and state of play of the game. Many people do not understand the game, of course. They do not belong to the art world, will struggle to perceive a stack of Brillo Boxes as art and won’t ‘get’ the meaning of the gesture. The boxes do not function as art for them. Insiders who know and follow the game ‘get it’, however, and artistic institutions typically enjoy the status necessary to make their frames and definitions stick when it counts. Fish (1980) makes a similar argument in his account of ‘interpretive communities’. As a literary theorist, he has suggested that meaning is not inherent in texts but rather dependent upon readers, whose interpretive activities are integral to the meaning which texts take on. Critics have objected that this is an implausibly laissez-faire position in which any text might mean anything if a reader chooses to interpret it in that way.

Music as social interaction   15 However, Fish has responded to this by suggesting that reading and interpretation draw upon assumptions and conventions which are shared within what he calls ‘interpretive communities’, with the effect that readers take similar meanings from the same text, find such meanings obvious and indisputable, and are capable of arguing rationally about meanings when differences do emerge. Meanings may vary between interpretive communities, he argues, but there is a high level of agreement within a community. This argument resonates with Danto’s. An interpretive community, like an art world, is a network whose participants generate a shared framework of meaning by way of their interactions. Though formulated in relation to ‘high art’ – and more specifically the visual arts and literature – these ideas apply to music in its many forms, ‘high’ and ‘low’. A typical Cage audience member will be familiar with the automaticist4 theories which inform his art, for example, and will interpret ‘4’33’ accordingly. Likewise, most Crass fans would have been familiar with the backstory to ‘The Sound of Free Speech’ and would have used this to make sense of it. At a more general level, moreover, as Frith (1998) observes, listening, interpreting and evaluating are typically framed by genre expectations. We approach Crass’ music as punk and our entire experience of it is framed by the pre-judgements and expectations we bring to it as a consequence. In these respects, what I refer to in this book as ‘music worlds’ are akin to Danto’s ‘art worlds’ and Fish’s ‘interpretive communities’ (see Chapter 4). Forms of musicking I have argued that music is humanly organised sound. This is only half of the story, however, and is potentially misleading if we conceptualise ‘sound’ abstractly, as an object, divorcing it from the sensuous human activity in which it is necessarily embedded. Music is not an ‘object’ but rather an activity; a point well-captured in Small’s (1998) suggestion that we treat ‘music’ as a verb (to music), taking the present participle ‘musicking’. Such activity may become objectified in, for example, a score or recording but the object is not music and only takes on music qualities when played or heard; that is, through activity. More precisely, music is a form of social interaction. At a minimum, this is interaction between two roles: performer and listener. In some cases both might be played by the same actors and in the limit case this might involve a solitary actor playing for themselves. However, as I argue further below, even the reflexive self-interactions involved in solitary musicking involve others in an indirect manner and generally depend for their possibility upon prior interactions and relations on the behalf of the musicking actor.

16   Connecting sounds Musicking takes different forms. In addition to differences in style or genre, for example, a number of authors draw a distinction between what Turino (2008) calls ‘participatory’ and ‘presentational’ forms. Presentational forms involve a clear distinction between performer and listener roles, such as we find at a rock concert. In participatory forms, by contrast, everybody both performs and listens and appreciates. A church congregation singing hymns, a football crowd singing to cheer on their team and a family singing ‘Happy Birthday’ at a party are all be examples of this, as is collective singing at a folk singing club (Hield 2010; Hield and Crossley 2015). Authors like Turino, who distinguish participatory and presentational forms, often suggest that the former rests upon a more communal and egalitarian value system than the latter (Keil and Feld 1994; Roy 2010; Small 1987). Moreover, in a study of the two waves of the US folk revival, Roy (2010) suggests that the second wave of the revival was more effective in building solidarity and bridging black and white communities because of a shift from a presentational to a participatory form. Participatory musicking has a greater collectivising power, in his view. There may be some truth to these claims but they posit an overly passive conception of audiences, in my view, ignoring both the fact that listening is active and plays an essential role in all music (see below) and the collective participatory rituals (dancing, moshing etc.) common at gigs and clubs, tending, therefore, to underestimate the collectivising potential of presentational forms. As the numerous sub-cultures of the latter half of the twentieth century and innumerable ethnographies of both gigs and raves testify, presentational musicking has considerable collectivising power (Anderson 2009; Gilbert and Pearson 1999; Pini 1997; Shank 1994). And it is capable of building bridges across social divides. It is widely acknowledged, for example, that the Rock Against Racism movement in the UK in the late 1970s was able to build bridges and solidarity between black and white youth precisely by drawing them together, as audience members, at gigs at which both black and white artists performed (Denselow 1989; Street 2012). Having said this, there is a difference between instances of musicking in which artists and audiences (and usually an array of support personnel too) are distinguished and those in which they are not. For this reason, the presentational/participative distinction can sometimes be useful. Turino (2008) suggests further distinctions between musicking centred upon live performance and musicking centred upon recordings, and again between ‘high fidelity’ recording, which purports to capture live performance, and ‘studio audio art’, which utilises the artistic possibilities of the studio, liberated from any connection to live performance. These are valid and important distinctions but again we should note the many hybrid forms which blur their boundaries, such as the many dance events – from

Music as social interaction   17 Jamaican sound systems and Northern Soul all-nighters to raves and bog-standard clubbing – which use recordings for the purposes of ‘live’ events. In the Jamaican case, moreover, we should note that recordings are typically reworked in performance by, for example, DJs who ‘toast’ and sing over them and/or ‘remix’ them live, as early hip hop DJs who alternated between two copies of a record to extend the break famously did (Chang 2007). This practice of using or adding to recordings in order to embellish them in performance is not restricted to DJs, of course. Willis (1990) observes various ways in which young people ‘play’ with and put a personal stamp upon recorded music, and the digitalisation of music and proliferation of remixing apps has allowed such interventions to extend further into the recorded text (Born 2005, 2010a, c; Prior 2018). These examples also support Prior’s (2018) contention that the musicking concept should include reference to technological mediation. Music isn’t only something we do, for Prior; it is an activity which utilises and depends upon technology. Whether that is true in every case depends upon whether we believe that the ‘body techniques’ which an actor employs when, for example, singing in the shower warrant the description ‘technical mediation’, but it is straightforwardly true in most cases (on ‘body techniques’ see below and Crossley 2015b). Musicking is human activity enhanced by, for example, guitars, saxophones, synthesisers and computers and, as I elaborate below when discussing resources more generally, new technologies often create new musical possibilities. We could construct a typology capturing the many axes of variation of forms of musicking. It will suffice presently, however, to acknowledge this variation and confess that it makes my task in this book difficult. Musicking is not one form of human interaction but many and observations that are true of certain forms may not be true of others, with few being true of all. That said, all musicking necessarily involves both performer and listener roles, even if they aren’t always distinguished. In what follows I briefly elaborate upon these roles. The performer role Notwithstanding silent and certain other avant-garde pieces (where the performer role primarily comprises framing activity), the performer role generally entails skilled and embodied activity, often but not always involving manipulation of an instrument (e.g. a trumpet or computer), whose effect is experienced by incumbents of the listener role (including performers themselves) as sound and, where successful, as organised sound. The performer mobilises ‘body techniques’ (see below) which they have acquired through hours of practice and often instruction, and which

18   Connecting sounds allow them to manipulate their instrument without having to think reflectively or consciously about doing so (Crossley 2015b). They move their hands, feet, mouth, internal organs, etc. in a controlled manner, generating notes, chords, rhythm and a particular feel or effect. Performers do not always know, in a reflective way, how they do what they do, but their action is a far cry from mechanical repetition. They mobilise tacit and embodied forms of knowledge, understanding and meaning of the kind described by Merleau-Ponty (1962). The skilled sight reader, for example, can fluently play pieces that are entirely new to them, whilst the skilled improviser does just that; they improvise, playing with a tune’s structure to form new patterns. Each, in different ways, displays knowledge and understanding, engaging with both their instrument and their activity in a meaning-laden fashion. Sudnow’s (2001) auto-ethnographic account of learning to improvise in a jazz style on the piano is illustrative of this. He describes three stages in his learning. In the first, he employs rules of thumb suggested by his teacher – such as finding different pathways up and down diminished scales corresponding to the chord progression of the song he is improvising to. This gets him started but doesn’t sound ‘jazzy’ to his ear, often leaves him with nowhere to go midway through a run and fails him completely when he tries ‘sitting in’ with more accomplished performers at a gig. In addition, he becomes aware that there are many rules of thumb he could follow and that, in some respects, almost any ‘next note’ could work. Next he tries ‘going for the sounds’: imagining a melody, attempting to play it – with hands which, unlike his reflective consciousness, know where to go on the keyboard to reproduce the imagined melody – and then transposing that melody, perhaps with some alteration, for each chord in the progression of the song. This allows him to improve and orienting to sound yields something both more musical and more jazz-like. However, he often struggles to keep up with the instructions he gives himself, losing time and finding himself stranded. Furthermore, his fingers often trip over one another as he moves and transposes melodic figures between different chords. Finally, he learns to ‘go for the jazz’. The skills he has learned at the earlier stages are to some extent incorporated into this stage, but now he attends more to timing and his ‘hands’ take the lead. Throughout the book he draws a parallel between playing piano and speaking (see also Sudnow 1979). When ‘going for the sounds’, he explains, it is as if he is learning a foreign language; thinking what to say in his native language then translating it. When ‘going for the jazz’, by contrast, he is actually thinking in jazz and importantly thinking with his fingers. Just as we mobilise language in order to think, only enjoying access to our thoughts by way of their linguistic articulation, Sudnow mobilises the jazz competence ‘at his fingertips’, forming musical ideas which he first becomes aware of as he hears himself play. His ‘melodying’, as he

Music as social interaction   19 calls it, is not first imagined and then enacted, but rather imagined in enactment. In addition, whilst he initially aimed to produce a single continuous melodic flow when improvising, ‘going for the jazz’ entails taking a few steps to decide if they provide a fruitful path and coming back to try another option if they do not, or perhaps retracing his steps with a different fingering which will allow him to go on to something interesting. Like a fluent speaker in conversation he reflexively monitors what he is ‘saying’, backtracking and changing course if he finds himself heading in a problematic direction. Moreover, the position of his hand and what it affords plays a much bigger role and he has a different temporal orientation, allowing himself to pause and holding his place with well-worn routines whilst ‘his hands’ find a route to pursue. To make a different analogy, he is like a footballer with a ‘man on’, moving this way and that until he finds a suitable opportunity to progress. Sudnow often writes of what ‘his hands’ do, but it is clear that ‘melodying’ involves the agency of his whole body, working as a whole. His arms get his hands to where they need to be; his head and trunk enact the feel and timing of the music; his feet, if not engaging the piano’s pedals, tap out the beat; his ear guides his hands, which feed his ears, etc. Indeed, he suggests that the single most important factor enabling him to finally ‘go for the jazz’ was listening to, observing and then seeking to project himself into the role of jazz pianist, Jimmy Rowles; a process which involved emulating the complete performance style of his model. It was by acting out the role of Jimmy Rowles, complete with gross motor gestures, posture and behavioural quirks, that he was finally able to achieve ‘the jazz’. Earlier, I invoked Mauss’s (1979) concept of body techniques to capture the embodied skill involved in musicking (see also Crossley 2015b). Mauss observes differences in ‘uses’ of the body across societies and history, arguing that such uses – from walking and swimming, via sleeping and sexual positions, to ways of eating – mobilise collectively forged techniques which belong to the ‘practical reason’ of the social group which has devised them; an extension perhaps of Durkheim’s (1964) conscience collective. This concept oversimplifies, but it captures the embodied understanding, meaning and knowledge involved in performance whilst also emphasising the collective invention and social distribution which underpins it. Body techniques are forged and reproduced within clusters of interacting individuals, by way of their interactions, and vary between clusters: ‘These habits … vary between societies, educations, proprieties and fashions, prestiges’ (Mauss 1979: 101). In some cases this may mean that social groups have equivalent but different techniques. People in all societies sing, for example, but different societies have different ways of singing. In other cases, it entails techniques existing in one society which have no equivalent in another. For example, different societies often have

20   Connecting sounds different musical instruments which demand specific skills with no obvious parallels in other societies. Indeed, almost nothing in music is constant across all societies, such that the body techniques involved – whilst often strictly adhered to and policed in their context – are highly variable across contexts. And not only across societies, but also across time and different social groups within the same society. For Mauss, such variation is indicative of social facticity in Durkheim’s (1979) sense. Body techniques have a biological aspect. Singing presupposes a larynx, for example. Likewise they have a psychological aspect. Anxiety might render a performance clumsy. However, variation in techniques between societies and social groups points to a clear social dimension. Body techniques are social facts and so too, therefore, is the activity (musicking) which draws upon them – or rather, to stress the key theme of this chapter, the inter-activity. The performer and her other With whom do performers interact? That depends; but in some cases they interact with other performers and this makes a difference. At the very least, for example, performers must coordinate their contributions, locking onto a common groove; something that Sudnow could not do when first ‘sitting in’ with more experienced jazz performers. Schutz’s (1976a, b) concept of ‘mutual tuning in’ is a useful point of reference here. All human action has a temporal structure, including pace and rhythm, Schutz observes, and successful interaction requires that participants lock onto a common groove, moving in a coordinated manner. Indeed, such ‘fusing of lived time horizons’ is a fundamental form of intersubjectivity which underpins all human sociability. This begins with the very earliest infant–carer interactions, which consist almost entirely of temporal interlocking (e.g. rhythmic bouncing), and music is sociologically interesting, for Schutz, because tuning in is so central to it. In addition, as both Monson (1996) and Berliner (1994) suggest, musicians ‘converse’. They converse with the tradition to which they belong, borrowing and playing with its various elements and acting out the roles of its various stars, as Sudnow did with Rowles. And they converse directly with one another in performance, responding and reacting to one another’s playing as interlocutors do in a spoken conversation. Monson and Berliner are referring to jazz improvisation, but their observations have a wider application – not only to other forms of improvisation, but also to standard ensemble performances whose ‘togetherness’ demands constant mutual adjustment between participants. In addition, where the performer has an audience, she interacts with them too. She plays to and for them, a practice which, as both Sudnow (2001) and Rusbridger (2014) observe, is different to playing alone. Even

Music as social interaction   21 when they only imagine themselves playing for an audience, both observe, this generates a sense of urgency and facilitates a shift in embodied attitude which improves their playing – for some, of course, it generates an anxiety which inhibits playing. They are more inclined to project themselves into the music, enacting its meaning and mood, holding nothing back and thereby generally getting through difficult passages more easily. When the audience are real, moreover, their reactions create a feedback loop which influences the performer. An enthusiastic audience buoy the performer, encouraging them to work to their capacity, whilst an unenthusiastic audience dampen the performers’ spirits; an emotional effect which will likely register in their performance. Drawing upon an idea from Mead (1967) to which I return, Becker (1982) suggests that performers routinely ‘take the role’ of the audience, ‘editing’ their activity accordingly. They listen to and hear their music as they imagine that members of their audience do, projecting themselves into the role of the audience member and using this perspective as a basis upon which to correct or improve their performance. This might be a matter of editing written lyrics, listening to a demo, deciding upon the order of tracks on an LP or sharpening up a live performance in situ. In all cases, the performer orients to an imagined audience perspective, adjusting what they do accordingly. I will return to such reflexive interactions. First, however, I want to briefly mention interactions with what Becker (1982) calls ‘support personnel’. This broad category includes all people who mediate between performer and audience, making performances and/or recordings (and their consumption) possible, including managers, promoters, producers and engineers. Support personnel are easily overlooked in the musicking process, but their contribution shapes the musical experience – often impacting directly and dramatically upon what the audience hear – and is in many cases essential if musicking is to happen. Performers do not always interact directly with support personnel. They may have other support personnel, such as managers, to do that for them and in some cases we find long chains of support personnel working with one another in relay. In both recording and live performance, however, what the audience hear is co-produced by performers and support personnel and has involved a great deal of interaction between them. Often, this interaction and the support personnel themselves are invisible to audiences, but both are essential – at least in the professional case – if performers are to do what they do in the way that they do it. Private performance It might be objected that we sometimes play alone, for our own pleasure. In what sense is this interaction? I have three points of response. First, as I noted at the outset of this chapter, if ‘social interaction’ is understood

22   Connecting sounds to imply immediacy and co-presence, then not all musicking is social interaction. If, however, we allow for mediation and extension through time, then there is a stronger case to suggest that all music is social interaction because the actions of the solitary performer are dependent upon, and interlocked with, those of many others. Solitary performers often play pieces written by others, for example. They play instruments and use equipment designed, built and sold by others. And they mobilise an embodied competence (body techniques) imparted to them by others. Their capacity to make music presupposes, and is dependent, upon the input of others, albeit perhaps not right there and then. Second, all performers interact with themselves, listening to and reflexively monitoring their performance and adjusting it on this basis. Bum notes are corrected, tones tightened and difficult passages anticipated and prepared for. Playing alone is an ‘internal conversation’, in Mead’s (1967) sense. Third, as Mead observes, internal conversations draw upon interaction and relations with others. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that they are indirect or deferred interactions with others. This point requires elaboration. Reflective thought is ‘internal conversation’ for Mead (1967). To think reflectively is to form ideas in language, respond to those ideas, reply to that response and so on in an unfolding dialogue. This process is not only like conversations that we have with others. It is modelled on, shaped and enabled by them. We learn to converse with ourselves by first conversing with others, generating an internal dialogue by simulating on the basis of this prior experience. Moreover, crucially, the various perspectives which we bring to bear within our internal conversations derive from an internalisation of those expressed by others in our interaction with them. As infants we imitate others in an effort to master the social situations we find ourselves in, graduating to ever more sophisticated forms of role play over time, in this way learning of and internalising the perspectives of both specific others in our lives (e.g. a particular friend) and what Mead calls ‘the generalised other’; that is, perspectives shared in common within one or more of the social circles to which we belong. Overt role play is uncommon in adulthood, but the process continues. We habitually anticipate the likely responses of others to our plans, thoughts and actions, taking account of these responses in how we proceed. Self-reflection and reflexivity are achieved by ‘taking the role of the other’, viewing ourselves from their perspective and conversing with ourselves on this basis. Internal conversations are indirect forms of interaction, in my view. We do not directly interact with others but they influence us by means of an internalised representation formed in previous encounters. Past interactions exert a delayed effect. We feel their influence. And we may also, on this same basis, anticipate future interaction and its likely course.

Music as social interaction   23 There is a social control aspect to this. Actors check their thoughts, plans and actions against the likely responses of others and may be persuaded to change direction if they anticipate a negative response. Capitulation is not inevitable, however, and internalised others are also a resource that actors can use to think more critically about their plans, as well as a potential source of support and inspiration. A child might allay their fears, for example, by adopting the role of a comforting parent in relation to themselves and talking those fears through. Indeed, children can sometimes be heard doing just this. Private musical performance has this same conversational form, in my view. We see this in Alan Rusbridger’s (2014) account of his attempt, over one year, to master Chopin’s ‘Ballade No.1’ on the piano. Rusbridger ‘knows’ what such and such person would say about his recent (solitary) attempt at the ‘Ballade’; solves problems by advising himself as others have advised him in the past; and borrows their voices and words to console and support himself when he is struggling, knowing that he has their support and that they are willing him on. Indeed, it is not clear how he would proceed in many situations if not through imagined dialogues with his significant others. Sometimes it is a generalised other he invokes. He is an accomplished pianist who moves in cultured circles. Consequently, he knows how the ‘Ballade’ (and Chopin and classical piano more generally) should sound and he brings that knowledge to bear in his internal conversations. Other times, he hears and reflects upon his playing from the perspective of specific others; generally, teachers, professional pianists and other accomplished musicians whom he has practised with and approached for advice and opinions. He wonders what ‘Lucy’ would make of his morning’s practice or of a problem he has encountered; whether ‘Michael’ would be impressed with a particularly fluent rendition. And sometimes he brings the viewpoints of Lucy, Michael and others into dialogue within his internal conversations, thrashing out their differences for them in an effort to arrive at his own view. These others are not always directly in the practice room with him, but their influence, perspective and impact are, and his private practice, whilst it involves no direct engagement with others, is therefore a form of indirect interaction. The listener role In addition to the feedback they provide and their economic role qua consumers whose purchasing funds performers and composers (see Chapter 3), listeners are necessary to music because there is no sound, and therefore no music, in the absence of someone who hears it. Sound is an intentional phenomenon, in the phenomenological sense. It only exists within the

24   Connecting sounds perceptual fields of sentient beings. Vibrations of air exist independently of listeners, but they only become sounds, and therefore music, upon contact with our ears. The listening body converts vibration into sensuous experience: that is, sound and music. Auditory experience is embodied. Perceptual consciousness, as MerleauPonty (1962) observes, is a structure of felt sensations. Importantly, however, as the concept of intentionality suggests, such sensations are not the focus of auditory consciousness but rather a background against which a meaningful figure (e.g. a trumpet playing the opening bars of ‘Basin Street Blues’) stands out. The listener does not hear sensations. They have sensations and by way of these sensations hear the trumpet playing the melody. Extreme situations such as a very high volume or pitch might reverse this foreground/background structure, drawing sensation, in the form of pain, into the foreground at the cost of the meaningful object’s disappearance (Leder 1990). Ordinarily, however, embodied perceptual sensations form a background structure which allows something else (e.g. a trumpet playing ‘Basin Street’) to come into focus. What is perceived, in the normal case, is constrained by what is ‘there’. I hear a trumpet playing ‘Basin Street’ because there is a trumpeter in the room or on the record and that is what they are playing. However, perception is not passive (Dewey 2005; Husserl 1973; Levitin 2006; Merleau-Ponty 1962, 1965). It is an active, embodied interrogation which seeks to render the world meaningful. Perceptual objects are not given but rather emerge in an interaction between body and world. What Merleau-Ponty says of the gaze is no less true of auditory perception: The gaze gets more or less from things according to the way in which it questions them, ranges over or dwells on them. To learn to see colours is to acquire a certain style of seeing, a new use of one’s own body; it is to enrich and recast the body image. Whether a system of motor or perceptual powers, our body is not an object for an ‘I think’, it is a group of lived through meanings which moves towards its equilibrium. (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 153)

Listeners focus in and out, mobilising acquired skills and habits in search of (preferably familiar) patterns or ‘equilibrium’, as Merleau-Ponty puts it. This activity is largely pre-reflective. We are not aware of doing it. However, it is purposive; directed towards the goal of rendering the world intelligible and allowing us to act and survive within it. Moreover, it is shaped by habits – indeed Merleau-Ponty’s reference to ‘use’ of the body resonates with Mauss’s definition of body techniques as ‘uses’ of the body – which reflect our formative experiences within specific social networks. And to reiterate my earlier argument, it is informed by prior framing and by the pre-understandings, assumptions, expectations, etc. which the listener brings to it.

Music as social interaction   25 Merleau-Ponty mentions colour discrimination above, but we could substitute tonal discrimination (e.g. hearing the difference between C# and F). Different societies divide tones differently, with members of Western societies often being unable to distinguish the finer grained tonal intervals used in some non-Western musical systems (Ball 2011; Levitin 2006). This points to the role of the trained ear in discriminating tones. Discrimination is a learned and refinable skill. More to the point, however, the very existence of intervals reflects human intervention. Variation in sound wavelengths is continuous, but we impose (culturally variable) categorical breaks upon it, and experimental studies suggest that when notes fall between conventional intervals listeners ‘correct’ them, hearing them as they would if they conformed to tonal conventions (Levitin 2006). Tones do not exist independently of listeners. Similarly, hearing a melody involves organisational work on behalf of the listener (Husserl 1964; Scruton 1997). The notes of a melody constitute a succession of discrete events, but we do not hear them in that way. We group them, searching for a pattern and hearing not only notes but also relations and distances between them. This is why we recognise a familiar melody played in a different key: the notes are completely different but it is not the notes we are listening to so much as the distances between them and the pattern they form. Similarly, each note is heard in relation to what both precedes and follows it, such that we hear a melody rise and fall and hear some notes as ‘wrong’. No note is wrong in itself, but some sound as if they are because we do not hear them in isolation but rather group them in patterns which, in this case, they do not seem to fit. We can make a similar argument for rhythm. The raw perceptual datum, at best, comprises successive, discrete beats, but we group these beats within our auditory field, attending also to the space between them and the pattern which, to our ear, they form. We organise the auditory material. I am not suggesting that the listener creates or composes the music or necessarily even hears things other than what the composer/performer intends (though that is always a possibility). Nor am I seeking to diminish the skill and creativity of musicians and composers. However, their activities only finally become sound, and thus music, when heard. And though they hear their own music, rendering other listeners technically unnecessary, the point I am making is that music only exists in the experience of listeners and therefore always involves interaction. The activity-dependence of music can be easily obscured if we focus upon composers and musicians because their input might cease at a certain point – stored and objectified in, for example, scores and recordings, leading us to identify music with an object (e.g. the score or CD). I am suggesting that the object is not music; that music only exists in the auditory field of the listener, in part

26   Connecting sounds as an effect of their listening activity. Objects such as CDs and scores may be necessary for specific instances of music, but they are never sufficient and only enter into musicking by virtue of the uses to which they are put (see also Prior 2018). It would be useful here to borrow Bhaskar’s (1975) distinction between events and empirical experiences. What the listener hears is constrained by what the player plays – an event – but that event can be experienced differently according to the way in which the listener interrogates it. Moreover, music, qua sound, is an empirical phenomenon which exists only in the experience of the listener. Music therefore involves (at least) two roles: the performer, who produces the event, and the listener, who experiences it. Extending this, artists may produce objects, such as scores or recordings, which contribute to music making but only fully become music when involved in events (e.g. musicians playing a score or consumers playing a CD) involving listeners whose interrogation and experience of them realises their sonic element. Perceptual interrogation and particularly its equilibrium moments, where order and patterns emerge, are pleasurable, according to Dewey (2005), giving rise to aesthetic experience. Not all listening is aesthetic, however. Dewey distinguishes between ‘recognition’ and full-blown ‘perception’. Recognition is an initial stage in perception which can inhibit further exploration. I might register that a song is playing, for example, but for various reasons focus elsewhere, allowing it to sink into the background of my auditory field where I scarcely notice it. However, sometimes a song will capture my attention, inducing me to interrogate further. This is perception and the more I engage – ordering auditory input and deriving pleasure from doing so – the more aesthetic my experience. Listening is not reducible to the action of the ears and auditory system in isolation, however; nor is it a singular activity. There are different ways of listening. We listen for different things. We may analyse or not; move (physically) with the music or not; abandon ourselves to the music or not, etc. Furthermore, we may be doing other things as we listen, using music to enhance our pursuit of non-musical ends or simply doing several things in parallel (see Chapter 7 and also Born 2010a, c, 2011). The perceptual analyses of Dewey (2005) and Merleau-Ponty (1962), respectively, afford a useful way into this conception of listening. Both argue that perception is shaped by practical interests, arising from our broader context of activity. We seek out, notice, focus upon and respond to that which is most relevant for whatever we happen to be doing. Perception, as an activity, is shaped by the wider activities in which it is embedded and to which it belongs. Likewise, our other actions are shaped by perception, often in ways which bypass reflective intervention. Merleau-Ponty (1965) famously illustrates this with the example of football. The footballer does

Music as social interaction   27 not perceive the pitch abstractly in terms of objects and geometrical relations, he argues, but rather in terms of ‘affordances’:5 i.e. football-related opportunities, dangers and constraints. They see openings, dangers and obstacles. Insofar as they are immersed in the game, moreover, these ‘affordances’ can trigger them into action before they have had a chance to think reflectively about doing so. Perceptions ‘call for a certain mode of action and … initiate and guide the action as if the player were unaware of it’ (Merleau-Ponty 1965: 168). This is an interesting example because it demonstrates the cultural mediation of these processes, thereby resonating with our focus on music, and it carries an association of ‘play’, suggesting the possibility of aesthetic application. Footballers respond to perceived opportunities as if by instinct, in the moment and without thought, but the affordances they perceive are entirely relative to the arbitrary conventions of football, a humanly invented game, and mobilise culturally specific body techniques; techniques which, whilst imbued with strategic intelligence, only have meaning and value relative to the conventions of the game. The obvious parallels in relation to music are dance, air guitar and closing our eyes and slowing our breathing in response to a ‘chill’ track. Like the footballer, we listen from the perspective provided by our ongoing or anticipated activity and we can be mobilised into ‘a certain mode of action’ by what we hear at a pre-reflective level, responding appropriately without needing to think about doing so. How we respond, moreover – whether we dance or nod approvingly and if we dance then how we dance – is shaped by convention and our acquired body techniques. I return to affordances in Chapter 7. Presently, note that Schutz’s (1976a, b) aforementioned idea of ‘mutual tuning in’ applies also to the listener role. Listening to music in any depth, Schutz observes, entails tuning into the temporal flow of the performer(s). The listener must listen as quickly or slowly as the piece is being played, so to speak, following its melody, rhythm, etc. Dancing provides an obvious example of this. The dancer catches the players’ rhythm, moving with it. What happens in dance happens in all forms of engaged listening for Schutz, however, irrespective of gross motor movements. We often become aware of the demand for tuning in when it is unwelcome. Fast music played first thing in a morning, when we are engaging with the world at a slow pace, can be stressful, for example, because it demands a speed of engagement greater than we are inclined to give. Similarly, slow music seems to drag, frustrating us when we are ‘revved up’. Beyond tempo and rhythm, moreover, Schutz suggests that the ‘tuned in’ listener feels themselves rising and falling with the melody. To listen is to follow the music, projecting oneself into its flow. As Schutz argues, moreover, tuning in effects a social relation between performer and listener, albeit often a highly mediated relation. To listen is to connect with

28   Connecting sounds composers, performers and others by tuning into the temporal flow embodied in their work. Spencer (1916) suggests something similar to this when he observes that listening to music involves muscular sympathy (we would say ‘empathy’) with the singer, further arguing for the social importance of music on the grounds that it thereby cultivates our capacity for empathy. We tense as a singer reaches for a high note, in Spencer’s view, for example, in a manner which emulates the singer’s own physical articulation. This is an appealing idea which extends beyond vocal music. We often sing or mime along to songs, play air guitar (and a variety of other air instruments) and we dance, imitating and interpreting various aspects of the music through movement. Moreover, we enact the emotions of a song through movement and gesture. This is one of the reasons why we find music exhilarating and one of the ways in which it affects us emotionally. Engaged listening often takes the form of role play. We project ourselves into the role of another. In contrast to what Spencer suggests, however, ‘the other’ isn’t always the singer or even an individual musician. It may be the whole song that we ‘imitate’, and even when we do imitate individual musicians this process is imaginative. We do what we imagine that they do to produce the sounds we hear, which may differ from what they actually do. Listeners often lack the body techniques necessary to accurately emulate what performers actually do. Nevertheless, engaging with music often involves an imaginative and embodied empathy. Collective action Up to this point, I have identified two roles in musicking: performer and listener. An obvious omission is the composer role, and as we move from simple recital through to even a small gig or commercial recording the roles – including many which impact directly upon the sound – multiply. The many support roles typically involved in musicking include: engineers, producers, managers, promoters, financial backers (e.g. labels), studio or venue owners and critics. A single musicking event will often involve multiple interactions in a vast network, with an array of different participants each playing a crucial role. It is for this reason that Becker (1974, 1982, 2006b) deems musicking ‘collective action’. Couldn’t a single musician do everything? Perhaps. As Becker notes, however, many tasks, including instrument/equipment design and manufacture, involve specialised skills whose acquisition takes a lot of time, effort and money – not to mention expensive equipment. Such costs are prohibitive and off-putting for most. Moreover, some tasks have to be performed simultaneously and nobody can be in two places at once.

Music as social interaction   29 There are usually very good reasons to cooperate with others in a collective venture, therefore, and often no practical alternatives. Cooperation isn’t always straightforward, however, as different parties to musicking often have different aims and interests. Such differences may be worked out to everybody’s satisfaction. Musicking relations involve imbalances of power, though, as some are more depended upon than dependent, and this may be reflected in the resolution of differences, with one party – often not the artist – getting more of their own way. Such power dynamics and struggles are nicely drawn out in Meintjes’ (2003) research on recording studios in South Africa, with the further layer of inequality in that case furnished by apartheid and its immediate aftermath. Artists, Meintjes observed, are often overruled by the studio personnel upon whom they depend. Beyond the immediacy of particular performances, furthermore, bands and orchestras are bundles of social relations which affect their members, shaping musicking practices. This is clearly demonstrated in many musical ethnographies (e.g. Bennett 1980; Cohen 1991; Finnegan 1989). As Cohen (1991), in particular, shows, bands are not only musical units but also social units which make demands upon and discipline their individual members, sometimes vying with outsiders – such as a romantic partner – for the time and commitment of their members. This influences the music because non-musical relations between performers can affect their musical rapport and because commitment to the band, and to practice in particular, is essential if a band is to achieve a tight sound. Bands that fail socially, not controlling their members, may fail musically as a consequence. Note the multivalence and embedding here. Musicians are not only musicians. They are also husbands, wives, parents, etc. and the demands of their musical life must be balanced against these other commitments. Their non-musical attachments and involvements might be a source of support for their music but might equally be a source of constraints (as I discuss further in relation to gender in Chapter 8). Similarly, audiences interact within themselves. In live rock and pop performances, for example, they dance together, collectively constructing mosh pits and contributing to the enjoyment of others through their joint responses to the performance. And as numerous studies of sub-cultures, scenes and music worlds demonstrate, audiences form networks and generate cultures which shape their musical experience (see Chapters 4 and 5). Audience members discuss music, exchanging observations, interpretations and aesthetic judgements and, in doing so, they influence one another’s experiences both of specific pieces and of music more generally. This happens within specialised music worlds, where audience networks, alongside high-profile critics, play the role of the ‘art world’ or ‘interpretive community’ described by Danto (1964) and Fish (1980).

30   Connecting sounds And it happens outside of such worlds, in everyday networks. As Frith (1998) observes, discussion and debate about music is commonplace in social life, shaping our individual experiences of it. Finally, as Becker (1982) stresses, support personnel often have their own professional networks, whose interactions generate conventions and standards which they are keen to uphold in their interactions with artists – because their reputation depends upon it. Support personnel swap notes on their working experience and use one another as reference points when deciding how to do their work and what to expect in return for doing it. Resources and technology Having made the case that music is collective action involving interaction both within and between incumbents of a variety of roles, I want to turn to two important properties of much of this interaction. In the next section, I will discuss the conventions which structure musical interactions. First, however, I want to discuss the mobilisation and exchange of resources. Musicking involves the exchange, pooling and combination of a variety of resources. Everybody involved contributes time, effort and energy, and different actors contribute different skills, whether musical or supportrelated. Some provide equipment or space (e.g. rehearsal, performance or studio spaces). Some put up money, and so on. This resource dependence shapes and constrains musicking, most obviously by way of the imbalances of power, referred to above, deriving from unequal relations of exchange. The final say on a recording or performance arrangements will be decided by the balance of resource interdependence between those involved. If you depend upon me more than I depend upon you, then I get the final say. This extends to performer–audience relations. Musicking does not directly put food on the table or a roof over one’s head and those who want to devote their time and effort to it must find a way of making it pay. Furthermore, the resource demands of musicking itself (e.g. procuring instruments, rehearsal space etc.) add further costs which must be met in one way or another. These resource requirements can be negotiated in a number of ways, but they generally involve external funders whom performers, composers, etc. must seek to please and whose tastes and preferences inevitably thereby shape musicking. In the capitalist context, though relations are mediated by ‘the industry’ (see Chapter 3), music is funded by audiences who buy recordings, tickets for gigs and related merchandise. Artists can play what they like but if they cannot secure a large enough audience for their work their music will not be economically viable – at least on a professional basis – and there is therefore a

Music as social interaction   31 considerable incentive and pressure to fit one’s music to the perceived tastes and preferences of audiences. For some artists, not least many celebrated composers of the classical era, this pressure can conflict with their artistic ambitions and become a source of considerable tension and frustration (Blanning 2008). Beyond the imbalances of power involved in exchange relations and their shaping influence, some resources, most obviously technologies, play a mediating role in musicking – again shaping it in doing so (Born 2005, 2010c; Hennion 2015; Prior 2018). Today, we can access recordings from across the world and from the past at the touch of a button, as they are stored and diffused through the internet. As recently as thirty years ago, however, listening to music required either a physical recording (a vinyl record, CD or cassette) or the luck to catch either a live performance or radio broadcast. Little more than one hundred years before that, there was no radio and no recording. Songs had to be either written or remembered and to hear them one had to be within earshot of a live performance. Sheet music, in turn, was much less widely available prior to the print revolution of the late fifteenth century, and musical notation itself, notwithstanding a few earlier precursors, only dates back to the beginning of the seventh century. Before that point, the reproduction and survival of repertoire was entirely dependent upon human memory and thus upon the performances which put and kept it there. This points to the impact of technology on the spatio-temporal reach of musical interactions and networks. One hundred years ago, listeners had to be co-present with performers in order to listen to their music. Today, we can access performances from around the world and from before we were born. Technology does not only deliver performances, however. It also shapes them. Reflecting upon the invention of musical notation, for example, Higgins (2011) observes that it facilitated the abstraction of musical ideas (in the form of the score) from their realisation in performance. This, in turn, afforded composers critical distance from their compositions, enhancing their capacity to scrutinise, revise, extend and develop those compositions. They could return to their compositions repeatedly, no longer limited by their individual memory. This, in turn, led to much longer and more complex compositions involving much bigger musical ensembles. In addition, the roles of composer and performer became further differentiated. Composers could tell performers what to do (by way of the score) without having to perform themselves, and performers were given much more precise instructions about what to do, reducing their scope for creative input. Moreover, the written nature of the communication eliminated the need for direct contact between composers and performers, allowing multiple orchestras to work with the same compositions simultaneously and contemporary performers to ‘work with’ long since dead composers.

32   Connecting sounds To give another example, Peterson and Anand (2004) note that the invention of the microphone allowed a new singing style, the quiet crooning of Frank Sinatra and Perry Como, to emerge. That was impossible previously because quiet singers simply could not be heard. Likewise, DeNora (1995) argues that the invention of the piano was integral to the success of Beethoven as it responded much more positively to his dynamic and heavy-handed style than its predecessor, the harpsichord. Musical styles, innovations and talents depend upon technological resources for their recognition and development. Even the venues in which music is performed may be regarded as resources which shape musicking. Talking Heads frontman David Byrne (2012), for example, observes that musicians fit their music to the social and acoustic properties of the spaces in which they play. The harmonically simple nature of medieval music, for example, is explained in some part by the fact that it was played in large cathedrals which create a long reverberation duration; notes linger such that even simple key changes result in an unpleasant sonic ‘pileup’ (Byrne: 16–17). Composers were aware of and oriented to this in Byrne’s view. Similarly, artists performing in venues with a lot of background noise, such as CBGB, the seminal US punk club where Byrne cut his teeth, have to write and play music which can compete with other noises and distractions; music, moreover, which doesn’t hinge upon intricate details which audiences are unlikely to hear or attend to. Convention and inertia In addition to resources, musicking draws upon, and is shaped and constrained by, conventions. It is widely agreed that musicking involves convention. McClary (2001: 3), for example, suggests that music is convention ‘All the way down’; and even those keen to identify invariant aspects of music which might be attributable to a common human nature, such as Higgins (2011, 2012), concede that most aspects of music manifest the historical and cross-cultural variation indicative of convention. From tonal intervals and scales, through instruments and systems of notation, to appropriate audience behaviour at live events and even methods of promotion and ticket sales, musicking is shaped by convention. Convention is sometimes conceptualised as collective habit. I agree that convention is often habitual and that habit, in the non-mechanical sense discussed by Merleau-Ponty (1962, 1965) and Dewey (1988), is crucial to musicking. As I argued in Chapter 1, however, conventions are not habits. The neophyte abides by convention self-consciously before doing so habitually, for example. More importantly, conventions exist between social actors rather than – as in the case of even collective habits

Music as social interaction   33 – within them. They are solutions to ‘coordination problems’ that emerge in interaction and necessarily involve ‘agreement’ between parties, albeit often tacit and sometimes forced (Becker 1982; Lewis 1969). Driving on the left is a convention in the UK, for example, which allows multiple motorists to use the road simultaneously and safely. That it is the left is arbitrary. In France it is the right. The point, however, and what makes this a convention rather than merely a habit (though it is often a habit too), is that motorists in each country agree in what they do and thereby coordinate their interactivity. This is important in music because, as I have argued in this chapter, music is interaction and interaction requires coordination. The conventions of musical notation, for example, facilitate communication and coordination between composers and performers, and between players in an ensemble. Likewise, key conventions enable improvising jazz musicians to coordinate their contributions (Faulkner and Becker 2009). Orienting to a key or chord progression allows the improviser to do their own thing without threatening the harmonic cohesion of the band. As I discuss in Chapter 6, furthermore, convention facilitates communication between artists and audiences, allowing the former to affect the latter. I could go on but the point is clear enough. As interaction, music requires coordination between its participants and therefore necessitates and draws upon conventions. Reference to convention might raise concerns about cultural determinism. Am I suggesting that participants in musicking are ‘cultural dopes’? Not at all. Conventions are human creations which can be modified and abandoned by human actors when they outlive their usefulness. However, there are a number of factors, which Becker (1995) glosses under the rubric of ‘the power of inertia’, which add weight to conventions, making big challenges and departures unusual. At the heart of the power of inertia is a cost–benefit ratio. Conventions save actors a huge amount of time, effort and often money, and at the same time increase the likelihood of successful interaction. Breaking them is ‘expensive’ and may offer little in the way of (at least external) rewards. Suppose a composer elects to abandon conventional tonal intervals, for example. They will then have to devise their own alternative system, which will take a lot of work. Then they will have to find musicians who are prepared to learn and work with this new system, which will be difficult because it will require a lot of time and effort from the musicians, who may feel that this outweighs any gains that involvement might bring. Then there is the audience. They will struggle to make sense of a piece which abandons the conventions they ordinarily rely upon to render music intelligible. In addition, though they may derive intellectual enjoyment from ‘challenging’ work and perhaps relish the social distinction attaching to appreciation of experimental pieces within their social circle, they are unlikely to experience the immediate sensual pleasure which more

34   Connecting sounds conventional pieces typically achieve (see Chapter 6). Audience response may be negative, therefore, and even if an audience can be recruited it is likely to be relatively small, meaning that financial rewards will be too. Breaking with convention is not the easy choice. In addition, conventions tend to interlock such that one cannot change one without changing several, and they are often embodied in technologies, such as musical instruments, necessitating further work for the would-be innovator. Abandoning conventional tonal intervals, for example, requires that the composer invent both new musical instruments capable of capturing those intervals and a system of notation for transcribing their compositions. In addition, they must again find musicians who are prepared to learn both how to play the new instruments and how to read the new system of notation. Some composers are prepared to accept these costs. Becker (1982) cites Harry Partch, who typically worked with university students, getting them to construct their own instruments, which they then learned to play, simultaneously learning a new system of notation which allowed them to read and thus play Partch’s compositions. This was only possible where Partch secured a grant and temporary university post, however; and the willingness of students to work with him was no doubt bolstered by his status and that of the universities at which he worked. Less established composers might struggle to enlist such support. Moreover, impressive though the results sometimes were, it took months to prepare a short programme for a relatively small audience when a programme of more conventional work would have been ready in weeks and would have appealed to a much larger audience. Another of Becker’s (1982) examples is Charles Ives, whose (polyrhythmic, polytonal) departures from convention were such that they could not be performed during his lifetime (computerisation has enabled them to be performed subsequently). Ives apparently found this liberating. With the constraints attaching to performance lifted he became even less conventional and more extravagant, writing pieces for multiple interacting orchestras. Many would regard the impossibility of their work ever being played, heard and thereby realised as music too high a price to pay, however, and would for this reason bow to convention. Conventions are routinely challenged, of course, giving rise to new conventions in an evolutionary process. Indeed, as Meyer (1956) notes, there is constant demand for change as music which is too conventional can become boring. Major innovators often pay a price, though, in terms of both criticism and reduced financial returns. Many now celebrated composers were controversial in their day and subject to both harsh criticism and punishment in the box office (Blanning 2008). Gilmore’s (1987, 1988) study of three ‘sub-worlds’ of the New York ‘concert world’ – each distinguished by the extent to which it deviated

Music as social interaction   35 from the central conventions of that world – illustrates some of these points. The most conventional of these worlds hosted the most and biggest performances, by a large margin, making by far the most money. Performances were much less frequent in the most avant-garde of the three worlds, by contrast, where convention was most strongly challenged, and only attracted relatively small audiences, often largely composed of other avant-garde composers. In consequence, most avant-garde artists could not make a living from their music and were forced to subsidise their musicking by taking other jobs. To make a living from music and devote all of one’s time to it, it was necessary to play more conventional pieces. These are interesting and important observations. However, I would urge caution in deeming avant-garde works less conventional. As I argued with respect to John Cage above, the meaning of avant-garde pieces rests upon shared, which is to say conventional, ‘frames’. What makes them seem unconventional is the limited diffusion of these frames. Few of us are privy to them. If ‘convention’ entails widespread agreement, then avant-garde pieces are indeed unconventional; but if it only entails agreement, then they are more conventional than is sometimes supposed – albeit only within a small music world. The final aspect of the ‘power of inertia’ involves established figures within a music world. Such figures often have a vested interest in the preservation of particular conventions, Becker argues, because they have achieved their status and position by adhering to or establishing these conventions. And they are able to enforce those conventions because they typically control resources which others need if they are to succeed, creating a power imbalance. They can reward those who adhere to their conventions and punish those who do not. The ‘power of inertia’ is further reinforced by habit, in my view. Habituation renders convention relatively invisible. We orient to convention ‘without thinking’ and thus without noticing that we are doing so. The choice of acting otherwise doesn’t occur to us. And even when we reflect upon our actions, habit lends conventions a feeling of naturalness. Finally, it takes a lot of effort to break with habits because they come so naturally, and would-be innovators might question whether their innovations are worth this effort. Convention and law When conventions are backed by sanctions, we call them norms; and one particularly strong type of norm is law. Law can affect musicking in many ways, direct and indirect (Cohen 2007; Street 2012). The use of songs and recordings is regulated by copyright law, for example, and by regulatory bodies who licence radio stations, bars and others to use other

36   Connecting sounds people’s music for their own gain, recovering some of the money they make in doing so for the artists whose music is used. Furthermore, in societies where freedom of speech is curtailed, that typically applies to music too. The Taliban banned all music in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, for example. These factors shape musicking in a variety of ways, creating (dis) incentives, opportunities and constraints. Peterson (1990), for example, suggests that legal changes played a key role in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in the US in the mid-1950s. Prior to the 1950s, he argues, public performance of copyrighted music was heavily regulated by a single, musically conservative body. This stifled musical innovation because it denied would-be innovators access both to an important income stream and to the best means of achieving publicity for their work. This changed in the 1950s, however, when a second regulatory body was formed which, having failed to poach artists from the first, looked to previously neglected artists for custom – rewarding those artists, many of whom were proto rock ‘n’ rollers, and bringing them into the public domain. Innovative music, including early rock ‘n’ roll, could now be rewarded when played in public. In addition, changes to the licencing of radio stations at this same time led to a massive increase in their number, and many of the new stations, seeking to find a niche to compete with the old stations, again looked to new and previously neglected artists. Black artists, whose music added crucial elements to the rock ‘n’ roll mix, benefitted hugely from these changes, having been almost entirely excluded under the old system. Legal changes didn’t create rock ‘n’ roll. Innovative musicians did (Ennis 1992). However, legislative change removed obstacles which prevented new and innovative music from reaching audiences and thereby flourishing, creating an incentive for innovators. A more contemporary example involves the UK’s ‘toilet circuit’; that is, the network of small grotty clubs (‘toilets’) where many rock bands cut their teeth and enjoy an opportunity to cultivate audiences outside of their immediate home town. The toilet circuit is a very important step for new bands looking to win over the audiences they need if they are to survive as professional musicians. From the point of view of the UK’s music culture, it is a crucial means of drawing new and interesting artists into public view. The toilet circuit is under threat, however (Emms 2017). There are many factors at play, but one is the fact that many venues are situated in areas where new housing is being built, resulting in noise complaints which force them to close. This has prompted a campaign for legislative change. Frank Turner, for example, whose career – both as a solo artist and with his band, Million Dead – began on the toilet circuit, has argued that an ‘agent of change’ principle should be introduced into UK law (as I write, the UK government have announced their intention to introduce this principle

Music as social interaction   37 into planning legislation). This would require that a developer building houses close to an established venue fits them with soundproofing, whilst entrepreneurs opening a new venue in a residential area must soundproof their venue. Whoever makes the change of usage incurs the responsibility and the cost. Without this legal change, Turner argues, the toilet circuit may perish and, with it, a very important mechanisms for nurturing new talent and innovation, to the wider benefit of UK music more generally. Another factor threatening the toilet circuit is the Live Music Act 2012, which allows bars and pubs with a capacity below 200 to host live music without a licence. This has greatly increased the amount of live music available and much of it is free to audiences. That may sound positive, but the music is free because many landlords, knowing that bands are keen to play, expect them to play free of charge and, in some cases, even charge them to play! This deprives artists of a much needed income stream. In addition, the availability of free live music stacks the cards against those venues which ask audiences to pay (passing some of the proceeds on to artists), driving them out of business. And, of course, the free venues are generally looking for artists who play songs that punters already know and like, rather than the new and sometimes more innovative material played on the toilet circuit. Legal change, in this case, is stifling the contexts in which musical innovations are cultivated. Conclusion In this chapter, I have argued that music is a form of social interaction, centred upon humanly organised sounds and framed as music, whose parties both orient to various conventions and mobilise, pool and exchange a variety of resources. At a minimum this interaction involves a performer and a listener, and in the limit case both roles may be played by the same person. Even in such solitary cases, however, the individual generally uses resources (e.g. technologies and songs) furnished by others and draws upon the perspectives of others in the reflexive monitoring and management of their activity, thereby engaging in direct interaction with themselves and indirect interaction with others. Moreover, this is a limit case. Much of the time musicking is collective action, involving multiple performers, listeners and support personnel. It mobilises a whole network of interaction. This matters because it allows us to think sociologically about music. Music isn’t an object existing independently of the social world. It is a web of sensuous human interaction, different in some respects from other forms of interaction which sociologists study, but only in the way that all interaction forms have unique aspects. If music were reducible to a

38   Connecting sounds score or text then the sociologist, at least by professional training, would be ill equipped to investigate it. But it isn’t. Music is a network of interaction and as such falls squarely within the sociologist’s domain. And it is not set apart from the wider web of interaction constitutive of the social world. Sociologists often draw rhetorically upon what we might call ‘and society’ formulations. This book, for example, might be said to be about ‘music and society’. As convenient shorthand this is fine, but it is potentially problematic if taken more seriously because the ‘and’ suggests a connection between separate and different entities. Recognising that music is social interaction goes some way to remedying this because it establishes that music is a social form, but it is also important to stress that musical interaction does not occur in isolation; that musical networks are sub-structures of the bigger networks that constitute societies. In this chapter, I have suggested two ways of thinking about this. First, I have suggested that musical interactions are multivalent, which is to say not only musical interactions but also, for example, economic and political interactions. Singing a song, in some contexts at least, is providing a service for a fee (an economic interaction) and agitating for a cause (a political interaction), as well as musicking. Second, I have suggested that musicking’s participants are always multiply embedded: parents, children, employees, neighbours and voters as well as, for example, drummers and Beyoncé fans. I do not cease to be a dad, husband, professor, son or Man City fan when I go to a gig or listen to a CD and my musical activities both affect and are affected by the various other interactions in which these roles involve me. My identity and beliefs are negotiated between all of these circles of activity, and changes induced in one may knock on into the others. Likewise, each competes for my resources (e.g. time, money and energy) in a zero sum game. I am a contact point between music and everything else in society, a conduit for multiple inward and outward flows, and so is everybody else. With that said, we can turn to music’s involvement in the wider economic network of society. Notes 1  There are many arguments to suggest that music is exclusive to human beings, a selection of which are reviewed and criticised by Kathleen Higgins (2012). I find several of these arguments sufficiently persuasive to adopt the view. However, engagement with these debates would be an unhelpful diversion from my own key arguments and I do not believe that acceptance of animal music would be fatal to my arguments. I will therefore skip this argument. 2  The EP was later reissued on Crass’ own label, with the deleted track, ‘Asylum’, reinstated. The track was also released as a single, again on Crass’ own label, as ‘Reality Asylum’.

Music as social interaction   39 3 Brillo Pads were pads for cleaning kitchen surfaces, sold in boxes akin to washing powder boxes. Warhol created his own, more or less identical boxes and, for his installation, stacked them much as they might be stacked in a supermarket, prompting the question of what distinguished his installation from stacked boxes in a supermarket and, more specifically, what made them art? 4 (accessed 15 July 2016). 5  This isn’t Merleau-Ponty’s term. It was coined by ecological psychologists who, in turn, were influenced by Merleau-Ponty (e.g. Gibson 2014).


Economic interactions: capitalism, industry and the mainstream

In Chapter 2 I argued that musicking draws upon resources such as skills, equipment, time, energy and often money. This is true in a minimal sense in all cases. Humming a tune in the shower involves time and energy. However, a step change occurs when artist and support roles are separated out from that of audience member and are professionalised, with their incumbents seeking to make a living through music. Musicking does not directly put food on their tables, clothes on their backs or a roof over their heads and some form of social relationship must be forged if it is to do so indirectly. This social relationship may take a number of different forms, but whatever form it takes will generate interdependence and thereby a power balance between artists, support personnel and those to whom they supply musical services. And this power relationship will influence the music. The professional musician can only make a living from music which others are prepared to pay for and is therefore constrained by others’ tastes. In this chapter, I explore this interplay between resources, power and musicking. In capitalist societies, the social relations of musicking typically involve commodification. Artists and support personnel sell their goods to one another, to an audience and to other cultural producers, such as television programme makers and video game manufacturers, who incorporate them within their own products (Meier 2017). Commodification, in turn, typically takes three forms: (1) the production and sale of recordings; (2) live performance; and (3) licencing of copyrighted materials including, in contemporary capitalism, an artist’s ‘brand’ (Meier 2017; Lieb 2018; Taylor 2016). These three revenue streams involve distinct industries operating in different conditions. However, the industries are interdependent both with one another (Jones 2012) and increasingly also with other culture industries (Hesmondhalgh 2013a). Recording was the most important of these revenue streams, economically, through the second half of the twentieth century, with live 40

Economic interactions   41 performance often serving as a loss leader which promoted it (Wikström 2009). Artists toured in an effort to sell more records. However, the balance has shifted over the last 20 years as a consequence of changes associated with digitalisation and online distribution. Though streaming appears to have halted the drastic drop in revenue from recording which accompanied digitalisation (IFPI 2017), declining recording revenue has prompted a rethink in the ways in which musicking is monetised (Hardy 2012; Lieb 2018; Meier 2017; Rogers 2013; Wikström 2009). Live performance has been reconfigured as the key money spinner, with recordings increasingly serving as a means of promoting it. Artists release recordings to get people to their gigs. In addition, there has been a large expansion in licencing. From films and television, through advertisements and endorsement to ringtones and video games, music and its various brands are increasingly being used to increase sales of non-musical goods; a shift which puts pressure upon artists and support personnel to make music which lends itself to such purposes. Furthermore, this has contributed to an increasing tendency to view artists as brands, and indeed brands with a salience beyond music. For example, it is increasingly common for artist brands to be associated with such things as perfume and clothing ranges (Lieb 2018; Meier 2017; Taylor 2016). This links musicking to wider relations and dynamics in society. Musicking contributes to local, national and global economies: e.g. providing employment and tax revenue and encouraging tourism both by way of gigs and festivals and through its contribution to the branding of cities (Cohen 2007; Hesmondhalgh 2013a; Tschmuck 2017). And reciprocally, the economic embedding of musicking makes it sensitive to events and dynamics in the wider 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 suggesting that artists are only, or even primarily, economically motivated. Musicking is often intrinsically enjoyable and many artists and support personnel are motivated by both symbolic incentives, such as reputation and critical acclaim, and the ‘internal goods’ of the music world to which they belong; that is, the desire to excel in their particular style of music, according to the standards and criteria of the world to which that music belongs (Banks 2012; Crossley and Bottero 2015). Indeed, financial rewards are so poor in many contemporary music worlds, particularly for artists but also for support personnel, that internal goods and symbolic rewards must be their primary motivation (Banks 2012;

42   Connecting sounds Bennett 2018; Emms 2017; Haenfler 2017; Jian 2018; Tarassi 2018; Threadgold 2017). Only a small proportion of the income generated by musicking finds its way back to artists, and that which does is very unevenly distributed, with a small number of artists taking the lion’s share (Meier 2017). Nevertheless, musicians require money both to live and to make music, and professionals must therefore find ways of monetising their musicking. This can be a cause of tension for (and between) artists and support personnel. What they would like to do may not pay the bills. Writing about jazz musicians in the late 1940s, for example, Becker (1951, 1963) observed their frustration that most paying gigs required them to play familiar dance tunes in conventional dance-friendly styles rather than the more progressive styles and pieces they wanted to play (and did play in their leisure, without payment). This tension, which is hardly unique to jazz musicians of the 1940s, is not only between artistic aspirations and economic necessities. It is a tension within the relational chain linking performers, audiences and the various third parties who mediate between them; in this case club owners. As Becker observes, it was the club owners who insisted that the musicians play dance tunes; but they did so because this is what their customers wanted and what attracted them to the club. The tension experienced by Becker’s musicians derives from their relation, mediated by club owners, to an audience prepared to pay to hear them play. Note the interdependence involved in these relations and consequent balance of power. Club owners depend upon musicians to play and musicians depend upon club owners to book and pay them. Each party requires the services of the other and each can therefore influence the actions of the other by threatening to withdraw from the relationship. The balance is often tipped in favour of the club owner, however, because they can find other bands to play if one refuses to toe the line, lessening their dependence upon any particular band; whilst bands will find that most club owners make similar demands, such that they must comply if they want paying gigs. Club owners are not all powerful, however. They depend upon paying customers. And though audiences also depend upon club owners for entertainment, the balance of power is generally tilted in favour of the customer. They will find other clubs which play what they like if this one fails to do so. That said, sizeable minorities within the audience pool are drawn to less mainstream musical alternatives and may be hostile to any indication that their preferred artists are becoming ‘too commercial’ and ‘selling out’, generating an opposing pressure upon artists. Alternative music worlds, from avant-garde art music via folk to underground metal and punk generate their own aesthetic, which is often opposed to that of ‘the mainstream’. And they involve audiences for whom that aesthetic is important; audiences upon whom both artists and support personnel

Economic interactions   43 depend. Making aesthetic compromises in pursuit of bigger audiences and the greater economic rewards this might confer is risky because it may both fail and cause the artist to lose a niche (non-mainstream) audience upon whom they depend. These various economic relations constitute ‘the music industry’. The expression ‘music industry’ and its definite article can encourage reification, but this is detrimental to understanding and must be avoided (Jones 2012; Negus 1999). ‘The music industry’ is a complex and dynamic network of economic actors, both human and corporate, interacting in a variety of ways, both cooperative and competitive. As Jones (2012) argues, it comprises overlapping chains of relations running from artists, through managers to other industry professionals, particularly label owners, and from them to audiences. Most artists want access to markets (i.e. paying customers) in order to make a return on their work and for this they need the help of others who specialise in market access: that is, labels. Labels themselves are often difficult to work with, however, for artists with little understanding of business and law, so they seek further mediation in the form of managers. Artists work with managers, who mediate between them and labels. And labels mediate between artists/managers and the audiences they want to reach. To understand ‘the industry’ is to understand this network. Moreover, contrary to the assumptions of neo-classical economics, music consumers are not isolated atoms. They too belong to networks and their tastes and consumption practices are shaped by mutual influence within these networks, as I discuss in Chapters 5 and 8 (Granovetter 1985; Knoke 2012; Mark 1998). Adding to the complexity, finally, it is important to reiterate that ‘the music industry’ is an amalgam of three interwoven industries: recording, live performance and copyright. In what follows, I discuss aspects of this economic network in more detail. In order to offer some historical contextualisation, I begin with a brief description of the transformation in professional musicking brought about by the expansion of capitalist markets during the eighteenth century. This leads me to a discussion of Adorno and his critiques of ‘the culture industry’ and ‘popular music’. These critiques are flawed, but they provide a provocative and useful point of entry for thinking about the interplay between musical and economic interaction. Having discussed Adorno, I turn to Peterson and Berger’s (1975) widely discussed work on oligopoly within the recording industry. This account is dated, but it serves to underline a key point that all empirical analysts agree upon; namely, that the normal state of play in the recording industry, from its inception and into the present day, is one of oligopoly. In addition, it affords an interesting comparison with Adorno’s account, which it supports in some respects and challenges in others. Finally, it provides a route into more contemporary accounts which paint a more plausible picture of ‘the industry’ as it is today.

44   Connecting sounds It is a central claim of the relational perspective I am developing that ‘the industry’ is a network of human interaction. As such, it is shaped by the wider cultural orientations of its participants and particularly the social categories and prejudices which inform and shape their interactions and relations. In the penultimate section of the chapter, I draw this out by way of a discussion of racist and sexist tendencies in the industry. Discussion of the industry often focuses upon the mainstream; that is, commercially successful musicking which most people are familiar with and which involves the largest audiences. In the final section of the chapter, I widen the lens by introducing the idea of music worlds outside of the mainstream. This allows me to establish that the economic reach of musicking extends beyond the (fuzzy) boundaries of the mainstream and sets the scene for Chapter 4, where I discuss mainstream and alternative music worlds in greater detail. Later in the chapter I refer to ‘major labels’ (or ‘majors’). What counts as a major label and what as an ‘independent’ (i.e. non-major) is a debate in its own right and one which I do not have the space to discuss here (Ogg 2009). For present purposes, it must suffice to say that by ‘major label’ I mean labels embedded within big entertainment corporations which, as a consequence, have considerable resources at their disposal. A label can run on a shoestring, out of an enthusiast’s bedroom, and some do, but their lack of money puts them in a very different position vis-à-vis both artists and potential audiences. Much of what I have to say about labels applies to a greater extent to the majors and better-financed independents. Musicking and the rise of capitalism At the beginning of the eighteenth century, composers, including some of those we now think of as ‘great’, were typically servants, writing as required by their master to entertain at his social events and mark key events in his life (Blanning 2008). Their status was equivalent to that of a gardener or cook and in some cases, including Haydn’s, their remuneration came in the form of food and lodging (Blanning 2008: 16). Nor were they necessarily free to change masters. Bach was imprisoned for trying in 1717 (Blanning 2008: 13). This was reflected in the status of music. It was perceived in functional terms; occasioned by and subordinated to a purpose (e.g. an event such as a ball) or to the figures – such as God, the king or the composer’s patron – whose life it was intended to celebrate. However, this was to change towards the end of the century and through the course of the nineteenth. There were various causes of this change, including the rise of Romanticism: a cultural movement which radically reconceptualised

Economic interactions   45 the arts, giving rise to the concept of genius, celebrating creativity and reinterpreting artistic works as expressions of the (often turbulent) ‘inner lives’ of their creators. This was a period of secularisation, a further change which liberated composers from constraints which religious authorities had previously imposed, but the effect of Romanticism was to rediscover a form of spirituality within music itself (Blanning 2008). Music was seen as an expression of the human spirit, both individual and collective, and those composers favoured by audiences became stars. Economic changes were important too, however. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the market economy expanded hugely in many European societies. Writing about England, Porter (1990: 164) describes ‘the birth of a consumer society’ and ‘thriving service sector’ in which ‘entrepreneurs sprouted in many fields [including] music’. A new middle class was forming, generating demand for a variety of goods; amongst them, given the rising status of music and musicians in the context of Romanticism: concerts, instruments, music teachers and compositions that aspiring amateurs could play at home. Music was increasingly commodified. Access to live performance, once dependent upon personal invitation, could be bought via tickets and subscriptions for those who could afford it and a thriving trade in sheet music, musical instruments and instruction began to emerge. These changes afforded composers an alternative to patronage. They could sell their services on the market. Or rather, marking the beginning of a music industry, they could work with intermediaries to have their services sold on the market. This shift was liberating and musicologists have observed a direct impact in the work of some of those, such as Haydn, whose lives straddled the period of transition (Blanning 2008). Influenced also by secularisation and the rise of Romanticism, composers became more inventive and experimental; more inclined to push at boundaries, challenging the conventions established by preceding generations. However, the artistic vocation and desire to innovate had to be balanced against the demands of a new master: the market. Liberation from patronage meant that composers had to sell their music, whether at the ticket box or in the form of sheet music, and sell it in sufficient quantities to secure them the necessities and comforts they wanted. Their music had to be popular. This was a cause of tension for many, as audiences often failed to appreciate departures and innovations, preferring more conventional pieces (Blanning 2008). Like Becker’s aforementioned jazz musicians, many composers experienced conflict between what, newly liberated from patronage and informed by emergent aesthetic ideas and values, they wanted to play and what audiences were prepared to pay for. Even composers who enjoyed public adoration, such as Liszt, mocked the taste and ignorance of their audiences. Indeed, this was the era in which the concept of the ‘philistine’ emerged (Blanning 2008).

46   Connecting sounds A balance had to be struck, and for much of the nineteenth century it was – even within the Germanic world, where experimentation and elitism were most intense. Blanning (2008: 59) identifies Wagner as the last of the great German composers capable of reconciling the aesthetic ambition of the elite music circles in which he moved with wider public acclaim. Goodall (2013) is less convinced, suggesting that ‘it is possible to date the chasm that was to develop between the populist mainstream and the classical avant-garde in music to [Wagner]’ (197). Both agree, however, that this chasm was cemented by Wagner’s successor in the German art music world. Arnold Schoenberg failed to take the public with him in his atonal musical experimentation, opening up a gulf between art music and popular taste. Although there were considerable barriers to working-class participation in these new music markets, most obviously economic barriers, the separation was not absolute. Working people had their own music cultures, which composers during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries sometimes drew inspiration from. Moreover, historians have found evidence of a small but significant working-class presence at ‘classical’ performances during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Blanning 2008; Goodall 2013). Indeed, the work of Handel and many Italian operas enjoyed widespread public appeal (Blanning 2008; Goodall 2013). Furthermore, brass bands and choral societies, which were very popular in Britain during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, drew extensively upon the ‘classical’ repertoire for their material and were mixed in terms of their class composition (Russell 1997). Brass bands and choral societies were a vehicle through which ‘classical’ music reached the working class in their capacity as both players and audiences. In addition, if the cost of concert hall admittance generally put this new musical institution beyond the reach of the majority of the working class, they acquired their own venue in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in the form of music hall (Russell 1997). There had been a small working-class music market prior to this time, centred upon ‘broadside ballads’: that is, printed lyric sheets which were sold at fairs and markets from the 1500s onwards. As workers were increasingly concentrated in industrial centres, however, and as their collective action and the reforms it achieved brought them more time, money and therefore leisure, a market in working class entertainment began to open up, with music hall at its centre (Russell 1997). Musicking enjoyed a golden age during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, thanks to the concert hall, music hall, brass bands and choral societies (Blanning 2008). This began to wane during the early twentieth century, partly because economic stagnation increased the relative costs of musicking and partly because of competition from other, newly emerging entertainment commodities, including cinema. However,

Economic interactions   47 this downturn was coterminous with further changes which were to transform music, and in particular popular music, beyond all recognition. At a technological level, the invention of recording and broadcast technologies increased the accessibility of a wide range of music for most people, changing the relationship between performer and audience. Where previously audiences had to be co-present with performers to hear them play, radio allowed music to be heard at great distances. And new recording technologies both reinforced this and allowed performances to be heard many times over and long after the performer had finished or even died. This also facilitated a new orientation to music amongst artists, a significant tranche of whom began to see recordings, rather than scores or live performances, as the focus of their song-writing activities and increasingly regarded recording, with the possibilities it afforded, part of the composition process (Gracyk 2001; Toynbee 2000). Meanwhile, the number and size of (largely corporate) economic actors involved in music grew, their ways of working evolved and became more professionalised, and they began to play a bigger role within Western economies. For Hesmondhalgh (2013a), these economic and technological changes, which gathered pace in the mid-twentieth century, constitute a shift equivalent to that between patronage and the early market system. The economics of musicking entered a new phase in the mid-twentieth century. Adorno and the culture industry It is appropriate at this point to introduce Adorno: a sociologist, philosopher, musicologist and composer who moved on the fringes of Schoenberg’s circle, subscribed to the strong claims which the German modernists made for music and, most importantly for present purposes, wrote a scathing critique of ‘popular music’. Music is capable of capturing and expressing truth for Adorno (1997; Jarvis 2007) but this potential has been compromised in capitalist societies by the rise of ‘the culture industry’ and an associated ‘regression of listening’, with disastrous results (Adorno 1976, 1991a, b; Adorno and Horkheimer 1991). In referring to ‘the culture industry’, Adorno seeks to capture both the commodification of music and what he believes to be the incorporation of industrial practices into the production of popular music in particular. Popular music is not composed, but rather assembled on a production line, like a car; made in order to be sold in large quantities, in pursuit of profit. This has detrimental effects because most audiences, most of the time, want to be entertained and this is best achieved by providing them with music which sticks closely to established conventions, puts a positive gloss upon life and affords a distraction from other, less satisfying aspects of life. That which is challenging, provocative and unsettling – which

48   Connecting sounds stretches its audience – by contrast, does not sell in sufficient quantities to be profitable and therefore there is no incentive to produce it. Audiences get the music they want in this account, but what they want is also a function of what they get. The culture industry contributes to a ‘dumbing down’ of audiences and what Adorno calls ‘the regression of listening’. It seeks out the lowest common denominator of taste in order to maximise audience size, but thereby removes any incentive for audience members to educate or otherwise ‘raise’ themselves, accustoming them to music which, in Adorno’s estimation, has no aesthetic merit (there is a political dimension to this which I discuss in Chapter 9). In his Introduction to the Sociology of Music, Adorno outlines an eighttiered hierarchy of listener types, with ‘the expert’ on top and the ‘indifferent … unmusical … antimusical’ on the bottom (1976: 1–20). Very few people are at the top: ‘Today this type may be more or less limited to the circle of professional musicians. Not all of them meet its criteria’ (5). More importantly, he is concerned that a process of deskilling and cultural degeneration, fuelled by the rise of the culture industry, is driving most people down, if not to the bottom tier then at least to tier seven: the ‘quantitatively most significant’ where ‘music is entertainment and no more’ (14, his emphasis). Listeners at this tier, he believes, lack the embodied know-how to listen analytically; dissecting and giving meaning to form and bringing the history of music to bear upon what they hear. There are class-based variations, but in all cases ‘music is not a meaningful context but a source of stimuli’, a ‘comfortable distraction’ (15). Not all music is affected. Adorno reserves the term ‘popular’ for the dumbed-down music of the culture industry, distinguishing it from ‘serious music’ and also, on occasion, from folk music. His definition of ‘popular music’ requires elaboration, however, as it differs from contemporary usage. His aforementioned Introduction derives from a series of lectures delivered in 1961–62, and its ‘Popular Music’ chapter is based upon a paper published in 1941. As such, it predates the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, a watershed in popular music history which triggered a seismic shift. Adorno’s key reference points for popular music are Broadway musicals, the commercial forms of jazz of the swing era (not that he distinguishes types of jazz in his various polemic critiques of it (Paddison 1982)) and ‘tin pan alley’: a collection of New York music publishers whose formulaic, quotadriven approach to song writing arguably does exemplify the ‘production line’ approach that he sought to criticise. In musical terms, Adorno claims that popular forms are highly standardised. From the topics addressed in lyrics, through conventional harmonic structures, to such organisational devices as verse–chorus alternation or twelve and thirty-two bar patterns, the vast majority of popular songs draw from a very limited range of templates, in his view. Where the composers whom he favours push at the boundaries of form, manipulating

Economic interactions   49 it in precise and deliberate ways for expressive purposes, form is taken ‘off-the-shelf ’ in popular music, as he hears it, serving as a mould into which clichéd content is poured. Indeed, he claims that the parts of popular songs are interchangeable and could be shifted within or between songs without any great consequence. Again, this contrasts with ‘serious music’, whose parts are integrated within a structure which unfolds like a novel, every note carefully positioned to make a significant and necessary contribution to the progression of the whole. Standardisation must be disguised if music is to sell, however. Customers want to feel that they are buying something special and different. Adorno explores this via the concept of ‘pseudo-individualisation’. He claims that cultural producers strive for a gimmick or token symbolic difference which, qua token, has no artistic merit or function and leaves the conventions of musical structure firmly in place, but gives audiences something with which to identify their preferred artist as unique and different. They get to have their cake and eat it; enjoying the comfort and security that familiar forms afford, whilst believing that they are enjoying something different and unique. Adorno’s claims have been criticised many times over. Whilst many commentators recognise some truth in them, it has been argued that his critique and condemnation completely overwhelm analysis (Longhurst 2007); that he makes no attempt to understand or appreciate popular music (Paddison 1982); that popular music is and always has been much more varied than he suggests (Paddison 1982); that much popular music, including, for example, jazz and blues, originated outside of ‘the industry’ and still does (Scruton 2009); that his emphasis upon ‘capitalism’ fails to take account of very similar trends in socialist societies (Scruton 2009); that he generalises from a very specific and unusual period in popular music history and uncritically accepts the assumptions of the modernist music world to which he belongs, such that his critique is ethnocentric (Middleton 2002). Furthermore, many critics have argued that he ignores the critical capacities of audiences (Middleton 2002), suggesting that they are passive when in fact, as we saw in Chapter 2 (and will discuss further in Chapters 6 and 7), listening is an active and necessary component of music making, shaped by and shaping wider, creative uses of musical texts. I could go on, but it would be more useful here to use Adorno’s account as a springboard from which to achieve a more sophisticated understanding of ‘the industry’. Industry and oligopoly Adorno refers to ‘the culture industry’ as if referring to a single monolithic entity. As I have already noted, however, even ‘the music industry’ comprises three distinct industries (recording, live and copyright) which, though

50   Connecting sounds overlapping and interdependent, each have their own distinct organisation and dynamics. Moreover, an industry itself is not monolithic. It is an arena of interacting (mostly competing) firms. And as Negus (1999) shows, individual record companies have different, competing divisions, representing different genres and functions, such as artist and repertoire or distribution. Such divisions are often geographically dispersed, Negus observes, and they develop different organisational cultures and identities, experiencing different working conditions and fates. That said, however, it is widely agreed that the recording industry at least tends towards a state of oligopoly, with a small number of firms accounting for the majority of sales (Hesmondhalgh 2013a; Peterson and Berger 1975; Taylor 2016; Wikström 2009). Adorno is not entirely wrong to think in terms of monoliths. Furthermore, empirical research by Peterson and Berger (1975) supports the idea that oligopoly encourages standardisation – or at least that it did during the early twentieth century. This work merits brief elaboration. Peterson and Berger posit four hypotheses. First, the recording industry is ordinarily characterised by oligopoly. Membership of this oligopoly may change, but the underlying structure is relatively stable. Second, firms in this oligopoly resist musical innovation, preferring to stick with formulas which have proven profitable in the past. They have the market cornered and so have no incentive to risk change. Third, oligopoly is occasionally temporarily weakened by a surge of emerging small labels who succeed for a while in penetrating the market (before oligopoly is restored). Finally, these surges enable innovation as the smaller labels seek out new and innovative artists in a bid to establish a niche for themselves, sponsoring these artists and bringing them to a wider audience. To test these ideas, Peterson and Berger surveyed the weekly Top 10 US singles between 1948–73, deriving indices of both oligopoly and (what they argued to be) innovation for each year. They found that oligopoly weakened dramatically between the mid-1950s and the late 1960s and that this was correlated with an increase in innovation. Their hypotheses were born out. The main innovation that Peterson and Berger were capturing in their survey was the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and they acknowledge that temporary challenges to oligopoly are not the whole story of this revolution. I discussed Peterson’s (1990) arguments regarding the impact of legal changes on the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in Chapter 2, and he considers many other factors besides (Peterson 1990; Peterson and Anand 2004). Challenges to oligopoly are important for Peterson and Berger, however. Rock ‘n’ roll emerged because small labels, such as the Sun label which released Elvis Presley’s early records, were keen to take a chance on it, as a means of carving out a niche for themselves at a time when a temporary break in the oligopolistic structure of the industry afforded them an opportunity for doing so.

Economic interactions   51 The initial response of the major labels to rock ‘n’ roll, even after it achieved some success, was to ignore it in the belief that it was a temporary fad which would quickly fade. This proved damaging, however, and they changed their minds when it became apparent that rock ‘n’ roll was ushering in permanent change; signing their own rock ‘n’ roll acts and endeavouring thereafter to keep attuned to changing trends. Indeed, a number of commentators have observed that this prompted a change of strategy amongst the key companies, leading them, amongst other things, to forge deals with smaller labels, who effectively monitored change and scouted talent for them, or else to establish their own small labels internally, for the same purpose. They restructured in ways which allowed them to be more sensitive to changing market demand and musical innovation (Dowd 2004, 2007; Lopes 1992). One consequence of this is that studies which have sought to replicate Peterson and Berger’s study for more recent times no longer find a correlation between oligopoly and innovation (Burnett 1992; Christianen 1995; Dowd 2004, 2007; Lopes 1992; Rothenbuhler and Dimmick 1982). Oligopoly returned to the US recording industry in the 1970s, as Peterson and Berger predicted, but this did not slow down innovation in the way their theory suggested it would. Companies learned from the experience of rock ‘n’ roll, developing new strategies, and it is strategy rather than oligopoly that affects innovation today according, to Peterson and Berger’s critics (Burnett 1992; Christianen 1995; Dowd 2004, 2007; Lopes 1992; Rothenbuhler and Dimmick 1982). Peterson and Berger’s work challenges Adorno’s ‘culture industry’ thesis by showing the recording industry to be vulnerable to periodic crises in which small firms break through. Moreover, they show how major labels can be wrong-footed by innovations, such as rock ‘n’ roll, which break the mould and force ‘the industry’ to change. They thereby challenge Adorno’s top-down view of the industry as an overwhelming force shaping music, its consumption and consumers. They reveal the industry to be vulnerable to cultural activities outside of itself, activities which it must get a grip on if it is to survive. Moreover, though they do not elaborate, they flag the importance of unmet demand in the rock ‘n’ roll revolution. Independent labels and their innovative artists succeeded because music consumers were hungry for something new and different during the late 1940s and early 1950s. They were not satisfied with the standardised products of the industry, and rock ‘n’ roll’s success was in some part attributable to its ability to fill this gap. This challenges Adorno’s claims about passive audiences moulded by the industry. It suggests that audiences sometimes want more. This is further underlined by the emphasis on ‘strategy’ amongst Peterson and Berger’s critics. ‘Strategy’ captures the capacity of, and necessity for, major industry players to change approach in response to the shifting

52   Connecting sounds preferences of artists and audiences. It suggests that firms operate in unpredictable and unstable markets which they must adapt to. Industry challenges This latter observation is made more directly by Frith (1983) and Hesmondhalgh (2013a), who point to the extremely unfavourable ratio of hits to misses which characterise the recording industry – the industry estimate is that one in every eight releases sells sufficiently to recoup its production costs (Negus 1999). Companies cannot predict which records will sell or when and how tastes will shift. The public’s tastes are unpredictable and volatile. Furthermore, unpredictable markets are only one of several inherent challenges faced by the music industry, according to Hesmondhalgh (2013a), making their position far more precarious than Adorno imagines. He identifies three further challenges. First, firms must negotiate normative constraints regarding the value and autonomy of art and the related view that creativity and commerce are antagonistic (see also Toynbee 2000; Negus 1999). Popular music may have little aesthetic merit in Adorno’s view, but most people disagree and the belief in its artistic value is enshrined within the industry in the form of norms which protect the creative autonomy of artists, to some extent, from economic demands. How much autonomy artists enjoy varies, but music’s status as ‘art’ affords some protection from practices common in other industries. Second, the ratio of production to reproduction costs is heavily weighted towards the former. It is expensive to record a song, but relatively cheap to make copies of it, such that sales of recordings are very profitable once production costs have been recouped. This encourages firms to make maximum use of recordings and to find new (e.g. international) markets in which to sell ‘old’ products – although, as Negus (1999) observes, many firms have a specific and narrow conception of what they might hope to sell internationally. The re/production ratio also means that whilst big hits are very profitable, the more common flops typically generate a deficit. Third, Hesmondhalgh notes the semi-public character of symbolic goods; that is, the fact that recordings can be shared and copied by users, allowing many more people than the original purchaser to enjoy them and thereby reducing the incentive to purchase for some. This encourages firms to aggressively pursue copyright breaches and lobby for extensions to copyright law – which can create a very constrained environment for artists, according to Hesmondhalgh – and also to invest in artists whose work is most likely to generate copyright revenue. Rap is disadvantaged, for example, because it is difficult for other artists to cover and often incurs copyright costs for use of samples.

Economic interactions   53 Though, as noted above, the apparent success of streaming has quietened much of the controversy, recent debates about the impact of digitalisation and practices of file-sharing hinge upon this third challenge (see Hardy 2012; Rogers 2013; Wikström 2009). Many within the recording industry were predicting its inevitable demise during the first two decades of the twenty-first century because, they claimed, digitalisation and the advent of Web 2.0 technologies enabled piracy on an unsustainable level (others argued that the decision to allow ‘unbundling’1 of LPs was at least as significant (Rogers 2013)). The fact that the music industry was able to be threatened in this way illustrates Hesmondhalgh’s point about semipublic goods, whilst its ability to adapt and change to meet this challenge (both through streaming and a rebalancing of activities towards live music and licencing) illustrates the more complex and dynamic (than Adorno’s) view of the industry he suggests. As the above discussion indicates, the challenges faced by the music industry require solutions and, as such, shape industry practices and dynamics for Hesmondhalgh. Labels typically sign large rosters of artists on retainer contracts, for example, looking for signs of commercial promise before investing significantly in any one of them. They focus most investment on established artists, supporting a ‘star system’, because previous success is one of the most reliable indicators of future success. They buy out rival firms to reduce competition (horizontal integration) and they expand into other parts of the supply chain to gain greater control over the availability of their goods (vertical integration). The most recent high-profile challenge which the recording industry has had to adapt to is the decline in revenue precipitated by digitalisation. As noted above, streaming appears to have neutralised that threat to some extent. Other challenges lurk, however, and we may be on the verge of a transformation every bit as significant as the recording revolution of the early twentieth century. The proliferation of media, social media and gaming facilitated by the advent of the internet has hugely increased the competition for audiences, for example, with revenue and unit sales for games having now overtaken those for music recordings (Prior 2018). Like the sheet music of the early twentieth century, physical recordings and even downloads may be losing out to other forms of entertainment. Producers are responding to this by increasingly licencing music for use in games, television, films, etc. This allows recorded music to survive, but it represents a very different way of buying and selling it. Changes are afoot. In addition, the potential for audiences to make their own music, electronically, and ‘remix’ the work of others may well pose a challenge to the professional artist/performer role as we know it. The record has been superseded by the MP3 file as it once superseded sheet music, and amateur music making is making something of a comeback in a new ‘electronic’ form.

54   Connecting sounds Marketing and the power of the majors Whatever challenges they face in the markets in which they are involved, however, the majors hold many of the scarce resources which artists require to enter those markets: chiefly, the resources required for effective marketing. Given the abundance of artists competing for these resources, this tips the balance strongly in favour of the majors in their dealings with artists. The latter often find themselves kept in a holding position indefinitely, lacking the investment to take their careers forward whilst contractually prevented from pursuing other possibilities on their own initiative. In effect, much of the risk arising from the market is shifted from label to artist – although workers in the lower reaches of the record companies will often bear some of the brunt too (Hesmonhalgh 2013a). Furthermore, whilst they do not churn out standardised products in the manner Adorno suggests, and must respond to unpredictable and volatile shifts in audience taste and demand, economic actors in the industry do intervene in the creative process whereby songs are written, recorded and released. The artist autonomy to which I referred above is only partial. Labels will not invest in products which they deem unlikely to sell and place demands upon artists to maximise the likely sales potential of their work. Marketing divisions conduct extensive research and closely monitor sales, radio play and other uses of their products (Negus 1999). And they are intervening at ever earlier stages in the creative process (Jones 2012; Meier 2017). Where once they became involved towards the final stage of production, working out how best to package and sell a product made independently of them, they are increasingly involved in the shaping of the product itself. Rogers (2013) provides an interesting example of this. He observes the increasingly common practice of marketing departments running demos past radio playlist committee members to ascertain whether a song is likely to achieve significant radio play (a key determinate of commercial success). If the answer is ‘no’, they take whatever feedback they are provided with and remix, rework, perhaps even re-record songs, repeating this process until they get a thumbs up. This clearly demonstrates how the symbolic-aesthetic and economic aspects of musicking interact. Songs are directly shaped by economic (marketing) practices. Moreover, given the money and influence required to engage in this practice, it demonstrates the advantage enjoyed by major labels. Small labels lack the means. This speaks to a more general point about marketing. It is sometimes suggested that the possibilities for recording and distribution which the technological changes of the last twenty years have ushered in has lessened the dependence of artists upon major labels, shifting the balance of power in their relations (Wikström 2009). The balance was tipped towards the

Economic interactions   55 major labels during the twentieth century because they could fund use of expensive recording studios, which was essential to success, and because they had the distribution networks which put recordings in the shops. Now, however, so the story goes, it is possible to make high quality recordings using relatively cheap software on standard laptops and to distribute them directly through the internet. The balance has tipped back. What this argument overlooks, though, is the increasing importance of marketing, not least because technological changes have allowed a greater number of artists to record and distribute their work (Jones 2012; Meier 2017; Negus 1999). It is increasingly difficult for artists to stand out from the (ever-growing) crowd and find and keep an audience; a difficulty which is easiest addressed by expensive marketing and thus the resources of a major label. Moreover, as Rogers (2013) notes, the rise of the star producer adds further to this because star producers demand high fees which, again, only major labels can afford. The balance is still very much tipped in favour of the majors. Marketing genre and status Negus (1999) observes that labels use genre categories in an effort to define and control markets, managing uncertainty. Artists are selected and packaged according to genre and marketers seek to form and influence genre expectations, reducing their fluidity and dynamism. However, he is critical of those, including Peterson (1999) in his later work on country music, who overestimate the power of labels to manipulate genre categories. His own work suggests that audiences are often resistant to attempts to tinker with genre boundaries, limiting the scope for manipulation on behalf of labels. Like Frith and Hesmondhalgh, he believes that audiences are far less manipulable than some accounts suppose, suggesting rather that firms must negotiate tastes, trends and developments that arise independently of them and which they can never control to any significant extent: ‘The … music industry cannot simply “construct” a market, “produce” a type of consumer, nor determine an artist’s meaning … try as they might they continually fail in any attempts to do this’ (Negus 1999: 29). Labels work with genres, and this is useful to them, but they are limited in their capacity to invent or define genres. Sandywell and Beer (2005) suggest that the importance of genre has declined in recent years as an effect of new technologies. Streaming encourages more eclectic consumption and tastes in their view, for example; whilst sampling and mixing technologies facilitate greater eclecticism amongst performers and artists. I return to consumption and taste in Chapter 8. Presently, however, note that the hybrid forms referred to by Sandywell and Beer are still packaged by way of genre labels (e.g. folk-pop),

56   Connecting sounds amounting to an extension rather than a move away from the marketing ploys described by Negus. Categorising a track as ‘folk-pop’ is an attempt to sell it. Moreover, I suggest that much of this genre blurring is more akin to Adorno’s pseudo-individualisation, a gimmick which keeps a sample-based pop format interesting, than to a genuine innovation in format. A pop song which samples John Coltrane is no less a pop song and no more a jazz track than one which samples Beethoven. Furthermore, echoing Negus’ point about the resistance of audiences to manipulation, I doubt that sampling one musical form within another does much to persuade or appeal to committed audiences of the sampled genre. I doubt that a fiddle sample would persuade committed folkies of a song’s folk credentials, for example. In a further reflection on genre, Negus (1999), echoed by Lieb (2018), suggests that it blurs into social status in the case of black and female artists. Whilst white male artists are categorised according to musical style, female artists tend to be categorised as female and black artists as black, and they are packaged and targeted to specific markets on this basis. This can have considerable negative effects for these artists, restricting the ways in which they are able to develop both their music and brand, and restricting their numbers on the books of the major labels who only want so many of this or that type of artist (Bayton 1998; Jeffries 2011). Why sign another female artist when you already have several? It suggests that relations between female and black artists, and the industry actors upon whom they must rely for access to audiences and thus success, are shaped and mediated by gender and racial categories. And it points to the potential for the music industry to reproduce specific representations of women and minority ethnic groups, reproducing their separate and subordinate status and possibly disadvantaging them in other ways. In an interesting replication of the Peterson and Berger study, which surveys the US charts between 1940 and 1990, Dowd et al. (2005) observe the very small proportion of female acts making the charts. This seems to be explained by oligopoly during the earlier decades of the period. The conservativism of the oligopoly, noted by Peterson and Berger, included a reluctance to sign female artists. The aforementioned shift in strategy within the industry, towards a more decentralised approach, has been beneficial for women in this respect, they argue. However, the number of successful female artists at any point in time still appears to have an upper limit. They explain this by reference to the tendency of major labels to categorise female artists by reference to their gender and, as they do with genres, to limit the number of artists on their books within that category. Labels believe that the ‘genre’, ‘female artist’, serves a limited market. Recent work by Lafrance et al. (2018), which tracks female chart success in the US between 1997 and 2007, suggests that such inequalities have persisted into the twenty-first century.

Economic interactions   57 Sexism in the industry is not restricted to label personnel. Analysing which of all of the LPs that charted in the US between 1955 and 2003 made a ‘500 greatest LPs of all time’ listing, based upon the opinions of 300 industry insiders and compiled by Rolling Stone magazine, Schmutz and Faupel (2010) report a considerable under-representation of female artists, and also a very different pattern in the way in which success is explained. When a male’s LP was included, its success – which was usually attributed to the man alone – was typically justified by reference to historical significance and/or artistic quality. When a female’s LP was included, its success was often co-attributed to someone she worked with (e.g. a producer) and justified by reference to its emotional valence (see also Leonard 2007). In an interview-based study, moreover, Bayton (1998) notes that many female artists report differential treatment by their labels, by comparison with their male peers, and also by music journalists. Whilst male musicians are typically asked about their music in magazine interviews, for example, female musicians are typically asked about their personal lives. Further reflecting media bias, Schmutz (2009) notes that female representation in (pop) music-related stories in the national presses of the US, France, Germany and the Netherlands has fallen as pop music has been taken more seriously by the press in those countries. When pop was deemed trivial, women were well-represented in coverage of it, but their representation dropped as it began to be taken more seriously. These inequalities do not apply only to pop music, although patterns of inequality vary between popular and ‘high-brow’ worlds. In a study of French musicians for the period 1985–2000, Coulangeon et al. (2005) found that women enjoyed better representation within high-brow music worlds, compared to popular worlds, but were subject to greater inequality within them. They were much less likely to reach the higher echelons of those worlds and more likely to be amongst the lower paid. In addition, they note both that women tend to experience greater job insecurity, and that active discrimination plays a part in gender inequality in music-related labour markets. Green (1997, 2008), too, has compared gender inequalities across both high-brow and popular music worlds, including jazz. In contrast to Coulangeon et al., she stresses the similarities across these worlds, and like many of the abovementioned writers stresses the role of gender categorisation in musicking relations, arguing that the very way in which we hear music is affected by the gender of the performer or composer when we are aware of it. Studies of blind orchestra auditions are one source of evidence she cites in defence of this. Women’s chances of ‘getting the gig’ improve considerably when selection panels are unaware of their gender. Gender frames the way in which the music is heard, affecting both the way in which it is evaluated and the meanings which are attached

58   Connecting sounds to it, and this shapes the way in which female artists and support personnel are treated. ‘The industry’ is sexist. Many of the better resourced and powerful actors within its constitutive network are men and their interactions and relations are shaped by assumptions and categorical schemata which disadvantage women. And not only women. The picture is very similar in relation to race. The racial classification of music is more explicit than gender classification. We still speak of ‘black music’, for example, explicitly defining songs and styles by reference to race; and in the UK at least the MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards distinguish and separately honour such music. Historically, this has been tied to various forms of institutionalised racism, echoing the treatment of minority ethnic groups in wider society. Reflecting upon the history of jazz, for example, Kofsky (1998) notes its low status within the industry, as a black musical form, and the many indignities to which black performers have been subject, compared to whites, even within the jazz world. For much of its early history, jazz was denigrated within white society and a white-dominated music industry. Over time this changed, as jazz became more popular with white audiences. As this happened, according to Kofsky, however, jazz was increasingly subject to the control of an industry whose most powerful figures were still white and whose practices served the advantage of whites. Likewise, again replicating the work of Peterson and Berger, Dowd and Blyler (2002) track the effects of oligopoly and the strategy of decentralisation pursued by the major labels since the 1960s upon black representation within the (US) charts. As for females, they find that oligopolistic conservativism prior to the advent of rock ‘n’ roll worked to the disadvantage of black artists, whose success was limited, and that this state of affairs changed significantly after the 1960s. Black artists began to enjoy more success. Indeed, work by Lafrance et al. (2018) suggests that black artists currently enjoy greater chart success than white artists in the US. However, this does not alter the fact that racial categories – along with those of gender – shape the constitutive interactions of the music industry and, as Negus and more recently both Jeffries (2011) and Lieb (2018) observe, the ways in which artists are packaged and sold to the public. Jeffries, for example, considers the way in which black masculinity was packaged by the marketing departments of major labels in the context of gangsta rap. The labels traded off a particular image of black males to sell records. In this case, moreover, it is significant that this image often had detrimental effects for young black men, reinforcing negative stereotypes of them, whilst often appealing to young, white, middle-class males who could play with romanticised gangsta narratives without suffering the disadvantages of having those narratives projected onto them in real life.

Economic interactions   59 Beyond the mainstream Much discussion of the music industry is focused upon ‘the mainstream’. This is not the whole story of even popular music, however. In the next chapter, I will discuss this idea of ‘the mainstream’ and its various ‘others’ in more detail. I want to open up the debate here, though, by way of a final reflection upon Peterson and Berger (1975). Peterson and Berger claim to explain innovation, but I am not convinced. I suggest rather that they give an account of opportunities which allow pre-existing innovations to break into the mainstream. Consider their methodology (see also Crossley 2015a: 71–75). They focus exclusively upon the Top 10. Insofar as they are capturing innovation, it is only those innovations which achieve considerable commercial success. They are not capturing innovations outside of the Top 10. Moreover, they are not considering that the innovations they identify within the mainstream (i.e. the Top 10) were nurtured outside of it and that what their study captures is not innovation, as such, but rather its mainstreaming. This is a better interpretation of their research, in my view. Rock ‘n’ roll was not born in 1955, as Peterson (1990) claims. It had been gradually forming in various contexts for many years before that date (Ennis 1992; Keightley 2001). What happened in 1955 was that it broke into the mainstream. One might argue, in defence of Peterson and Berger, that the mainstreaming of rock ‘n’ roll brought it to new audiences, some of whom added their own elements to it, further innovating. Bandwagon jumpers can change the bandwagon they jump upon, if only because they approach it from it a different position to its originators, and this might count as innovation in itself. In addition, the opening of opportunities created by a surge of new small labels and radio stations will almost certainly persuade some actors to try their hand at innovation. The factors identified by Peterson and Berger may, in this sense, encourage innovation. The fact remains, however, that the key elements of rock ‘n’ roll had been forged and had begun to converge outside of the mainstream, prior to the mid1950s – and what Peterson and Berger capture is the movement of this innovation from various ‘underground’ contexts into the mainstream. They do not explain innovation itself. In some respects, Peterson and Berger acknowledge this. Criticising the argument that rock ‘n’ roll can be explained by reference to a cohort of particularly creative and gifted individuals, for example, they argue that such individuals always exist but do not always enjoy the opportunity to benefit from their creativity, thereby hinting at a constant bubbling under of creative potential. Furthermore, in a paper which uses the oligopoly argument to explain a resurgence of new and innovative forms of jazz in the mid-1950s, Peterson (1967) suggests that jazz was resurfacing into the mainstream, having been innovatively reworked in the jazz underground

60   Connecting sounds during a period of reduced popularity. Likewise, in his work on country music, he traces the movement of a musical form from less well-known contexts into the limelight (Peterson 1999). Finally, writing on ‘music scenes’ with Andy Bennett, he argues that: over 80 percent of all the commercial music of the world is controlled by five multinational firms. It is good that this not the whole story, because then music would deserve no more attention than … shower fixtures … most music is made and enjoyed in diverse situations divorced from these corporate worlds … contexts in which clusters of producers, musicians, and fans collectively share their common musical tastes and collectively distinguish themselves from others. (Peterson and Bennett 2004: 1)

In other words, studies focused upon ‘the Top 10’ (or Top 40) are only capturing one world within a much wider musical universe. Recognition of other worlds outside of the mainstream, which provide alternatives to it (‘alternative music worlds’ henceforth), is important because it challenges the tendency in Adorno’s, and also Peterson’s work with Berger, to conceptualise popular music as a single domain. There are multiple music worlds within most societies in the developed world, pursuing many different styles of music. Moreover, whilst many of these worlds enjoy some connection to the mainstream music world (see Chapter 4), they enjoy some independence from it too. The qualifier ‘some’ is important here. Alternative music worlds may not be as directly connected to or controlled by what Peterson and Bennett call ‘corporate worlds’, but they still involve economic interaction and therefore belong to ‘the industry’. As Negus (1999) argues, poorly attended gigs in backrooms of pubs and micro-labels run out of bedrooms are just as much parts of ‘the industry’ as high-powered negotiations in the international offices of major entertainment corporations, and they connect with its other ‘parts’ in a variety of ways. For example, some musicians, like those studied by Becker, fund their ‘underground’ musical activities through mainstream musical jobs. Working as a session musician or guitar tech for a mainstream artist, for example, may remove the need for their own material to make money. Furthermore, ‘underground’ and alternative music worlds often serve as resources which corporate and mainstream actors draw upon for ideas; refashioning innovations and artists for a more mainstream audience. Finally, non-mainstream worlds serve as training grounds for musicians and support personnel, feeding the mainstream the workforce it needs. Toynbee (2000) describes underground music worlds as ‘proto-markets’, stressing their difference from and resistance to the more commercial mainstream world, but at the same time signalling a relation to the mainstream. He uses the prefix ‘proto’, I suspect, to indicate the commercial

Economic interactions   61 potential of some forms of alternative music; a potential which major and bigger independent labels are always looking out for. In my view, however, most music worlds are markets plain and simple, even if that is not all they are. There is no need for the ‘proto’ prefix. Even very obscure artists sell recordings, tickets and merchandise. And audiences seek out such artists, generating a demand for their services. They are not only markets. The balance of priorities within alternative music worlds, between commercial success and their aesthetic and ethical values, is often different to that within the mainstream. Most alternative worlds achieve little to no commercial success by mainstream standards and making enough to get by is as much as most can hope for. As Emms (2017) notes of support personnel in underground heavy metal, many struggle to recoup costs and have other jobs to pay the bills. This matters less in such worlds, however, because those involved are incentivised to a greater extent by ‘internal goods’ (Banks 2012; Crossley and Bottero 2015). The originator of the internal goods idea, MacIntyre (2013), explains it by reference to games. I may initially need an external incentive to encourage me to play chess, for example, but after I have played a few times I may get the bug such that playing becomes its own reward, bolstered perhaps by the additional joy of observing my own improvement, winning tournaments and so on. So it is in many music worlds. Each poses challenges and bestows value upon particular activities and achievements which their participants internalise and derive pleasure from, alongside the pleasure which status within the world can confer. Being a great jazz saxophonist or folk fiddler is deeply rewarding in itself for members of these respective worlds and will bring them kudos within those worlds. If they do not make a huge amount of money, this may not matter. To reiterate, however, musicking costs and everybody needs money to live. Financial matters cannot be disregarded altogether and music-related goods and services must be sold, making music worlds, amongst other things, markets. Conclusion All of this begs the question of what I mean by ‘mainstream’, ‘alternative’ and, indeed, ‘music world’. These are issues I address in the next chapter. In this chapter, I have drawn out the economic dimension of musicking. Musicking, I have noted, requires resources, and yet does not directly provide artists and support personnel with the means of their own material survival and comfort. To achieve that, they must enter into social relations with others, whether a patron or a paying customer, with whom they exchange their musical services in return for the means of their material subsistence – generally on the condition that their musical services conform

62   Connecting sounds to the taste of the other. In capitalist societies, this generally means selling recordings, live shows, copyright and related merchandise in a market, usually in conjunction with a network of mediating agents who collectively comprise ‘the industry’. Adorno’s critique of this industry is oversimplified and overstated. However, it can be a hostile environment for those who work in it, including artists and particularly black and female artists, and there is some empirical evidence to support Adorno’s concerns regarding the impact of economic forces upon artistic activity. The industry seeks to sell music, and the challenges it encounters in doing so generate a range of constraints for those working within it. In the final section of the chapter, however, I suggested that, though all professional music worlds involve social relations and markets which allow artists and support personnel to be paid, the profit motive has the greatest weight within the mainstream music world and is often balanced to a greater extent in alternative worlds by both internal goods and symbolic rewards. In the next chapter, I consider these ideas of mainstreamness, alternatives and music worlds in greater detail. Notes 1  That is, the decision to sell the tracks on an LP separately rather than constraining the consumer (as vinyl and CD formats do) to buy the whole product.


Mainstream and beyond: the musical universe and its worlds

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’. The mainstream References to ‘the mainstream’ in popular music studies are ‘countless’, according to Baker et al. (2013), and yet ‘the term itself remains poorly defined and haphazardly applied’ (viii). This is partly because it is often invoked, both by music scholars and those whom they study, as a foil against which a preferred alternative can be defined. Thornton (1995) takes up this idea in Club Cultures, offering an extensive critique which concludes that ‘the mainstream is an inadequate concept for the sociology of culture’ (114). I will begin with a brief review of this critique. The mainstream is invoked as an imagined and ‘disparaged other’ in club culture, Thornton (1995: 111) observes; a foil against which clubbers define themselves, claiming an authenticity which it is deemed to lack and thereby making a play for superior status or, to use her Bourdieusian terminology, ‘distinction’: although most clubbers and ravers characterise their own crowd as mixed or difficult to classify, they are generally happy to identify a homogenous crowd to which they don’t belong. And while there are many other scenes, most clubbers and ravers see themselves as outside and in opposition to the ‘mainstream’. (Thornton 1995: 99)


64   Connecting sounds Academic studies should analyse this ploy, she suggests, but they tend rather to uncritically and unreflexively employ it themselves, using the mainstream/alternative construct – with its simplistic binary logic – within their own work. They follow the lead of those whom they study, demonising the mainstream in order to better claim distinction for their preferred alternative. But they do so in conflicting ways. Adorno-inspired accounts associate the mainstream with the largely working-class ‘masses’ and their manufactured tastes and desires, whilst accounts inspired by Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), whom I return to below, associate it with the dominant culture of the middle class, a culture challenged by working-class sub-cultures such as teddy boys, skinheads and punks. Thornton, by contrast, could find no evidence of ‘the mainstream’ in her ethnography of club culture. Over four years of investigation, she notes, ‘I was unable to find a crowd I could comfortably identify as typical, average, ordinary, majority or mainstream’ (106); adding, ‘I could always find something that distinguished them – if not local differences, then shades of class, education and occupation, gradations of gender and sexuality, hues of race, ethnicity or religion’ (107). Building upon this idea of diversity and citing a number of US studies which make a similar point, she then claims that what is referred to as mainstream is actually a patchwork of styles and sub-cultures, a point echoed by Baker et al.: The inherent variability in taste and heterogeneity of popular music subjectively impacts upon our understanding of the mainstream itself, making it difficult to ascertain a clear, comprehensive and ubiquitous definition of what mainstream popular music is, or even to loosely specify criteria necessary for inclusion in this category. (Baker et al. 2013: vi)

Thornton’s claim that clubbers use ‘the mainstream’ as a foil in their pursuit of distinction resonates with many ethnographic accounts of alternative music cultures (e.g. Gilbert and Pearson 1999; Kahn-Harris 2007; Shank 1994). I am sure she is right. However, I want to take issue with her claim that she couldn’t find the mainstream in the clubs she observed. This is problematic for various reasons but mostly because she never clearly defines ‘the mainstream’ and therefore lacks any criteria by which to judge whether she has observed it or not. Furthermore, I find her claim that the dancers she observes were not mainstream because they were always marked in some way by either class, ethnicity or gender problematic because it conflates the division between the mainstream and its alternatives with wider social divisions. There are important associations between musical participation and social divisions, as I discuss in Chapter 8. However, we can only understand these associations if we first discuss mainstream and alternative music worlds independently of

Mainstream and beyond   65 them. In part, this is because, as I discuss in Chapter 8, associations between musical participation and wider social divisions are not strong enough to warrant conflation, but it is also because the mainstream, as I understand it, is neither working class nor middle class, black or white, male or female. It recruits from all social groups. In contrast to Thornton, I believe that the mainstream is a useful concept with a real referent (see also Toynbee 2000). She is right to be critical of unreflexive academic appropriations and binary formulations, but that does not mean that the idea cannot be formulated in a useful way, avoiding binary logic by admitting of degrees of belonging. This begs the question, however, of what I mean by ‘mainstream’. The term can be applied to both artists and audiences. When it is applied to audiences, however, this is generally by reference to their taste for mainstream artists, shifting the emphasis onto the latter. I therefore begin my account with artists. Artists are generally defined as mainstream by reference to one or more of three criteria. First: commercial success and the celebrity which goes with it. Many discussions of the mainstream make reference to ‘the Top Forty’, for example (Baker et al. 2013; Crane 1986; Pruett 2011; Sernoe 2005). The charts may not always be a great index of the most mainstream artists at any point of time but the importance attached to them in discussions of the mainstream underlines the idea that the latter is defined by commercial success and supports a continuous over a binary understanding. ‘Top 10’ artists, for example, are more mainstream than those who only ever hover around the upper 30s, who in turn are more mainstream than those who never make the Top 100. Mainstream artists are streamed by and sell (or have sold) recordings to large audiences, usually on an international scale. They play bigger venues and bigger stages at bigger festivals, again on an international scale. And their activities receive more publicity via high circulation media, including newspapers, major television channels and radio stations. For this reason, the most mainstream artists are household names. These facets of commercial success and celebrity are associated. Artists who stream or sell huge numbers of recordings tend to play bigger venues and the bigger stages of bigger festivals and vice versa. This is partly because both require the same big audience; partly because the two activities are mutually reinforcing. Recordings promote live performances and live performances promote recordings. Likewise, the profile which artists acquire by these means makes them attractive to high-circulation media, such as major radio stations, television channels, newspapers and magazines, whose coverage of them allows artists to maintain and grow their audience, boosting the profile which made them attractive to the media in the first place. These circuits of mutual reinforcement create a barrier around the mainstream, making it difficult for non-mainstream artists to penetrate.

66   Connecting sounds From an artist’s perspective, the mainstream is an exclusive world. It is almost impossible to achieve a Top 10 hit without radio play, for example; but also very difficult to achieve radio play without a track record of prior hits. This brings me to the second aspect of mainstreamness, at least as suggested in some accounts: involvement with major record labels and particularly those owned by one of the big three or four companies comprising the oligopoly identified by Peterson and Berger (see Chapter 3). These companies cannot guarantee success. However, as Jones (2012) argues, they have the resources – in the form of skills, contacts and money – to market artists, affording them a better chance of breaking through. This is why artists seek out major labels and it is also why and how these labels are associated with the mainstream. Note that both of the first two facets of the mainstream that I have identified – commercial success and major label backing – involve connections of various sorts. Mainstream artists are connected to a big audience (who buy or stream their recordings and attend their live shows) and also to major labels, radio stations and other high-circulation media channels, who are in turn connected to one another in a variety of ways. In the next chapter, I will be discussing the networked character of music worlds. My main focus will be ‘alternative’ music worlds but we can see here that the mainstream music world too is a network: of artists, audiences and various corporate actors, such as labels, radio stations, etc. Indeed, though the most accessible of all music worlds from an audience perspective, involving hugely popular artists whom one cannot avoid, the mainstream is an exclusive world for artists: an elite network which it is difficult to break into. Finally, mainstreamness is sometimes defined by reference to aesthetic criteria and, in particular, adherence to ‘mainstream’ musical conventions. Music might sound ‘mainstream’ from this point of view, even if written and performed by an unknown artist and released on a small label or not released at all. Likewise, some popular artists may have a less mainstream sound than others. This need not entail stylistic homogeneity. Where different musical styles are equally and sufficiently popular, they will coexist within the mainstream. The UK Top 30 and playlists of the main radio stations typically include a mix of rap, rock, electronic dance music, R&B, indie and even the occasional bit of heavy metal. Indeed, editors and programmers working within the key institutions of the mainstream, such as prominent radio and television stations, may be keen to cultivate some diversity. This reduces the likelihood of oversaturating and boring audiences and it protects against charges of bias, which editors with a public service brief are sensitive to. Moreover, mainstream sound is a moving equilibrium. It is subject to fashion cycles and more gradual shifts over the longer term, not least on account of innovative breakthroughs

Mainstream and beyond   67 – such as the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s or hip hop in the 1980s. However, at any given time a sound can be deemed more or less likely to have mainstream appeal, and such judgements – when made by gatekeepers of the institutions of the mainstream – will have considerable implications for an artist’s likelihood of mainstream success. Again, this facet of mainstreamness is associated with the others. Research on the industry suggests that its key players often have a strong (albeit fallible) sense of likely popular appeal, which informs both their choice of artists to work with and the ways in which they seek to shape those artists (e.g. Negus 1992; Jones 2012; Lieb 2018). And they seek to shape artists in order to maximise their commercial appeal (Negus 1992; Jones 2012; Lieb 2018). This is not only a matter of sound. Look and backstory are all important. Artists are marketed as a whole ‘package’. Sound is important, however, and in this sense it does make sense to speak of a mainstream ‘sound’ or aesthetic; not, to reiterate, as a single style but rather as a set of parameters to which a variety of styles may conform. We might think of these three facets of mainstreamness as overlapping sets in a Venn diagram. The most mainstream artists will be found in the intersections of the three sets, but some artists may belong to just one or two. Moreover, each of the sets is ‘fuzzy’, in Ragin’s (2000) sense, admitting of differing degrees of belonging. As I have said, there is a continuum of commercial success and celebrity, from completely unknown to completely unavoidable. Something similar might be said with respect to the ‘mainstreamness’ of sound. The typical X-Factor or Voice finalist will sound more mainstream than Cat Power or Nick Cave, for example; but there is plenty of room to be less mainstream, sonically, than Cat Power and Nick Cave, and there are many artists and indeed worlds further towards the non-mainstream pole of the continuum – from free jazz, extreme metal and hardcore punk to experimental electronica and noise. Major label backing seems a little more categorical, but even here there are variable levels of involvement; from minimal distribution arrangements to full 360° contracts. Where do audiences fit in to this picture? Can we speak meaningfully of the mainstream audiences Thornton was unable to observe? I believe that we can. Mainstream artists are defined, in some part, by their audiences; by the fact that huge numbers of people listen to, know and like their music. This cuts both ways, however: mainstream audiences comprise those who listen to, buy/stream and attend gigs by mainstream artists. This includes most of us, to some extent: and that is important. The mainstream doesn’t have a specific audience as many alternative music worlds do. Its audience is more general, encompassing the majority of the population. Thornton’s failure to identify mainstream audiences doesn’t stem from the fact that they don’t exist, but from the fact that they don’t

68   Connecting sounds exist as a distinct ‘tribe’ and from the fact that most of us, even those of us who also participate in more esoteric music worlds, participate in it to some extent. Erickson (1996) affords a useful way of thinking about this in an analysis of elite networks and tastes which I return to in Chapter 8. Elites often bond with one another via shared esoteric tastes, she notes. They may love opera, for example, meeting at performances and bonding over discussions of these performances. However, they routinely interact and enjoy relationships with many non-elites (e.g. their employees) and this requires that they engage with ordinary conversational topics, including popular (i.e. mainstream) music. This both exposes them to mainstream influences and gives them an incentive to invest time and energy in keeping up with the mainstream, in both cases increasing the likelihood that they will acquire some mainstream musical tastes. Parents who involuntarily absorb knowledge about, and a taste for, their children’s music – without losing their own preferences – provide both an analogy for and further demonstration of this. Mainstream music is the currency of everyday conversation and some degree of familiarity and engagement with it is inevitable, even amongst those who also have more esoteric tastes. This argument applies to participants in all alternative music worlds, not only the ‘high-brow’ elites to whom Erickson refers. Specialised musical knowledge and taste serve to bond sub-groups within society. However, participants in alternative, non-mainstream music worlds enjoy regular contact with others who do not share their tastes, and familiarity and engagement with mainstream music, with the ‘risk’ of acquiring a taste for it, is unavoidable. Alternatives? The mainstream is important but it is not exhaustive of all musicking in a given society. It stands alongside and connects to various alternative music worlds in the wider network comprising the musical universe. As I noted in my discussion of Thornton, the mainstream often acts as a foil against which participants in other music worlds define themselves. It is important to them that their musical tastes and involvement are different from those of the majority – ‘the mass’– no doubt for the status-related reasons suggested by Thornton. The plausibility of such claims varies, however, and like ‘mainstreamness’, ‘alternativeness’ forms a continuum. Indeed, it is the opposite pole of the mainstream continuum, defined in some part in opposing terms to mainstreamness. Alternative artists and worlds typically enjoy less success and smaller audiences. They enjoy less contact with and support from major commercial actors, such as major labels and high-circulation media outlets, and they

Mainstream and beyond   69 conform to a lesser extent to mainstream aesthetic criteria and conventions. These are not perceived as failings in alternative worlds, however. They are valued states, encouraged by world-specific norms and taboos. Alternative bands may be publicly chastised for their involvement with major commercial actors – as The Clash were when they signed to CBS and New Model Army were when they signed to EMI, for example – or even for seeming to compromise in pursuit of bigger audiences. The appearance of a cherished artist on Top of the Pops was a mixed blessing for me as a youth; exciting, as a rare opportunity to see them up close, but worrying because this might be a sign of ‘selling out’. More positively, participants in alternative worlds work with their own sets of (independent) labels, distribution networks, promoters, venues and media outlets (e.g. zines, websites and social media channels), all of which belong to and collectively constitute their world, and they orient to their own aesthetic criteria and internal goods. Hard bop (jazz) is judged according to the aesthetic conventions of hard bop, which are different to those of, for example, both mainstream pop and sludge metal. Likewise, the conventions and orientation of a folk fiddler have aspects specific to the folk world. Sometimes, furthermore, this is linked to alternative ethical and/or political perspectives. There are many alternative music worlds and they are often as different from one another as they are from the mainstream, if not more so. Art music is alternative, for example, as are world music and jazz. But so too are punk and underground heavy metal. Folk music centres upon an alternative music world, as does northern soul, and so on. Boundaries between worlds are fuzzy, however, and overlap. Worlds interact, sharing artists and other elements. And most interact to some extent with the mainstream. Some alternative artists are attracted by the possibility of commercial success, for example, and are willing to make compromises to achieve that. Likewise, the commercial gatekeepers of the mainstream often use alternative worlds as a source of new ideas and innovations which help to preserve the vitality of their world. I return to this in the final section of the chapter. First, however, I must elaborate the concept of music worlds. Sub-cultures, tribes, fields and scenes I have developed the concept of ‘music worlds’ over a number of publications, making it my own. In the process I have drawn upon the insights of various writers and traditions, including: formal social network analysis (Scott 2000; Wasserman and Faust 1994); the aesthetic theories of Danto (1964) and Fish (1980) (both discussed briefly in Chapter 2); symbolic interactionist perspectives upon ‘social worlds’ (Shibutani 1955; Strauss

70   Connecting sounds 1973); and in particular work on ‘art worlds’ by Becker (1974, 1982) and those influenced by him (Finnegan 1989; Gilmore 1987, 1988; Lopes 2002; Martin 2005, 2006). Of these bodies of work, Becker’s was my key point of departure. This is one of several possible points of departure that I might have taken. Other possibilities were: ‘sub-culture’, as theorised by the CCCS (Clarke et al. 1993); ‘neo-tribe’, as formulated by critics of the sub-culture literature (Bennett 1999; Riley et al. 2010), drawing upon Maffesoli (1996); ‘field’, as formulated by Bourdieu (1993; Prior 2008); and ‘scene’, a term in lay as well as academic use which has a long history in music sociology (e.g. Keil 1966; Newton 1961; Peterson and Bennett 2004; Straw 1991). These concepts overlap in many respects. There is much of value in the literatures attaching to each of them and I have borrowed from them all. I find ‘music world’ preferable, however, both positively, because of the persuasiveness of Becker’s work as an anchor and starting point, but also on account of problems attaching to each of the others. I will briefly review these problems. The CCCS were interested in the way in which working-class youths, challenging their subordination and alienation qua both youths and working class, appropriated particular musical styles, along with styles of dress, territories, argot and assorted social practices, using these to create alternative communities and collective identities and to mount symbolic resistance against the status quo. Denied status within bourgeois and adult societies, they reinvented themselves as teds, mods, skinheads, punks, etc., forging networks and cultures in which they could feel that they belonged and could achieve status, meaning and a sense of worth. Sub-cultures are resistance networks formed by working-class youths in an effort to survive within and protest against the bourgeois-adult world. There is much of value in this perspective, and I draw from the CCCS and their fellow travellers in my own account. However, it has been subject to extensive critique. It has been observed that the visually striking ‘tribes’ described by the CCCS are much less evident today, for example, with musical and sartorial tastes apparently being more eclectic and collective identification less fashionable (Bennett 1999; Huq 2006). It has been argued that the CCCS trade in stereotypical representations, often drawn from media sources that they themselves are critical of, offering little proper empirical evidence and overtheorising and romanticising what evidence they have (Cohen 1980; Huq 2006; Martin 2004). Moreover, their demographic profile of sub-cultures has been criticised. It has been objected both that a majority of working-class youth never became involved in sub-cultures, whilst a significant minority of middle-class youth did – challenging the interpretation of sub-cultures as manifestations of working-class struggle (Clarke 1990; Huq 2006; Wiseman-Trouse 2008). In addition, it has been noted that sub-cultural identification, insofar as

Mainstream and beyond   71 it exists today, persists beyond youth, in some cases into middle and old age, challenging the characterisation of sub-cultures in terms of youth rebellion (Bennett 2012; Bennett and Hodkinson 2012). And though a number of classic CCCS contributions addressed gender and race (Gilroy 1987, 1993; Jones 1988; McRobbie 1991, 1994; McRobbie and Gerber 1978), these were later additions, aimed at tackling the focus upon white males in the very early studies, and do not fit straightforwardly with the CCCS’s programmatic statements on and theory of sub-culture. From the point of view of this book, moreover, it is noteworthy that ‘sub-culture’, as theorised by the CCCS, is not specifically music-focused, having more to say about dress and visual style; and that what it does say about music is almost exclusively focused upon consumers, excluding artists and support personnel. This is problematic from the point of view of music sociology, which is as much focused upon the latter as upon audiences. Whilst we have much to learn from the CCCS and their subcultures, therefore, we need to move beyond their approach. The last of the above criticisms also applies to ‘neo-tribes’, which some writers have suggested as a possible alternative to ‘sub-culture’ (Bennett 1999; Riley et al. 2010). Neo-tribes are loose collectives which come together for specific events (e.g. gigs) and maintain an identity for the duration of those events before dispersing and dissolving, leaving their members to take up other roles and identities – only to mobilise and reassemble again around a later event. This concept has a number of strengths. It emphasises the pleasures of collective musical interaction in clubs and gigs and the sense of belonging which numerous ethnographies have shown to be integral to the collectives which form around musicking (e.g. Emms 2017; Kahn-Harris 2007; Shank 1994), without losing sight of the situational and fluid nature of those collectives; the way that at least some participants move back and forth between different neo-tribes and more generally switch identities and dispositions as they move between contexts in the course of their everyday life. Identities are not, at least in all cases, pre-empted by identification with a single ‘tribe’ for the neo-tribalists. These are important observations, backed in most cases by evidence. However, like ‘sub-culture’, ‘neo-tribe’ is focused only upon audiences and consumers of music and, though it offers many insights into their involvement and activity, sheds little light on the work of artists or support personnel and offers no tools for doing so. This limits its usefulness. Bourdieu’s ‘fields’ is problematic because it is inextricably linked to his wider theory and therefore brings a considerable, constraining and not always coherent baggage with it. Bourdieu is often dismissive of factors, most notably empirical interactions and networks, which I believe are important (Crossley and Bottero 2014, 2015; Crossley 2011), and his theory of fields makes fairly strong assumptions about the dynamics of social life which I find questionable and which often seem more prescriptive

72   Connecting sounds than analytically sensitising (Becker 2006a; Savage and Silva 2013). There are some interesting uses of Bourdieu in contemporary music sociology, alongside attempts to update and revise his framework (e.g. Prior 2008, 2011; Rimmer 2010). I find the problems too deep-rooted and fundamental, however, and therefore prefer to pursue an alternative. The problem with ‘scene’ is almost the opposite of this. In addition to its lay uses, it has been theorised in many different and competing ways (Hesmondhalgh 2005). Consequently, it means different, sometimes conflicting things to different people (Hesmondhalgh 2005). One response to this might be to offer a definitive account, but that is what the other theorists have tried to do – and my feeling is that adding one more definition to the brew can only serve to make it more murky. ‘Scene’ is an unclear concept liable to generate misunderstanding. Furthermore, though there is little consensus about the definition and properties of ‘scenes’, the concept is often posited in opposition to ‘the mainstream’. Scenes take shape outside of the mainstream. ‘Music world’, by contrast, can be applied both to ‘the mainstream music world’ and to alternative, non-mainstream worlds. We can theorise, map and explore the entire ‘musical universe’ with all of its constituent worlds (see below and Crossley and Emms 2016). Moreover, this includes the classical and operatic worlds, which also tend to fall outside of the purview of ‘scene’ (see McAndrew and Everett 2015a, b). Music worlds With this said, we can turn to my preferred alternative: music worlds; a concept which took its main inspiration from Becker (1974, 1982) and his fellow travellers (Finnegan 1989; Gilmore 1987, 1988; Lopes 2002; Martin 2005, 2006) but which I have sought to develop both through theoretical engagement and by way of empirical analysis (Crossley 2008, 2009, 2015a, b, c; Crossley and Bottero 2014, 2015; Crossley and Emms 2016; Crossley et al. 2015; Bottero and Crossley 2011; Emms and Crossley 2018; Hield and Crossley 2015). ‘Music world’ is in some part a ‘sensitising concept’ (Blumer 1954), intended to aid the identification and analysis of interesting clusters of musical interactivity within the wider network of musicking of a given society (the musical universe), without being overly prescriptive regarding their characteristics. As Strauss observes in a seminal statement on ‘social worlds’: Some are so emergent as to be barely graspable; others are well-established, even well-organised. Some have relatively tight boundaries; others possess permeable boundaries. Some are very hierarchical; some less so or scarcely at all[.] (Strauss 1973: 121)

Mainstream and beyond   73 Furthermore, as Becker says of art worlds more specifically, new ones form, older ones sometimes die and all change continuously, if only because ‘no one can do exactly the same thing twice’ (1982: 301). However, the concept is also intended as a means of collectivising and comparing observations on the various interesting clusters of musical interactivity that social scientists and others research and write about, and thereby of synthesising these observations and facilitating the accumulation of knowledge. With this in mind, I will map out some of the key features that sociological research on music worlds (and cognate concepts) have identified. With the exception of the mainstream, music worlds are usually centred upon one or more of the following: • A locality. • A musical style, with a related aesthetic and internal goods. • An organisational and/or political ethos. Thus, we might refer to the classical music world, the New York jazz world, feminist music worlds, the Leeds DIY music world and so on. As Peterson and Bennett (2004) note for scenes, worlds may have local, trans-local and/or virtual dimensions. The local underground heavy metal worlds of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester (all UK) are each connected to one another by, amongst other things, a flow of touring artists and travelling fans, for example; constituting them, collectively, as a trans-local world (Emms and Crossley 2018). Local worlds nest within a trans-local world. Moreover, participants in each of these localities connect via websites, mailing lists and social media channels. They connect face-to-face at gigs and festivals, but there is a virtual aspect to their world too. The local, trans-local and virtual dimensions of a world are potentially intersecting sets and can be visualised as a Venn diagram (see Figure 4.1). Some of the possibilities suggested in Figure 4.1 are less likely than others. Most trans-local worlds involve local worlds which, as in the above case, nest within them, for example; but trans-local worlds which do not involve local worlds are relatively rare. However, it is possible to find empirical examples, as it is for all of the permutations suggested in Figure 4.1 (Emms and Crossley 2018). A world is always in-process, as a function of its constitutive interactions, but it has – or rather is – a structure: it is a structure-in-process. Structure is what allows us to recognise and identify worlds within the hurly burly of the social world. This structure has various dimensions. I have already mentioned the aesthetic and internal goods which partially define some worlds, and network structure – which I discuss briefly below and more extensively in the next chapter – is important. In what follows, however,

74   Connecting sounds




4.1  Local, trans-local and virtual dimensions.

I will briefly discuss five further structuring factors: (1) narratives; (2) identities; (3) conventions; (4) resources; and (5) focal time-spaces. Narratives Music worlds typically exist not only ‘in themselves’ but ‘for themselves’. Insiders know that they belong to a world and outsiders often know of different worlds, even if the term ‘world’ is not used. Moreover, the world, its music and other aspects are discussed and verbally dissected. Much of this is verbal, but some may be written as zines (paper and virtual), blogs, websites, etc. devoted to the world are established and, as happens in some cases, music and other journalists take an interest. These narratives lend a world symbolic existence and institute the frames, backstories and interpretive conventions that lend its music a shared meaning for insiders – constituting them as an ‘interpretive community’ (Fish 1980) or ‘art world’ (Danto 1964) (see Chapter 2). Indeed, Lopes (2002) argues that jazz only became an ‘art world’ when it began to be written about and analysed as such in dedicated jazz magazines. Furthermore, narratives lend participants a sense of their world’s history; its seminal moments and turning points; furnishing a roll call of heroes to celebrate and villains to berate. Narratives gather together dispersed and fleeting moments, structuring, preserving and making them available and intelligible to interested parties. Collective identity Participants in a music world often identify with it. Such identities have different facets. On the one side, for example, studies of gigs and raves

Mainstream and beyond   75 point to the esprit de corps which participation can engender (Gilbert and Pearson 1999; Kahn-Harris 2007; Pini 1997; Roy 2010; Shank 1994). Gig goers and ravers sometimes report a temporary dissolution of their sense of individual self-identity and an embodied sense of oneness with other participants, akin to that which Durkheim (1915) associates with religious festivities. Equally, however, identity can be mediated through narratives and assume a more individuated form; the participant identifies individually as a jazz connoisseur, folkie, metal head, raver or punk, and as a member of the world formed around their preferred musical style. Their personal story intersects with that of the world to which they belong. In whatever way it manifests, however, collective identity and the emotional investment it entails mark a world out and lend it structure. A world exists by virtue of participants who identify with and believe that they belong to it. Furthermore, though – as noted above – the sub-cultural ‘uniforms’ commonly observed during the second half of the twentieth century are much less evident today, world-related collective identities may be embodied and communicated by way of distinctive sartorial, gestural, lifestyle and linguistic markers. Conventions All music orients to conventions of some sort (see Chapter 2) and some conventions, such as those regulating tonal distance (e.g. between C and C#) are widely shared across many worlds. However, some are specific to particular worlds, serving to mark those worlds out. The conventions constitutive of a particular musical style are an obvious example. Most listeners can easily recognise a song as reggae, folk or metal, for example, even if they have never heard the song before and do not know the artist. In addition, in a comparison of the constitutive conventions of a number of worlds local to Milton Keynes (UK), Finnegan (1989) points to differences in: the way in which musicians learn their trade; the relation of composition to performance and the relative value attached to each; the role of improvisation; the way in which live performances are organised; and the ways in which audiences behave at performances (e.g. moving around the room, talking, drinking and/or dancing at a local rock gig, compared to sitting in silent contemplation at a classical performance). These and other conventions are not static. Conventions are always in-process (see Chapter 2). However, at any given time they serve to distinguish worlds. Resources As with conventions, all musicking involves resources (see Chapter 3) and many of the resources used are the same across worlds. Most worlds rely upon money to some extent, for example. However, worlds may be

76   Connecting sounds characterised by specific resources (e.g. esoteric skills, unusual instruments or technologies), by the level of resourcing they involve (e.g. the minimal resources used in local folk-singing worlds (Hield and Crossley 2015) through to the vast amounts expended at the top end of the rock and pop mainstream) and by their source of funding. Many worlds are economic markets of one sort or another, for example, in which musical goods (e.g. recordings, performances or licences) are bought and sold; but not all are. Roy’s (2010) account of the two mid-twentieth-century waves of the US folk revival, for example, suggest that they were materially supported by the Communist Party and Civil Rights movement, respectively. Likewise, the choral and gospel worlds have drawn resources from the Christian Church, and Golpushnezad and Barone (2016) observe the role of local NGOs in funding rap in Tunisia. An appreciation of resources is often important to understanding where and when music worlds emerge and also the form which they take. Different types of music worlds require different types and levels of resourcing if they are to emerge; and will only emerge when and where those resources can be mobilised. This is often mediated by ‘critical mass’ (Crossley 2015a; Crossley and Ozturk 2019; Emms and Crossley 2018). If a music world requires a given level of resourcing to be feasible, and the average would-be participant can only contribute a tiny fraction of that, then a large pool of would-be participants is required if the world is going to take off. Crowdfunding schemes, which many artists increasingly draw upon for self-released LPs, are one example of this. The LP will only go ahead if N people pledge to buy it. The point applies equally in relation to live music, however, tending thereby to make music world formation more likely in big urban centres, and making such centres more central in trans-local worlds (Crossley 2015a; Crossley and Ozturk 2019; Emms and Crossley 2018). Esoteric music words struggle to get off the ground in small towns because such towns lack the critical mass of would-be participants necessary to make them happen. This may be a matter of audiences. Fonarow (2006), for example, argues that indie music has tended to concentrate within university towns because indie appeals to young, educated individuals and such individuals only exist in sufficient numbers to support a high volume of gigs in university towns. Music worlds ‘need’ gigs, and gigs require big enough audiences to be financially viable. The point applies equally to musicians and support personnel, however. A musician looking to find suitable collaborators to form a band is more likely to find them in a big population because, all things being equal, every type of person exists in greater numbers in a bigger population (Crossley 2015a). Moreover, such effects are often amplified by feedback loops. Towns which acquire a reputation for music attract inward migration of musicians, support personnel and audiences. This increases their musical mass whilst depleting it in the towns from

Mainstream and beyond   77 which incomers have migrated, weakening the musicking potential of those towns and thereby increasingly the likelihood of further migration. Although Liverpool is a major music city in the UK, for example, Cohen (2007) notes that many local stars leave the city for London on account of greater opportunities in the latter; a process which simultaneously increases the pool of talent in London and depletes what might otherwise be important resources for aspiring musicians in Liverpool. Focal time-spaces If music is social interaction, as I have argued, then its participants must enjoy the opportunity to connect. Technology plays a role in this and complicates it, but in most cases participants converge upon particular places at particular times. These times and places might include clothing and record shops; cafes and pubs; and venues, gigs and festivals. Convergence upon these time-spaces facilitates the interaction and collective effervescence which generates the collective creativity and abovementioned sense of collective identity characteristic of a thriving world. Because they draw the likeminded together, moreover, these time-spaces serve as what Feld (1981) calls network ‘foci’; generating opportunities for meeting, forging more enduring ties and thereby extending and intensifying the networks which, as I explain in more detail in the next chapter, form the infrastructure of a world. Time-spaces are often celebrated and loom large in world narratives. Histories of bebop centre largely upon the clubs of Harlem – most notably Minton’s – in which it was forged, for example; whilst the story of northern soul is intimately interwoven with that of its celebrated clubs: e.g. the Twisted Wheel and Wigan Casino. Accounts of the ‘Madchester’ dance world of the late 1980s and 1990s are always also accounts of its celebrated mecca: the Haçienda. These are famous examples but all local worlds have their places, celebrated by those on the inside, and whole towns or areas of towns themselves can become the focal places of a music world. Country music is associated with Nashville, early jazz with New Orleans, Britpop with Camden in London (Millward et al. 2017) and so on. It is seldom the bricks and mortar that matter in these cases (although the sprung dancefloors of certain northern soul clubs added to their appeal for enthusiasts). Few are built to purpose and many, including the Haçienda, are famously ill-suited to the musical purposes to which they are put. What makes a focal time-space is the interaction it occasions and which gives meaning to it by using it. Time-spaces are constituted in interaction. Feedback loops again play a role here. Venues acquire a reputation within the constitutive network of a world, drawing more people in. This adds to the excitement surrounding the venue, bolstering its reputation,

78   Connecting sounds which draws yet more people in and so on. Reputation triggers a selffulfilling prophecy; spaces and events become important because people believe that they are and seek to be a part of them. To reiterate, moreover, time-spaces serve as foci, generating networks. And networks constitute and disseminate reputations, facilitating the aforementioned celebration of venues. The musical universe and its worlds Music worlds are, amongst other things, social networks. Their networked character is a big and complex topic which I mostly defer to the next chapter. However, I will conclude this chapter with a discussion of a network study which brings the relationship between mainstream and ‘alternative’ music worlds, discussed at the outset of the chapter, back into focus. Like many countries, and exemplifying the push to generate more revenue from live music discussed in the previous chapter, the UK has witnessed an enormous growth in summer music festivals in recent years. The festivals take place at different times and in different places but they are connected by a flow of artists who move between them. Figure 4.2, which draws upon work by myself and a colleague, visualises this network for 106 UK music festivals (Crossley and Emms 2016). Each of the small grey squares (technically ‘vertices’) represents a specific festival. The lines connecting pairs of these squares (‘edges’) indicate that the two festivals represented shared at least one artist between 2011 and 2013 (inclusive). Many of the festivals are mainstream (e.g. Glastonbury and Bestival) but some belong to alternative worlds, and in particular the jazz, folk and heavy metal worlds. The question driving the research from which Figure 4.2 was drawn was whether distinct music worlds, including the mainstream, would be identifiable by means of their patterns of ties. And, if so, what kinds of patterns would we observe between worlds? We only had a sample of festivals, of course. We didn’t have festivals for every music world we know to exist in the UK; far from it. Moreover, some worlds, such as reggae and blues, were poorly represented in the sample. However, we felt that we had good enough data to begin to explore these questions and test the claim made at the outset of this chapter: namely, that music worlds can be envisaged as clusters within a wider network (i.e. the musical universe). More specifically, we reasoned that festivals belonging to different worlds would draw upon different (albeit overlapping) sets of artists, which would generate clustering in patterns of connection. For example, we would expect festivals belonging to the jazz world to share more artists with one another than with festivals which belong to any of the other worlds represented in the network, a pattern which would cause them

Mainstream and beyond   79

4.2  A festival network.

to cluster in the network. We used a hierarchical clustering algorithm to look for such clusters in the network and this suggested that the network comprises eight clusters. Our next question was whether these eight clusters corresponded to distinct music worlds. To find out, we profiled the clusters in two ways. First, we compared: the number of festivals in each cluster; the mean number of artists per festival for each cluster; and, where data were available,1 the mean crowd capacity per festival. As Table 4.1 indicates, Cluster One was markedly different from the others on each of these measures. It contained many more festivals, which typically featured many more artists and had a much larger crowd capacity. We interpreted these as signs that Cluster One captured the mainstream festivals, as we would expect the broader appeal of the mainstream to translate into bigger festivals, particularly in terms of crowd capacity but also number of artists. We were also interested to observe the very large crowd capacity of the Cluster Four festivals, again interpreting this as an indicator of mainstreamness. Examining the chart success of artists appearing at the different festivals further reinforced these interpretations. More of the artists appearing at the festivals in Clusters One and Four had enjoyed recent chart success than those appearing at festivals in the other clusters. We therefore concluded that Clusters One and Four belonged to the mainstream music world. Second, we surveyed online information regarding the festivals looking for evidence of identification with a particular musical style. Many claimed to be eclectic or pitched themselves broadly in terms of a combination of indie, pop and rock, which we took to be signs of mainstreamness,

80   Connecting sounds Table 4.1:  Cluster characteristics Cluster

Number of festivals

Mean number of artists

Mean crowd capacity

One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight

111 46 48 26 46 21 30 39

40 10 12 8 9 7 2 4

31,742 17,510 10,383 28,750 9,544 8,914 5,750 5,500

given both the focus on having a broad appeal and the fact that most chart acts in the UK can be classified as either pop, rock or indie. However, a significant number pitched for something more specific either in their title (e.g. the Cambridge Folk Festival and the Cheltenham Jazz festival) or self-description, and we took this to be evidence that they belonged to an alternative music world (e.g. jazz or folk). On this basis, we put each festival into one of thirteen style categories. The next step was to cross-tabulate network cluster with style category. This revealed a clear pattern, which is illustrated in the correspondence graph in Figure 4.3. Returning to Clusters One and Four, we found that their festivals tended to be either ‘mixed’, ‘dance’ or ‘indie/pop/rock’. This confirmed our interpretation of them as mainstream clusters. However, we also noted that Cluster Five was similarly strongly associated with these mainstream style categories. On this basis, we decided that Clusters One, Four and Five were each subsets of the mainstream, with Cluster One as a ‘top tier’, given its abovementioned distinguishing features, followed by Cluster Four (second tier) and Cluster Five (third). Just below these clusters on Figure 4.3, we find Cluster Six and also the ‘80s Retro’ style category. We believe that ‘80s Retro’ is a marketing niche rather than a music world. However, it is interesting that it is found so close to the mainstream clusters as it tends to feature artists who enjoyed considerable chart success in their heyday but no longer do so. It could perhaps be conceived as a further tier of the mainstream. Three of the clusters could be straightforwardly interpreted as alternative music worlds. Cluster Two, to the bottom left of Figure 4.3, is very strongly associated with heavy metal (with some association to punk too). To the right of that, Cluster Three is very closely associated with ‘folk’ and ‘folkrock’. And to the far-right, Cluster Seven is strongly associated with jazz. The jazz, metal and folk worlds stand out quite clearly, supporting my view that different music worlds are distinctive clusters within a larger musicking network: the musical universe.

Mainstream and beyond   81 Goth Blues Reggae Tribute C8 C7 Dance Mixed Indie/Pp/Rck

C5 C1 C4

Punk Metal C2

Jazz 80s Retro C6 Folk Folk-Rock

C3 Key Clusters Musical styles

4.3  A correspondence map of festival clusters and musical styles.

The final cluster was associated with ‘goth’, ‘blues’, ‘reggae’ and ‘tribute bands’. I would associate each of these styles with a distinct music world. Hodkinson’s (2002) study of goth, for example, whilst framed in terms of sub-culture, clearly reveals it to be a distinct world. These styles do not figure as distinct clusters in the analysis, however, because each has only a small number of festivals, involving a small number of artists. They are not sufficiently well-represented in the network to stand out as distinct clusters and tend rather to cluster together on the basis of their marginality. This analysis suggests, albeit tentatively, that music worlds can be thought of as clusters within a network. They can be distinguished from one another by the artists circulating between them. This is not surprising but it is encouraging, from the point of view of my theory of music worlds, to be able to demonstrate it empirically. Equally interesting, however, are the relations between the clusters (and thus between worlds). Every cluster in the network is at least indirectly tied to each of the others. Worlds connect in the musical universe, forming a higher order network. It is difficult to see this in Figure 4.2, so I have revisualised the network, spatially grouping the festivals in their clusters (see Figure 4.4). What this visualisation also shows, importantly, is the centrality of the top-tier mainstream world. It seems to form a hub in the network, with most other clusters linking most strongly to it – an observation confirmed by a comparison of intercluster densities.2 The mainstream is a hub in this network because it shares artists with other worlds more often than they share artists with one another. There is relatively heavy traffic of artists between the mainstream and alternative worlds compared to that between the alternative worlds themselves. Every

82   Connecting sounds Retro

Assorted specialist

Top-tier mainstream



Third-tier mainstream

Jazz Second-tier mainstreaam

4.4  Nodes positioned by cluster.

alternative world has a subset of artists who are relatively mainstream and perform at mainstream festivals in addition to their own festivals. What this research shows, for present purposes, can be summarised in three points. First, although every festival is at least indirectly connected to every other festival in the musical universe, we nevertheless observe distinct patterns of clustering corresponding to distinct music worlds. This demonstrates my claim, at the outset of this chapter, that we can think of music worlds as distinct network clusters. Second, these clusters are connected to one another, suggesting that the boundaries of music worlds are fuzzy. It makes sense to speak of different music worlds, but we must recognise that they overlap in places. Finally, the connections between worlds are nowhere more apparent than in the relations between each alternative world and the mainstream. The mainstream is the hub of the musical universe, a centre with which other, alternative worlds tend to have particularly strong ties. Conclusion In this chapter, I have elaborated upon the idea of different music worlds coexisting within what I call the musical universe. I have suggested that,

Mainstream and beyond   83 in addition to their patterns of connection, music worlds are marked out by distinctive narratives, collective identities, conventions, patterns of resource mobilisation and focal time-spaces. Moreover, picking up on issues raised in Chapter 3, I have distinguished between the mainstream music world and alternatives to it. The alternatives are often self-consciously ‘alternative’, opposing themselves to the mainstream. The mainstream– alternative distinction is a continuum rather than a binary divide, however, and alternative worlds are typically linked (by both artists and audiences which they share) to the mainstream. Indeed, I have discussed research which suggests that the mainstream forms a hub in the musical universe. Throughout the chapter, I have drawn upon the concept of networks, suggesting that the musical universe is a vast network and that music worlds form distinct clusters within this network. In the next chapter, I drill down a little further into this idea of networks. Notes 1  Figures weren’t available for all festivals. See Crossley and Emms (2016). 2  Density is explained in the next chapter. In essence, I found that festivals are most likely to connect to other festivals in the same world as themselves and, after that, most likely to connect to mainstream festivals.


Musicking networks: nodes, ties and worlds

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. These clusters are what I call music worlds. In the present chapter I discuss this networked character in detail. I begin by explaining the concept of social networks, as defined in formal social network analysis (SNA), drawing upon empirical examples from my previous work to flesh this account out. I then consider the mechanisms of network formation which typically attach to musicking, before reflecting upon: the various ways in which networks impact upon musicking, generating both opportunities and constraints for those involved; the positive effects of musicking networks for society more widely; and the inequalities that attach to and derive from networks. The networks discussed through most of the chapter are specialised musicking networks (music worlds) whose participants have a higher level of musical involvement than the average individual. In the final section of the chapter, however, I turn to everyday networks in which all social actors are involved; networks of friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues and an assortment of associates and acquaintances. Building upon earlier chapters and preparing the way for what follows in later chapters, I suggest that even the most casual listener forms both their understanding of particular pieces and their musical tastes within the contexts of these everyday interactions and networks, making an understanding of interactions and networks crucial for music sociology. 84

Musicking networks   85 Much of the chapter is focused upon the importance of social networks for musicking and their shaping influence upon it. However, opening up a theme which I explore further in Chapter 8, I also want to emphasise some of the many ways in which music contributes to the generation of social relations and networks which have a wider significance. Music, I will suggest, draws people together, generating ‘social capital’ and shaping social structure. In Chapter 8 I revisit this theme, considering that it may also hold some individuals, or rather social groups, apart. As noted, the chapter draws upon formal social network analysis (SNA). The literature in this area is vast and in some cases highly specialised. I can only dip into it here (for a more elaborate introduction, see Borgatti et al. 2013; Crossley et al. 2015; Scott 2000; Wasserman and Faust 1994). To make things easier, I will italicise key concepts when I first use and define them. In addition, again keeping things simple, I will refer to ‘networks’ where technically I might be referring to sub-networks or network clusters. Networks A network comprises a set of nodes and a set or sets of ties or relations connecting various pairs of nodes (Wasserman and Faust 1994). Anything might count as a node if it is capable of the type(s) of tie under investigation and it is meaningful to define it as such. Similarly, any type of connection between nodes might count as a tie if it is meaningful to define it as such. However, what we can infer from the properties we identify in a network depends upon the types of nodes and ties it involves, and decisions about which nodes and node and tie types to include in an analysis must be taken carefully if findings are to be robust and meaningful. Defined thus, networks can be visualised as graphs, with nodes represented by small shapes (technically ‘vertices’) and ties by lines connecting them (technically ‘edges’). Figure 5.1 gives an example from my earlier work (Crossley 2015a). It visualises the network of key artists and support personnel in the Liverpool post-punk music world of the late 1970s, as derived from analysis of archives and secondary sources. Nodes are linked where I was able to identify evidence of musical collaboration between them between 1975 and 1980. Note that this is a snapshot of a dynamic relational structure which was always in-process. In most networks, nodes come and go over time and the ties between them form, break and change. We must always be mindful of this in SNA and techniques do exist which facilitate attention to dynamics and change (Butts 2008; Doreian and Snijders 2010, 2012; Snijders 2011). Structure can be relatively stable, however, and where we believe this to be so, snapshots afford useful access to them.

86   Connecting sounds

5.1  Liverpool’s punk/post-punk world, 1975–80.

Musicking networks   87 Network graphs are not scatterplots and the location of nodes along their vertical and horizontal planes has no direct analytic significance in SNA; neither does the length of the edges. ‘Space’ in a network graph and the many spatial concepts defined in SNA (e.g. position, distance, centrality and diameter) are defined by reference to patterns of connection, rather than the coordinates with which we are familiar from scatterplots and map references. Patterns of connection, which give the network measurable structural properties, often have sociological effects. They generate opportunities and constraints, individual and/or collective, for those embedded in them and they mediate social processes such as the diffusion of culture and mobilisation of collective action. These effects cannot be read off mechanically. They depend upon node and tie type(s) as well as wider contextual factors. Moreover, insofar as nodes are social actors, human or corporate,1 they actively negotiate opportunities and constraints in their networks, exercising agency. An opportunity often only functions as such if an actor perceives it in this way and exploits it. Nevertheless, it is because networks mediate social processes and generate opportunities and constraints for actors that they are of interest. Network structure is a facet of social structure (Crossley 2011). Concrete analyses of musicking networks abstract particular sets of nodes and relations from networks which are too big and complex to capture empirically. Like any form of scientific analysis, SNA simplifies the world in order to better analyse it. Whatever simplifications and abstractions we adopt for analytic purposes, however, it is important to acknowledge for theoretical purposes that the network comprising the musical universe (itself an abstraction from the bigger and more complex network of global society) is multi-modal, multi-levelled and multiplex. By multi-modal I mean that musicking networks involve many different types of nodes. Human actors – playing a variety of artist, support and audience roles – are crucial, but they connect to corporate actors, such as record labels; to events of various kinds and the spaces which host those events; and to objects such as recordings and technologies. A comprehensive grasp of musicking would have to take account of all of these node types and others besides. By multi-levelled I mean to capture the way in which sub-networks nest within one another. Audiences are connected to gigs they attend, for example, and we can link them to one another when they attend the same gigs, as we can link gigs to one another when they share audience members. On another level, however, audience members may be directly linked (e.g. as colleagues or friends) and gigs might be linked by their venues, promoters, artists, etc. We observe relations between audience members; between gigs; and between audience members and gigs. Connections exist on different levels, within and between different sets of nodes.

88   Connecting sounds By multiplex I mean that any two nodes might be tied in many different ways. Two musicians might be both bandmates and friends, for example, and might take on a variety of roles in relation to one another at different times (e.g. producer, manager, label boss). Likewise, two record labels might be both competitors and, on occasion, collaborators. It is important to be mindful of these complexities. However, we should not be overwhelmed by them. As noted earlier, empirical study, guided by theoretical considerations, abstracts particular nodes and ties for analysis at the expense of others, and must necessarily do so. In the spirit of keeping things simple, I limit my discussion in much of what follows to networks of human actors. I begin by reflecting upon the formation of such networks. Network formation Musicking typically involves networks for two quite different reasons. The first entails what Lazarsfeld and Merton (1964) call value homophily. ‘Homophily’ refers to the tendency, observed in numerous sociological studies, for actors to be disproportionately tied to others who are similar to them in some way (McPherson et al. 2001). ‘Value homophily’ narrows this down to similarities in attitudes, values, beliefs or, in our case, musical tastes. Social actors are drawn together, into networks, by their shared passion for particular types of music. Feld’s (1981) ‘focus’ concept, which I introduced in Chapter 4, identifies an important mechanism in this respect. A focus is an event or place which attracts social actors with particular tastes, beliefs or values, bringing them into proximity and thereby increasing the likelihood that they will meet and form a tie. Gigs and festivals, pubs and cafes, as well as record and clothes shops – where they afford the opportunity for hanging around, all potentially serve as foci in relation to music. In Liverpool during the late 1970s, for example, Eric’s, the city’s key venue for punk and post-punk gigs, and Probe, an independent record shop where customers could hang out, chewing the fat, drew local wannabe alternative musicians into association, facilitating important musical collaborations and the formation of several bands who would go on to have a big impact both within the city’s local post-punk world and, in some cases, at a trans-local level (Crossley 2015a). Beyond foci, interactions are generally easier, more rewarding and therefore more likely to result in enduring ties where interlocutors have shared interests and identities. Shared musical tastes and interests can be a basis for relationships of various kinds. These relations are important both for those involved in them and for the musicking in which they are

Musicking networks   89 engaged. In studies of both folk-singing in Sheffield and underground heavy metal across various UK cities, for example, myself and colleagues found that interviewees, often unprompted, talked about the friendships they had formed through participation, citing these friendships as important incentives for continued participation (Hield and Crossley 2015; Emms and Crossley 2018). In addition to the internal goods attaching to these forms of musicking, participants enjoyed attending sessions, gigs and festivals and made an effort to do so because these events afforded them an opportunity to meet up with friends. Musicking occasioned and maintained friendship, but by the same token friendship maintained the networks which enabled the musicking. Musicking and friendship relations co-evolve and are mutually reinforcing. Musical foci are often offline spaces or events. However, they may be online, as Allington et al.’s (2015) study of online electronic music networks demonstrates. Allington et al. found that enthusiasts shared recordings of their own compositions, forging ties by ‘following’ one another, ‘favouriting’ and commenting upon tracks, and more generally by discussing their preferred music. The result was a very large and complex online network, although geographical patterns within that network pointed to the potential importance of offline networks and Allington observed that offline engagement remained important for many of those involved (personal communication). Relatedly, Baym and Ledbetter (2009) found that tie formation on the music and networking site was shaped by similarity in tastes. In that context, however, ties were weak and seldom led to other forms of contact or engagement. This suggests that similarity (in musical taste) can be a cause of tie formation, but the reverse is also true. Connection tends to bring about similarity. Mutual influence is common within networks, shaping nodes. Riesmen’s (1950) account of a university-based ‘hot jazz’ world, for example, describes a process in which enthusiasm for jazz intensified as a consequence of social interaction. This was partly a matter of competition, as I describe below, but also of mutual encouragement, support and learning. Many participants had been relatively isolated, qua jazz enthusiasts, before coming to university, and enjoyed little opportunity to develop their enthusiasm. Coming to university and meeting one another (at jazz-related foci) changed this. Their sheer size as a collective was important because it gave them the critical mass which made certain activities possible. They could arrange gigs, for example, because there were enough of them to constitute an audience and collectively afford to pay a band. Beyond size, however, the relations between them, focused as they were upon a shared love of hot jazz, allowed them to indulge that love in ways not previously possible for them and to both influence and be influenced by one another in the shaping of their respective jazz tastes and identities. They swapped

90   Connecting sounds tips, knowledge and recordings whilst simultaneously reinforcing one another’s belief in the value of jazz. In a similar vein, Rimmer (2010) describes how a love of new monkey (a form of hardcore rave) was cultivated through a process of mutual influence between friends living in Byker, a deprived housing estate in Newcastle (UK). Many of his interviewees admitted to him that they found the music difficult to listen to at first but they persisted with it because of their friends’ love of it, a love they eventually acquired for themselves – not least by way of participation in collective activities centred upon it. If musicking networks hinge upon similarity, however, they equally hinge upon difference. There is a heterophilic mechanism at work in the generation of musicking networks. Musicking, as I explained in Chapter 2, requires the exchange and pooling of resources. Individual participants generally lack the resources to do everything required for the achievement of their musical goals and must hook up with others to achieve their ends. Often, this will be others with different resources to their own. A drummer looking to form a band will not usually seek out another drummer, for example. She will look for a guitarist, bassist, etc. And when the band is formed its members may seek out a business-minded non-musician to manage them, along with audiences to play to, promoters, record labels, etc. A music world network is often, amongst other things, a division of labour whose nodes are linked on a basis of complementary differences in skill and aspiration (see also Crossley 2015b). These two processes of network formation, based respectively upon similarity and difference, correspond to the two forms of solidarity (mechanical and organic) identified by Durkheim (1964). Where Durkheim identified these forms as alternatives, however, suggesting that mechanical solidarity is being replaced by organic solidarity in contemporary societies, I am suggesting that the two work together in music worlds. Participants are bound together simultaneously by their shared passion for a particular type of music and complementary differences in the contributions they are able to make to their preferred forms of musicking, with the ties of interdependency that creates. Network structure as social structure One of the main reasons that networks are of sociological interest, to reiterate, concerns the opportunities and constraints they generate for those embedded within them and also their role in mediating social processes. In what follows, I will offer a few examples of this, identifying a few of the many network measures we might use to explore these processes.

Musicking networks   91 We are often inclined to speak of a music world where we identify coordination across the activities of a set of enthusiasts and a shared stock of knowledge, conventions and stylistic (musical, sartorial, behavioural and/or linguistic) markers. They converge upon the same events and places, acting and responding in similar ways, apparently guided by a shared understanding of what is going on. This points to the role of communication between them and more specifically communicative networks through which ideas, information, conventions and innovations diffuse. Music world participants are ‘in the loop’ and ‘the loop’, or rather network, is a crucial part of a world. A music world is, amongst other things, a communicative network, and it must be if events are to be successfully organised and coordinated and if a distinctive musical culture is to form and diffuse. Many factors potentially influence such diffusion processes but network structure is important amongst them. We might expect four network properties to be particularly important: (1) number of components; (2) diameter; (3) average geodesic distance; and (4) density. I will briefly elaborate upon these properties. Looking at Figure 5.1 we can see that each node, though directly connected to only a small proportion of the others, is at least indirectly connected to every other node by a path of intermediaries (this is confirmed by more rigorous measures). I could pick any two nodes at random from the network and trace a path of connection between them. We express this by saying that the network forms a single component. Not all networks do. Some are fragmented, comprising many components whose members (by definition) have no path connecting them to members of other components. Components are important because information and other goods (or bads) can only diffuse where there are paths for them to flow through. Nothing passes between one component and another because there is no channel for it to pass through. Because Figure 5.1 forms a single component, goods and bads diffusing through it can potentially reach everybody in it. Any two nodes might be connected by multiple paths of different distances, where ‘distance’ is the number of ties (‘degrees’ in this context) separating them. Nodes which are directly connected are at a distance of one degree because they are linked by one tie. If they are connected via a third person then they are at a distance of two degrees because there are two ties separating them and so on (see Figure 5.2). The length of the shortest path between any two nodes is their geodesic distance and geodesic distances can be used to characterise a network. The diameter of a network is the geodesic distance of its two most distant nodes, for example, and average geodesics are also sometimes used to characterise a network. The diameter of Figure 5.1 is 5 degrees. However, less than 1% of pairs of nodes are at this distance and the average geodesic is 2.6.

92   Connecting sounds John







5.2  John and Jack at three degrees of separation.

The concept of geodesic distance has entered everyday discourse via the ‘six degrees of separation’ thesis; that is, the idea that any two people in even a huge population such as that of the USA are connected by a path of six degrees on average. This idea, which I return to in Chapter 8, has received a lot of attention from physicists working on complex systems in recent years (Barabási 2003; Newman et al. 2006; Watts 1999, 2004). The systems they analyse are networks with hundreds of millions of nodes, begging the question of how the coordination they discern within such systems is possible. One would imagine that a network involving so many nodes would be characterised by very long paths, rendering coordination slow and ineffective. However, the six degrees thesis suggests that average path lengths can remain relatively short (i.e. six degrees on average) even in enormous systems, enabling effective coordination. Music worlds are much smaller than the complex systems studied by physicists, but geodesics are important for much the same reason: concerted and coordinated action is more likely when and if path lengths are short. Shorter geodesics allow information and other goods to move more quickly through a network with less of the distortion and degradation that inevitably arises as they pass through many hands. If news of a gig has to pass through five people before reaching me, there is a chance that it will have happened before I hear about it or that crucial information about, for example, time and place will have become distorted or lost. Shorter geodesic distances make this less likely. Research also suggests that diffusion is quicker and more effective where networks have a higher density (Valente 1995). Density is a measure of the number of ties in a network or some part of a network, expressed as a proportion of the total number possible, given the number of nodes involved. There are 131 nodes in Figure 5.1, for example, and therefore 131 ∗ 130 = 8515 potential ties. Empirically we observe 643, giving the 2 643 = 0.08 . Although it is difficult to gauge the network a density of 8515 magnitude of density scores for a single network, this seems quite low. However, nodes are only deemed tied in Figure 5.1 where there is evidence of cooperation on a musical project between them. Had I focused upon acquaintance, density would have been much higher. This is something

Musicking networks   93 to consider when analysing a network and its measurable properties. How we define ties affects the networks and measures we observe. Marwell and Oliver (2007) cite density as important to diffusion and coordination in their theory of collective action networks. However, as an alternative they also point to the importance of high centralisation. To grasp this concept, we must first understand network centrality. In addition to the many properties that whole networks and their various sub-groups take on, nodes enjoy positional properties within a network. In particular, a node might be more or less central to a network. Many forms of centrality have been identified and defined in the literature. Oliver and Marwell focus upon one: degree. I will briefly explain this form along with one other, closeness, which is relevant to diffusion and coordination. A node’s degree is the number of ties it enjoys. In Figure 5.1, Andy McCluskey (of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) is connected to 15 others. He therefore has a degree of 15. Ian Broudie (best known for his work with the Lightning Seeds) is connected to 37 others. He therefore has a degree of 37 and is more degree central than McCluskey. High degree centrality can, under some circumstances, be an advantage. It often means that a node is able to mobilise a greater level of support if required. It can be a disadvantage, however. Degree central nodes may be subject to more requests for help, for example, which will consume their resources. And even routine maintenance of ties (keeping up with friends) takes time and effort. Closeness centrality is a measure of the sum of the geodesic distances (lengths of the shortest paths) separating a node from every other node in the component to which they belong (inverted so that high scores indicate shorter distances). Andy McCluskey has a closeness score of 40.63 and Ian Broudie a closeness of 54.85, making the latter, again, more central. High closeness can sometimes be an advantage if a node is keen either to disseminate or gather information, as information has less distance to travel and should therefore move more quickly, with less risk of distortion. Likewise, it may be an advantage in relation to coordination as directions have fewer hands to pass through. However, it may make the node more vulnerable when ‘bads’, such as viruses, are passing through a network, and also more visible (a disadvantage if a node desires privacy). News of Ian Broudie’s activities are likely to reach the whole network more quickly and efficiently than Andy McCluskey’s, all other things being equal. Centrality is often a key focus in SNA, as a higher or lower centrality typically generates different constraints and opportunities for particular nodes. By exploring the dispersion of centrality scores across all nodes, moreover, we can gauge the extent to which the network as a whole is centralised. In the case of degree centralisation, for example, we can

94   Connecting sounds measure (as a percentage) the extent to which ties centre upon a small number of nodes. High centralisation is important, according to Oliver and Marwell, because it facilitates organisation and coordination. Central nodes are in a position to oversee and, where they enjoy power and/or authority in the network, direct activities within it. Degree centralisation in Figure 5.1 is 27.27% and closeness centralisation is 38.62%. These figures are relatively low. The Liverpool network is not particularly centralised. Social capital A useful way to elaborate upon the opportunities and constraints afforded by a network is by way of the concept of social capital. There are several different versions of this concept in the literature, each of which are useful for our purposes (Bourdieu 1986; Coleman 1988, 1990; Lin 2002; Putnam 2000). I will begin with Coleman’s (1988, 1990). Coleman argues that networks, particularly when relatively closed, tend to encourage cooperation, trust and mutual support, which in turn enables actors to act, individually and/or collectively, in ways which would not otherwise be possible. Within music worlds this might entail, for example, bands lending one another equipment, advising one another, offering support slots, passing on useful tips and information; all of which are commonly reported in music ethnographies, band histories and (auto)biographies, and all of which make musicking easier and more feasible. The concept of ‘closure’ that Coleman uses is best explained by reference to a triad: that is, a subset of three nodes, which we can label i, j and k (see Figure 5.3). If i has a tie to j and j has a tie to k, but i and k are not tied, then the triad is open. If there is a tie between i and k too, however, then the triad is closed. It is commonly argued, following Granovetter (1973), that there is a tendency towards closure or transitivity – as it is also sometimes called – in social networks and the significance of closure has been a topic of sociological interest from Simmel (1902) onwards because it tends to change the dynamic and range of possibilities for those involved. It is important for Coleman because, he argues, it allows the network to more effectively police the behaviour of its members and impose incentivising sanctions, reducing the scope for ‘free riding’, discouraging uncooperative behaviour and breaches of trust, and encouraging cooperation, integrity and mutual support. When everybody with whom a node interacts, interacts with one another, information regarding their conduct gets around and their reputation, a crucial resource, is easily damaged. Bad behaviour in one relationship will have negative repercussions in other relations, disadvantaging the offender. Because nodes know this, and because they depend upon multiple others for their musicking, they have an incentive to cooperate and comply with emergent network norms.

Musicking networks   95 i 





5.3  Open and closed triads.

Closure can be measured in a network using a clustering coefficient. To derive this we: (1) take each node in turn; (2) identify who they are connected to (their ego-net (see Crossley et al. 2015)); (3) calculate the density of their ego-net;2 (4) calculate the mean ego-net density for all nodes in the network. The clustering co-efficient for Figure 5.1 is 0.79, indicating that closure is quite high for most nodes. Most participants in the Liverpool post-punk world belong to tight-knit clusters and we would therefore expect cooperation, trust and mutual support, at least within those clusters, to be high. Incorporating ideas on reference groups and the ‘social construction of reality’ (Berger and Luckman 1971), Coleman (1988), extends this idea to explain ‘deviant’ and self-damaging or self-sacrificial behaviour. In networks centred upon particular activities (music in our case), he argues, where closure is high and participants spend a lot of time together, norms and situational definitions which deviate from those of the wider population can more easily take hold, as members of the network are primarily looking to other members of the same network to gauge reasonableness and lack external benchmarks. Moreover, they tend to become particularly dependent upon the regard of others in the network for their status and sense of self-worth, possibly to the point of putting the network and its values above their own material welfare. In the context of music worlds, this may go some of the way to explaining the dedication and self-sacrifice which various ethnographies have identified amongst some participants, not to mention certain of the more extreme stylistic gestures which mark participants out as participants in a particular world. Kahn-Harris (2007) discusses both of these tendencies, for example, in his analysis of extreme metal. For the same reason, closure is conducive to generating the consensus upon which internal goods and the shared background assumptions and conventions constitutive of ‘interpretive communities’ and ‘art worlds’,

96   Connecting sounds as discussed in Chapter 2, rest. Internal goods can be something of a mystery to outsiders. Why would anybody be bothered about that? Likewise the meaning attributed to works and gestures. Outsiders are often bewildered at the unanimity with which insiders converge upon what, to them, is a counter-intuitive interpretation. My students are invariably puzzled, angered or amused, for example, when I show them footage of a live performance of John Cage’s ‘4’33’ (discussed in Chapter 2), with well-dressed audiences sat in a theatre listening in silence to background noise. Closure partially explains this because it is closure from outside influence and disagreement, and enclosure within an ‘echo chamber’ where the same views bounce between insiders whose chief reference points are one another. Closure insulates insiders from doubts and negative sanctions that might otherwise attach to what they say and do, simultaneously reinforcing their (statistically) deviant choices by way of positive reinforcement from other in-group members. Finally, closure helps to promote collective identity. Knowing most others and believing that they are likewise known, insiders feel both that they belong and that there is a community to belong to. We see this clearly in Shank’s (1994) ethnography of rock ‘n’ roll in Austin, Texas. Though he doesn’t analyse networks, Shank describes a tightly-knit world whose ‘tight-knitness’ gives rise to a sense of identity and belonging for those involved. In addition to these effects, networks often encourage competition. Ties make participants aware of other’s successes, stimulating them both to work harder on their own projects and to be more adventurous in their work, distinguishing and potentially elevating themselves. Russell (1997) cites competition as a key driver of the very high standard of British brass bands during the late 1800s and early 1900s, for example, as it incentivised participants to practise. I noted something similar with respect to early UK punk, with the addition that competition between punks also seemed to encourage greater stylistic experimentation (both musical and sartorial) amongst some (Crossley 2015a). Likewise, Riesman (1950) identifies a central role for competition in the emergence of the campus-based ‘hot jazz’ he observes. Having collectively created a world in which being a jazz fan was important and valued, participants vied with one another to be the biggest and best fan: e.g. seeking out ever more esoteric artists and recordings, accumulating knowledge and going the extra mile to organise jazz related events. The outcome, Riesman argues, was a dynamic and vibrant music world which was exciting and rewarding for all involved. Though sometimes detrimental, competition often served the general good. Many ethnographies point to similar competitive dynamics within music worlds (e.g. Thornton 1995; KahnHarris 2007). In contrast to Coleman, Lin (2002) defines social capital as indirect access to resources via social relations. If I have and can play a guitar, for

Musicking networks   97 example, then I directly own and control these resources (i.e. the instrument and the skill necessary to play it). If, by contrast, I have a friend who owns and has the expertise to use good recording equipment, who is prepared to lend me that equipment and expertise, then I have indirect access to those resources via our relationship. This is what Lin means by social capital. Cohen’s (1997) work on Liverpool indie rock musicians in the late 1980s illustrates this. All manner of important music-related goods, from information and advice to equipment and support slots, were exchanged in the network comprising this local world, she notes, and participation in this network conferred a huge advantage upon musicians. This is particularly significant because, as I discuss in Chapter 8, Cohen found that women were systematically excluded from this network and considerably disadvantaged as a consequence. Women lacked the ties that furnished men with the resources they needed. They lacked social capital in Lin’s (2002) sense of that term. Although different, Coleman’s and Lin’s conceptions of social capital are complementary. The indirect access which others afford to resources is conditional upon their willingness to grant access, and this is more likely when the norms of trust and cooperation which Coleman identifies with closed networks are in play. If a network generates norms of cooperation and mutual support, then its members are more likely to grant others access to their resources. Who a node connects to is to some extent irrelevant for Coleman (1990). He is interested in the manner in which closed networks generate a context of trust, cooperation and mutual support – whoever might be involved in them. Lin’s (2002) conception of social capital, by contrast, begs the question of whom a node connects to. If ties afford indirect access to others’ resources, then some are more beneficial than others because some others are better resourced. A further extension of this idea is Bourdieu’s (1986) conception of social capital, which defines it as having ‘friends in high places’. I will not say too much about this because it is fairly straightforward. We should acknowledge, however, that ‘high places’ are sometimes relative to a world. Important figures in a particular world may have little influence outside of that world. Roger Eagle occupied a ‘high place’ in the Liverpool post-punk world whose network is visualised in Figure 5.1. He owned Eric’s, the key venue in Liverpool’s punk world, and decided who played there. This made him a useful person to know, as Julian Cope (1994) notes in his autobiography. Moreover, originating from Manchester and having been an influential figure in its celebrated northern soul world, Eagle had ‘friends in high places’ in Manchester’s punk world, including leading musical entrepreneur, Tony Wilson, who featured punk bands on his weekly TV show, ran Factory records and also ran Manchester’s answer to Eric’s: the Factory.

98   Connecting sounds Eagle was therefore a gatekeeper for artists wishing to move between the two cities. He helped to bring Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark to Wilson’s attention, for example: a move which resulted in them signing to Factory for their first single, Electricity. Likewise, he helped bring a young Mick Hucknall (pre Simply Red) from Manchester to Liverpool, nurturing his career and employing him to DJ at Eric’s. One way of capturing ‘friends in high places’ is with Erdös numbers. Erdös was a celebrated mathematician who collaborated with many others and his collaborators devised a system for capturing this. Anybody who had written a paper directly with Erdös had an Erdös number of 1. Anybody who hadn’t collaborated directly with Erdös, but had co-authored a paper with someone who had, had an Erdös number of 2, and so on. This system is easily adapted. Within the Liverpool network, for example, 31 nodes enjoy a direct tie with Roger Eagle and therefore have an Eagle number of 1; 53 are at a geodesic distance of two degrees from Eagle and therefore have an Eagle number of 2; 39 are at three degrees and have an Eagle number of 3, and so on. If attachment to Eagle is an advantage, then some are more advantaged than others, and ‘Eagle numbers’ allow us to capture this. A yet further variant upon social capital is suggested by Burt (1992, 2004, 2005). Whilst he accepts that closure can confer advantages, as Coleman (1990) argues, he believes that it can be problematic too. When ‘everybody knows everybody’, he argues, there is a tendency towards stagnancy; the same ideas, information and other goods are endlessly re-circulated. In addition, from an economic point of view, the network is inefficient, with many redundant ties; nodes are investing time, energy and other resources into multiple different relationships, each of which grants them access to the same ideas, information, etc. It is often far better, in Burt’s view, to be connected to alters with whom one does not share further alters; or rather, to enjoy a balance between openness and closure. This argument echoes Granovetter’s (1973, 1974, 1982) seminal work on ‘the strength of weak ties’. Researching the process whereby individuals find jobs, Granovetter observed that networks were crucial. However, contacts within the relatively closed circles to which most people belonged (‘strong ties’) were much less useful than those which reached outside of these clusters, because they knew the same people as the job hunter and had little fresh to offer. Contacts who shared few other ties with the job hunter (‘weak ties’), by contrast, connected them to different circles and thereby to different opportunities, ideas, information and resources. Burt theorises (1992, 2005) this in terms of ‘structural holes’ and ‘brokerage’. A structural hole is a gap in a network, such as we find between components, and a broker is a node which bridges that gap, connecting the components and effectively fusing them into a single component.

Musicking networks   99 This can be advantageous for the broker herself. She will often be rewarded for facilitating the movement of goods between otherwise unconnected parties, and may take credit for ideas and innovations which she is actually only passing on from one part of the network to another. Brokers benefit the network as a whole too, however; or at least particular clusters within it, because they serve as a conduit for new ideas and innovations which invigorate the cluster, preventing the aforementioned stagnation. They revitalise a network. This is exemplified on many levels in music worlds. Radio DJs and journalists broker between artists and audiences, for example, deriving power and prestige from the control they exercise over exchanges between the two. Likewise managers, label bosses, promoters, etc., whose value to others in a music world derives from their connections. Moreover, whilst the competing claims of New York and London to the origins of punk remain contested, there can be little doubt that Malcolm McLaren’s brokering between the two was hugely significant for both London and himself. The Sex Pistols’ manager travelled to New York in 1975, visiting the seminal punk club, CBGB, and forging ties with pioneering US punks such as Richard Hell. When he returned to London, having previously been half-hearted in relation to the Pistols, he was animated and full of ideas and plans which he fed through to London’s proto-punk network (Crossley 2015a). McLaren brokered between New York and London, transmitting ideas from the former to the latter, and, in doing so, inspired innovation in the emerging London punk world, energising it whilst simultaneously bolstering his own reputation as a pioneer and innovator. Burt (1992) introduces a number of measures for identifying and quantifying brokerage, and there is a further standard centrality measure, ‘betweenness’, which captures aspects of it too. I will not elaborate upon these here. It will suffice to indicate that rigorous measures exist and can be applied empirically. Bonding, bridging and bowling My discussion of social capital to this point has focused upon the significance of networks in relation to the formation and flourishing of specific music worlds. I want to briefly pause now, however, to approach this from another angle, drawing upon Putnam’s (2000) work on social capital. Putnam distinguishes two types of social capital: bonding capital, which, echoing Coleman (1990), refers to the benefits for both the individual and group of dense and closed networks; and bridging capital, which identifies the benefits of ties connecting otherwise disconnected groups; a conception which echoes Burt (1992) to some extent, but which Putnam links to social cohesion. Individuals often benefit from belonging to a

100   Connecting sounds tightly bonded in-group, Putnam argues, but social tension and conflict are more likely, often to the detriment of all, where such in-groups lack bridges to their respective out-groups which would allow them to develop mutual understanding, agreement over common norms and a mechanism for de-escalating any conflicts arising from their inevitable mutual impingement. I want to focus here upon the two key claims of Putnam’s major study, Bowling Alone. The first is that social capital, in both of its forms but for our purposes specifically its ‘bonding’ form, is beneficial for both individuals and society (I discuss bridging in Chapter 8). Many chapters of Bowling Alone focus upon correlations between indicators of social capital and various measures of individual and collective wellbeing, suggesting that the former positively influences the latter. These claims have been debated, criticised and retested many times (see Field 2008; Halpern 2004). One could debate them endlessly, so I will merely state my judgement that there is persuasive evidence that relatively dense and/or closed networks, involving face-to-face contact, are beneficial for both individuals (e.g. in terms of mental and physical health) and societies (e.g. in terms of social cohesion, trust and their further benefits for both democracy and the economy). Putnam’s second claim is that network density and closure are falling in the US (and, by implication, Western societies more generally). Various forms of collective association once characteristic of Western societies, including – in the US – the bowling leagues to which he alludes in the title of his book, are disappearing and nothing is taking their place. Given the first claim, this is a cause for alarm. An important and beneficial property of society is in decline. Again, this is a contested claim which has been subject to much debate, with little agreement. It is interesting for our purposes, however, because we might think of music worlds, particularly smaller and more specialised music worlds, as examples of the collective forms to which Putnam refers, akin to his bowling leagues; and though some forms of musicking, such as brass bands and amateur orchestras, are perhaps less evident today than previously, there is no reason to believe that this is true of all music worlds. Indeed, though it is often a struggle to keep smaller music worlds afloat and they always face challenges in the context of their wider external environments, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they continue to proliferate in towns and cities across the world. And there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they generate bonding capital. Rimmer’s (2010) aforementioned study of new monkey captures this. Whilst the men he interviewed had acquired their taste for the music from one another, Rimmer observes that their mutual love of it and co-participation in events such as raves intensified the bonds between them, bolstering their feelings of group solidarity and supporting them in their lives more generally (for similar observations on underground metal and folk singing, respectively,

Musicking networks   101 see Emms and Crossley 2018; Hield and Crossley 2015). In other words, musicking bucks the trend Putnam describes and, if he is right about the value of social capital, contributes positively to the society to which it belongs. Musicking generates social capital, in Putnam’s sense, to the benefit of the individuals involved, the musicking process and wider society. I return to the link between music and social cohesion in Chapter 8. Inequality in networks Having stressed the beneficial nature of networks, it is important to acknowledge that, like other forms of social structure, they often involve inequalities, which may occasion conflict and other negative effects. The concept of centrality discussed above is one example of this. Some nodes are more central than others. Different nodes enjoy different opportunities and constraints, leaving some perhaps feeling marginal and/or aggrieved (Crossley 2015a). There are several ways in which networks can be unequal and divided. For illustrative purposes, I will briefly discuss one which I have found in several music worlds: a core–periphery structure (Crossley 2015a; Crossley and Ozturk 2019; Emms and Crossley 2018). A core is a subset of nodes whose members are densely connected to one another by comparison with the wider network. They form a cohesive sub-group. A periphery comprises all nodes not in the core. They are sparsely connected, as a set, both to the core and even more so to one another. They do not constitute a cohesive subgroup. They are defined rather by their marginal status relative to the core. In Figure 5.4, I have visualised this divide for the Liverpool network (details of the analysis are not relevant for our purposes). The core, comprising 28% of all nodes, has an internal density of 0.52, compared to 0.07 between core and periphery and 0.04 within the periphery. Core–periphery structures are important because high density within the core often affords them social capital – in Coleman’s (1990) sense – and a capacity to influence what happens within the music world, which the periphery lack. The core are often an ‘in crowd’, enjoying the benefits this brings, whilst the periphery are relatively excluded and may experience themselves as such. Musicking networks are not necessarily egalitarian structures (I have discussed the formative processes of such structures elsewhere (e.g. Crossley and Ozturk 2019; Emms and Crossley 2018)). Taste and everyday networks The networks discussed so far in this chapter have tended to be quite specialised: music world networks centred upon specific forms of musicking

102   Connecting sounds

5.4  Liverpool’s core–periphery divide.

and involving participants with a relatively high commitment to those forms. The wider and more diffuse networks of our everyday lives, networks of friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, etc., are important too, however. They can be important in relation to the abovementioned music worlds. As Bennett (1980) and any number of rock biographies observe, for example, many ‘first bands’ begin as groups of friends and their members, in some cases, only decide to learn instruments because their friends are forming a band. Likewise, everyday networks are an important mechanism of recruitment to music worlds. In my work on early punk, for example, I came across numerous testimonies regarding the role of word of mouth recommendation in the rapid growth in audience size at early Sex Pistols’ gigs. Friends recruited friends, who recruited friends and so on. Similarly, both Chang’s (2007) account of the birth of hip hop and several contributors to Bainbridge’s (2013) oral history of acid house describe what appears to have been a crucial stage in the formation of these worlds during which ‘word spread’, along with excitement and enthusiasm, through everyday networks. We see this more recently in relation to a London-based jazz sub-world in the ascendency at my time of writing. Referring to Steez, a key venue in what drummer, Moses Boyd,3 describes as the sub-world’s ‘infrastructure and ecosystem’, saxophonist, Nubya Garcia, notes that: it started with us bringing our friends there, producers and DJs and creatives that we grew up with at college … those people had a sick time, and word of mouth is really powerful. Even with current nights now, like Steam Down in Deptford, it’s a small venue and word of mouth. Not that much on-line activity.4

Musicking networks   103 No less importantly for present purposes, however, everyday networks mediate individuals’ experiences of music, shaping their reception and shaping them as musical beings. As Frith (1998) has argued, some of the joy which we take in music is the joy of discussing and arguing about it with others. Indeed, music talk is often important to the ‘doing’ of everyday social relations (Lizardo 2006, 2011; Pachucki and Breiger 2010). We bond with others by discussing music. A key element in this is the shaping of musical taste by way of mutual interaction in family, and more especially friendship, networks. It is wellestablished empirically that tastes are shaped by social relations and networks (Becker 1996; Erickson 1996; Kane 2004; Lewis et al. 2008; Mark 1998, 2003; Relish 1997; Rimmer 2010, 2012; Upright 2004). This can happen in a number of ways (Crossley et al. 2015). Most obviously, others introduce us to new (to us) artists, works and styles; sometimes affording (or imposing) the repeated exposure that can lead to liking. We cannot develop a liking for what we do not hear, and though listening does not necessarily translate into liking, repeated or prolonged listening in the company of others who apparently like what they hear increases its likelihood. Moreover, we may ‘go through the motions’ of appreciation, carried along by friends, finding that this results in genuine appreciation. Simulated enthusiasm gives rise to the real thing. Before Web 2.0, when access to music was more restricted, friends may have been the only conduit through which individuals could get to hear certain forms of music. That is no longer true. However, even in the internet era we can only search for what we know to be there and the abundance of music at our fingertips necessitates that we have some means of narrowing down the field. The choices of others often serve this purpose. They focus our own choices and searches (Mark 1998). Beyond exposure, others influence our tastes by informing and educating our listening, both to specific pieces or artists and more generally. They may, for example, frame the listening process for us, furnishing information about the artist or their context which affects how we hear their work. Learning that an artist has lived a tortured life may encourage us to hear their moans as signs of genuine pain rather than affectations, for example, and to listen for authenticity. Alternatively, they may talk us through their hearing, encouraging us to hear a song (artist, style etc.) as they do, focusing upon details which have caught their attention and impressed them which we might otherwise have missed. To anticipate a theme from Chapter 7, this may also involve instruction in proper use and appreciation. Perhaps a song is great to dance to and needs to be appreciated that way. Perhaps it has to be danced to in a particular way, which has to be learned, or it arises in a context, such as the mosh pit, which we have be persuaded to enter. Perhaps a piece that sounds like sonic wallpaper in most contexts is very moving if you close

104   Connecting sounds your eyes, sit comfortably and allow it to wash over you. Others teach us how best to listen to and appreciate particular songs, artists and styles. Finally, taste is often bound up with status. Individuals are deemed, by others, to have good or bad taste and may be inclined to make claims to certain preferences in order to appear to have good taste. Such claims to taste are different to taste itself. Saying that I like a particular artist or genre is not the same as actually liking it. However, pretending to like something may set in motion mechanisms, not least prolonged exposure and aesthetic education, which do eventually change our tastes. As noted above, for example, some of Rimmer’s (2010) new monkey enthusiasts reported struggling with the style at first, before, over time, they developed a genuine liking for it. Friendship and the desire for recognition within our friendship networks can provide the incentive we need to stick with music which, on first listen, we do not like, but which we learn to like through repeated listening. Conclusion A music world is a social network. It has various types of nodes, not least human participants who work collectively to create the music and other goods valued within it. The network generates music, whilst being simultaneously generated by it; musicking pulls individuals with similar tastes together, tastes which in turn are often shaped within further networks, and inspires them to seek out others with complementary skills and aspirations with whom they can interact musically. Networks can be structured in different ways, however. They have variable structural properties and, though mediated by context and the agency of those involved, these properties impact upon the social processes which they embed, generating opportunities and constraints for social actors. Because musicking is a collective action, networks are often necessary for it to happen and they can have wider positive effects in relation to both music and wider society. However, they can have negative effects, and even where they are beneficial for some, they may not be beneficial for all – certainly not to the same extent. Networks have various effects, positive and negative, and impact differently upon those in different positions within them. Even our everyday networks of family, neighbours, colleagues and friends are important in musicking. As Frith (1998) stresses, music is something that we listen to, share, talk about and argue over with others. This shapes our musical knowledge, understanding, tastes and identities. We do not always agree with others, but in disagreeing we form our sense of what we like, and of course we often are influenced by the tastes of our friends, as we influence them. Friends warm to one another’s preferred

Musicking networks   105 artists and desist in their pursuit of artists and styles which others treat with derision. We experience music intersubjectively; that is, as something also experienced by others – and this affects our own experience. We can only properly understand processes of taste and identity formation, however, if we also take account of what music means to people and the uses to which they put it. I turn to these issues in the next two chapters. Notes 1  As explained earlier in the book, a corporate actor is an organisation comprising human actors but whose decisions, status and – often – resources are irreducible to those actors as an aggregate (Hindess 1988; Coleman 1990). 2  In Figure 5.1, Les Pattinson (of Echo and the Bunnymen) is linked to 7 others; 7∗6 there are = 21 possible ties between those others, but only 20 of those 2 20 ties are observed, giving him an ego-net density of = 0.95 . 21 3  In a collective interview, by Nick Hasted, with Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia, Theon Cross and Joe Armon-Jones, in Jazzwise 231 (July 2018), 20–23. 4  Nick Hasted, with Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia, Theon Cross and Joe ArmonJones, Jazzwise 231 (July 2018), 20–23.


Semiotic interactions: meaning, communication and affect

Having argued in Chapter 2 that music is social interaction, I argue in this chapter that musical interaction orients to ‘meaning’ and I consider both what musical meaning is and how it is achieved. This is important, sociologically, because it allows us to better appreciate the place of music within social life. Social interaction draws upon, diffuses, reproduces, shapes and is shaped by meanings which are to some extent shared but also sometimes fought over and are open to question. Societies are constituted, in some part, by agreement over and contestation of meaning, and musicking belongs to this process: drawing meanings from its wider context and variously bolstering, reproducing and challenging them as it pumps them back into those contexts. In addition, meaning is important for a proper grasp of themes that I will be discussing in later chapters. Much of what I have to say about the political dimension of music in Chapter 9 hinges upon the fact that music is meaningful, for example; as do the issues of taste, identity and use which I discuss in Chapters 7 and 8. Musical meaning is a vast and complex topic. I can only scratch at its surface here (for more in depth discussion, see Coker 1972; Davies 1994; DeNora 1986; Ferguson 1960; Green 2008; McClary 2002; Tagg 2013). However, the meaningfulness of music is fundamental to much of what is sociologically interesting about it; and it is necessary, therefore, to lay down a basic framework. Some preliminary remarks The idea that music is meaningful is more controversial than it ought to be. There is an influential strand of thought in music studies, represented historically by Hanslick (1986), which claims that (instrumental) music refers to nothing outside of itself and therefore has no meaning – or at 106

Semiotic interactions   107 least no ‘external meaning’. External reference is by no means the only dimension of meaning music could have. I discuss ‘internal meaning’ later in this chapter, and practical meaning – which music acquires from the uses to which it is put – in the next. Even if we stick to external meaning, defined as music’s capacity to represent something outside of itself, however, Hanslick and his fellow travellers are wrong. I will argue in this chapter that music can and does take on external meanings, and that though lyrics contribute to that process where present, they are not the whole story. Instrumental music can have external meaning. More specifically, it can have semiotic meaning. Semiotic meaning can have both internal and external dimensions – though, as Green (2008) observes, these dimensions are often indissociably entangled, as indeed the semiotic and practical aspects of musical meaning are. I will address these complex entanglements across this chapter and the next but I begin with external semiotic meaning. Though I draw upon several sources, my understanding of semiotic meaning begins with and builds upon Peirce (1932, 1955, 1991; see also Turino 2008, 1999; Vannini 2004). To say that music has semiotic meaning for Peirce is to say that it or some aspect of it functions as a sign for a particular listener (or listeners). A sign, as I discuss in more detail below, is a perceptual figure (something perceived) which affects those who perceive it by virtue of a relationship which it has, for them, to something else. Different aspects of music may play this role. It may be a piece as a whole, a riff, phrase or even a single note. It may be the timbre of a particular voice or some aspect of rhythm, melody or harmonic structure. None of this happens in isolation. Musical signs are perceived and acquire meaning in relation to other signs (musical or otherwise), to a wider whole (e.g. song) and to multiple contextual factors which frame their reception and meaning, including – as Frith (1998) observes – their title, lyrics and, in the case of some art music, programme notes. In addition, their meaning is often framed by the interpretive conventions and background knowledge to which Danto (1964) and Fish (1980) refer in their respective accounts of ‘art worlds’ and ‘interpretive communities’ (see Chapter 2). Nevertheless, musical figures function as signs for listeners and in this sense they are semiotically meaningful. Note my use of the term ‘function’. Signs and meanings are not things for Peirce. They are defined by their role within a process. Nothing is a sign independently of playing this role and anything is a sign insofar as it plays this role. To understand signs and meaning, therefore, we must understand the process. This needs to be unpacked. Before I do this, however, I want to briefly discuss two important aspects of Peirce’s approach which diverge from other approaches to semiotics and must be grasped if the value of his approach is to be fully appreciated.

108   Connecting sounds First, semiotic meaning, following Peirce, is always meaning for someone; a listener or listeners. This is partly because a sign, by definition, has an effect and it is the listener (who may also be the composer/performer) who is affected. In being affected, the listener completes the process whereby a sound becomes a sign. However, it is also because it is the listener who, whilst actively interrogating sonic events in search of recognisable patterns (see Chapter 2), associates what they hear with other aspects of their experience – albeit usually habitually and without awareness – making it function as a sign. Listening is shaped by the accumulated experience of the listener, and by associative processes which render what is heard meaningful by linking them to other events and objects within this accumulated experience. This makes music meaningful. This argument stands in contrast to approaches to musical meaning which locate it either within ‘the text’ or within the intentions of the composer/performer. Both text and composer/performer are important, but neither is decisive in relation to meaning. The listener interacts with a sonic event (text) which exists and has properties and a structure independently of them – even if, as I have said, they organise and structure it in the process of listening to it. What they hear and what it means derives from this interaction: from the interplay between interrogation and that which it interrogates. As such, however, the text is not determinate. Furthermore, though musical meaning is different to authorial intent, composers and performers usually have a sense of what they want to say (even if their own songs sometimes take on different meanings for them over time), have an intersubjective sense of their immediate audience, qua ‘generalised other’, and enjoy a mastery of interpretive resources which they share with that audience and can draw upon to communicate with them. They are skilled at moving and conveying messages to audiences. In addition, they may talk about what they have done, explaining their intentions in an effort to frame reception of their work. We should add, moreover, that listeners, irrespective of academic critiques, often understand ‘meaning’ in terms of authorial intention, using their knowledge of an artist’s biography and claims made in interviews to frame their listening and interpretation. Nevertheless, the meaning of a song is its effect and the artist cannot fully control that effect. Their work may take on meanings different to what they had expected and intended. Understood thus, though musical meaning may have a personal aspect, it generally has a collective, shared aspect too. In part this is because the meaning of music is discussed collectively, whether within friendship networks or, more formally, in the mass media and on social media channels devoted to music (Frith 1998). Meanings are negotiated, not only between composer, performer and audience, but also within and amongst audiences. In part, however, it is also because our perception and understanding of

Semiotic interactions   109 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 described in Chapter 2), or indeed other communities and social groups. But meanings need not be universally shared. Debates on musical meaning sometimes assume that unless music has exactly the same meaning for everyone and that meaning inheres in the music itself, then we cannot speak of musical meaning at all; but this sets the bar unnecessarily high and misunderstands the nature of the semiotic system with which it usually draws an unfavourable comparison for music: namely, language (DeNora 1986). Language, too, has meaning only by virtue of agreement and shared experience within the communities to which it belongs, and its meaning only exists for and within those communities (Wittgenstein 1953). As McClary argues: ‘Meaning is not inherent in music, but neither is it in language: both are activities that are kept afloat only because communities of people invest in them, agree collectively that their signs serve as valid currency’ (2002: 21). This is not to deny that linguistic meaning is usually more elaborate and less equivocal than musical meaning, but simply to say that both derive meaning from the same source: namely, networks whose members enjoy shared experiences and ‘forms of life’ (Wittgenstein 1953). That said, we should acknowledge that meaning is less predictable outside of particular music worlds. Gracyk (2001), for example, observes that contemporary recorded music diffuses well beyond the interpretive community of the artist, both in space and time. Global distribution allows music to be accessed in contexts culturally very far removed from the ones in which it is produced, and recording means that music endures long after the moment which shaped its original meaning. Artists are discovered by new generations whose lived experiences and frames of reference are very different to their own; generations whose understanding and interpretations of what they hear is very different. Contemporary recording artists are aware of this, according to Gracyk. They know that their audience is potentially very diverse and may not even have been born at the time they are writing, with the consequence that the meaning of what they write is open-ended. Their work can be misunderstood and there are incorrect ways of interpreting it. Songs are not Rorschach ink blots onto which we can project whatever we like. However, their meaning is not fixed or completely determinate either. The second peculiarity of Peirce’s semiotics is its embrace of affective and behavioural responses to signs. We can draw this out by way of a

110   Connecting sounds brief engagement with Gilbert and Pearson’s (1999) account of dance music in the UK in the late 1980s. They write: as well as having meanings, music can be thought of as producing affects, which cannot be explained in terms of meaning. In other words music can affect us in ways that are not dependent upon us understanding something, or manipulating verbal concepts, or being able to represent accurately those experiences through language. It is this non-verbal aspect of music’s effectivity which has given rise to its strange status in Western thought. (1999: 39)

Gilbert and Pearson are focused upon a form of music which, as they point out, often has no lyrics; music which audiences dance to, often all night and under the influence of drugs; music which isn’t typically reflected upon or interpreted (their own discourse notwithstanding). The point of dance music, they suggest, is pleasure and excitement or ‘affect’ rather than meaning. Moreover, they suggest that there is something subversive about dance music in this respect because it resists the demand, inherent in our culture, that experiences be articulated and thereby rationally regulated within language. These claims are provocative and interesting, but the juxtaposition of affect and meaning is problematic – as Gilbert and Pearson subsequently acknowledge. Later in the chapter from which the above quotation is taken, they backtrack, conceding that music’s affective and visceral effects cannot be automatic or unmediated and must have something to do with meaning. However, they do not elaborate and therefore only succeed in contradicting themselves. The problem, in my view, lies in their overly narrow understanding of meaning as linguistic, reflective and cognitive, ignoring other possibilities. Peirce suggests another possibility. Signs are meaningful for Peirce because they affect the listener by virtue of what they represent for her; how they are understood. ‘Understood’ need not imply reflective, conscious understanding, however; and a sign’s effect is as likely affective or behavioural as cognitive. Music’s meanings often manifest in the way in which they make us feel or inspire us to act, only becoming reflective later, if at all. Film music is a great source of examples of this. Whenever Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘Ave Satani’ begins to play during The Omen I feel fear rising within me. Likewise, the simple alternation between E and F on the tuba which comprises the essence of ‘the shark theme’ in John Williams’ Jaws soundtrack. In both cases, the music announces the arrival of the film’s baddy (the devil or the shark), but it doesn’t operate at the level of reflective thought. It engenders fear (a racing heart, sweaty hands, tensing muscles, an impulse to curl up, etc.). My response is visceral and behavioural and though I can talk about it afterwards, that is secondary and retrospective. The music is meaningful, it functions as a sign or cluster of signs, because it elicits a sense of foreboding.

Semiotic interactions   111 Such effects are manifestations of meaning, however, and not purely physical effects akin to the pain I experience in my ears if music is played too loud. ‘Ave Satani’ scares me because it announces the arrival of the Devil (notwithstanding the atheism which my ‘rational’ self professes) and the shark theme is terrifying because it announces that the shark is in the vicinity and someone is about to be eaten. The music stands for something for me (and not only for me). There is another aspect to Gilbert and Pearson’s critique, however. They are uncomfortable with the idea of meaning because, for them, that would suggest that music is in some way representing something nonmusical. In the above illustration, for example, the alternating notes on the tuba represent a shark. Whilst there may be some examples of this in dance music, they suggest that dance music does not usually represent anything. I agree. Dance music often does not seem to be about anything in the way that, for example, love songs, protest songs and many classical and operatic pieces are. However, this does not mean that dance music lacks or challenges the idea of meaning – and Gilbert and Pearson’s suggestion that it does again betrays a narrow and overly rigid definition of meaning. Specifically, they overlook the possibility that dance music has ‘internal meaning’. I will return to this. Before I do, however, I want to elaborate further on Peirce’s semiotics, and before I do that I want to make a few remarks about linguistic meaning in music. Linguistic meaning Lyrics and other linguistic elements of music are important in relation to musical meaning, particularly, though not exclusively, the meanings of popular music. Much of the discussion of the meaning of popular songs, both academic and lay, is focused upon their lyrics. Furthermore, linguistic meaning, both within and outside of music, raises many big questions. However, nobody seriously questions the fact that linguistic utterances are meaningful, as they do instrumental aspects of music. For this reason I will limit my discussion of linguistic meaning to a few points before shifting my focus to music’s instrumental aspect. ‘Linguistic meaning’ can mean different things. It can refer to a meaning conveyed by language: e.g. in lyrics. Frank Turner’s ‘Long Live the Queen’ has an affective meaning for me, for example, by virtue of the story (of the death of a friend) that he tells. The lyrics move me: making me sad and yet uplifted. Alternatively, ‘linguistic meaning’ can refer to a meaning articulated in language which may initially have had no linguistic aspect. After the event, for example, I may reflect upon the impact which the aforementioned shark theme has had upon me, capturing and interpreting its effect in language.

112   Connecting sounds As Frith (1998) observes, talk about music, in which we interpret and evaluate it, is extremely common and forms an important element in the enjoyment of it for many of us. Musicking doesn’t end when the band finish their set or the record stops playing. It continues well into the night and for a long time after, as participants work over their experience linguistically, building a story and forging further meaning around what they have heard. However, there is variation in the extent and importance of these linguistic–musical meanings, corresponding in some part to musical styles and worlds. Not all music is subject to such scrutiny. Gilbert and Pearson (1999) suggest a rather different picture in their account of dance music, for example, in which the reflective stance involved in musical discussion is largely absent. Likewise, in a comparative ethnography of ‘bike boys’ and ‘hippies’, Willis (1978) observes how the former were very hostile to discussions of musical meaning, whilst the latter relished it and would devote whole evenings to the analysis of their favourite tracks. Reflective dissection of musical meaning in language is encouraged in some worlds and social circles, discouraged in others. Meyer captures this variation, allowing for individual differences too, when he notes that: Intellectual experience (the conscious awareness of one’s own expectations or, objectively, of the tendencies of the music) […] is largely a product of the listener’s own attitude towards his responses […] some listeners, whether because of training or natural psychological inclination, are disposed to rationalise their responses, to make experience self-conscious; others are not so disposed. (Meyer 1956: 31)

Furthermore, he adds that conscious reflection upon musical meaning is more likely where that meaning is in some way problematic for the listener. If meanings are obvious and/or agreeable to us, then we are less likely to become reflectively aware of them. To reiterate, however, this is just one potential facet of musical meaning. Musical signs Signs, for Peirce (1932, 1955, 1991), are perceptual figures constituted as signs by their role in a process (semiosis) and their relationships to an ‘interpretant’ on one side, and an object on the other. An interpretant is the effect which a sign has upon a social actor who perceives or conceives of it. This effect can be affective (the sign affects our mood or induces a feeling), behavioural (it triggers an action or motor response), cognitive (it induces a mental state, such as expectation, or brings something into our reflective consciousness) or some combination of these. In addition,

Semiotic interactions   113 Peirce suggests that the interpretant of a sign may itself subsequently function as a sign, with a further interpretant and so on in a semiotic chain that may extend some length before terminating. A musical figure may induce one reaction, which induces another, which induces a third and so on. The object is something which the sign stands in relation to, for the actor, and which is in large part responsible for the interpretant because of this. If somebody shouts ‘Shark!’ whilst I am enjoying a peaceful swim in the sea, for example, this will frighten me and induce me to swim quickly to the shore (this response is the interpretant of the sign). It is not the word or sound ‘shark’ in itself which causes this response, however, but rather its association, for me, with the concept of a large man-eating fish – and more specifically, my understanding of the word, when shouted in this context, as a warning that there is one such fish in my vicinity. Iconic signs Peirce subdivides signs into three types: (1) iconic; (2) indexical; and (3) symbolic, each defined by a different relation to the object. Iconic signs are linked to their object by a relation of resemblance. In musical terms, they work because they ‘sound like’ something. Peirce further subdivides iconic signs into (1) images; (2) diagrams; and (3) metaphors. I am not sure that diagrammatic iconic signs exist in music but a few examples of the other two types will be useful. For our purposes, image-iconic signs can be further subdivided into two types. First, what I would call ‘type’ signs. In this case, a particular piece of music ‘sounds like’ music of a particular type. The two most obvious examples of this are: (1) recognising something we are listening to as (a version of ) a song we are familiar with; and (2) identifying it with a particular style. This is important because it will influence our subsequent interaction with the piece, framing it and mobilising expectations, assumptions and evaluative criteria. Our experience of a new (to us) version of a song with which we are familiar is inevitably shaped by expectations formed through engagement with the earlier version, for example. Similarly, our experience and judgement of a song will be different if, on the basis of the first few bars, we judge it to be ‘jazz’ or alternatively perhaps ‘soul’ (see below). Indeed, to invoke Dewey’s (2005) concept of recognition, introduced in Chapter 2, it may influence whether we bother to listen at all or allow the song to drop to the background of our auditory field. If the opening bars of a song ‘sound like’ heavy metal to me, and I do not like heavy metal, then I may turn the radio off or change channel. Related to this is quotation. Jazz musicians often quote one another, employing phrases, techniques or a timbre which sound like and thereby remind audiences of someone else (Monson 1996). In jazz, this is part of the ‘conversation with tradition’ which is integral to the style (Monson

114   Connecting sounds 1996) and a nod to those in the know, whose sense of recognition functions as a further sign (in a semiotic chain), signifying to them that they are, indeed, in the know. There are many reasons why artists might quote, however. In a number of recent live performances of their first single,1 ‘The Prince’, for example, Madness quote the very distinctive two bar riff which opens Prince Buster’s ‘Al Capone’ and also the Specials’ ‘Gangsters’ (which reworks ‘Al Capone’). I heard this initially as a friendly nod to the Specials, whose Two Tone label released ‘The Prince’, and to the Two Tone world within which Madness and the Specials first emerged. I experienced it as a nostalgic identity claim, harking back to the good old days. On reflection, however, it struck me that it might be a tribute to Prince Buster, who is the eponymous prince celebrated in the song. Both meanings are possible and I suspect that what strikes the listener will depend upon their familiarity with Two Tone and Prince Buster respectively. Iconic signification in music is often an important first step in a semiotic chain that may involve other sign types. Quoting one song within another will often trigger a chain of associations, but this is only possible if the quotation is first heard as such. The two bars in ‘The Prince’ must sound like ‘Gangsters’ to me before any further meaning which ‘Gangsters’ might hold for me can kick in; and, of course, listeners unfamiliar with both ‘Gangsters’ and ‘Al Capone’ won’t hear any quotation at all. The second type of image-iconic sign is a more straightforward case of ‘sounding like’ some other kind of sonic event. I have a few examples: •  At two points in Gregory Porter’s ‘1960 What?’, first where Porter sings about the assassination of Martin Luther King (‘shots rang out’), then when he describes a police shooting of an unarmed black youth (‘shot him down’), the drummer plays a rapid drum fill which breaks with the ongoing drum pattern. To me this sounds like the gunfire referred to in the lyrics and sends a shiver down my spine. •  In Spear of Destiny’s ‘Mayday’, the line, ‘Helicopters circle overhead’ is accompanied by a chugga-chugga guitar effect that sounds like whirling helicopter blades, further evoking the scene described in the lyrics. •  In ‘The Streets are Ours’ by the King Blues, a song whose lyrics cite various celebrated manifestations of protest since the 1960s, the bridge features a samba drum, football whistle and cowbells being struck with drum sticks in a manner which, for me, evokes a protest march and related sense of collective power and esprit de corps. • ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ by Bauhaus features a swirling, echoing sound effect which, to me, sounds like a colony of swarming bats, akin to those which have ‘left the bell tower’ according to the lyrics. This has a spooky effect. •  The percussion in Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’ induces a sense of being on a train (Michelle Shocked creates a similar effect in a very

Semiotic interactions   115 different way on ‘If Love Was a Train’, and the Cure find a different way again on ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’). These iconic signs are framed by the lyrics of the songs in which they occur and perhaps by other aspects of musical interaction too. When I saw the King Blues perform ‘The Streets’, for example, the band came to the front of the stage at the appropriate moment, with their samba drum, football whistle and cowbells, punching the air in a manner reminiscent of a protest march. Likewise, the video for ‘Mayday’ includes shots of a helicopter. I may not have heard the resemblance without such cues. However, I can hear the resemblance. The music does function as an iconic sign, at least for me and assumedly not only for me. The best examples of metaphoric-iconic signs, in my view, involve cross-modal effects. Many writers, for example, claim that music conveys a sense of movement (Scruton 1997; Higgins 2011). Its interpretant is a sense of motion. One facet of this is the sense of rising and falling that we sometimes experience as a melody climbs or descends. This is metaphorical because the sign and the object exist in different sensory registers (auditory and kinaesthetic) and cannot therefore be similar in a literal manner. A musical sign can sound like the sound of something else because they are both sounds, but it cannot sound like the feeling of falling, except in a metaphorical sense. However, music can convey a sense of falling and I would suggest that this is because of a metaphorical resemblance in the imagination of the listener. Similarly, metaphoric-iconic signification plays a role in the often cited capacity of music to convey emotion. Emotions, following Merleau-Ponty (1962), are embodied ways of relating to objects (including other people). They are perceptible from the outside, relative to context, as behavioural ‘styles’ which are difficult to describe but easier to emulate – and indeed caricature for dramatic purposes. Music can convey emotion, at least to an imaginative ear, by this same means: emulating emotions’ behavioural styles. Emotions are embodied in vocal gestures – such as screams, roars, sighs and groans – which music can emulate, for example, and not only in vocal gestures: the saxophone often seems to capture and abstract the emotional style that we hear and respond to in vocal gestures. Similarly, musicians might be instructed by a score to play in an aggressive, happy or sorrowful manner, utilising timbre, volume and ornamentation, etc. to capture in sound an emotional style conveyed multi-modally in other social behaviours. This requires skill on the behalf of the musician. They must have incorporated the instrument within their ‘corporeal schema’, to borrow Merleau-Ponty’s (1962) term, such that it has become an extension of their body and can be used to express feeling as they might with their whole body in a mime. Likewise, timing might be manipulated to convey emotion. Our moods manifest, in some part, in the tempo and

116   Connecting sounds rhythm of our engagement with the world, a tempo and rhythm which music can capture. A slow dirge can capture the sense of lethargy that accompanies depression, for example, whilst an up-tempo piece in a high register with a scatty rhythm might capture the giddiness that can accompany happiness – metaphorically that is, within the imaginatively embellished experience of the listener. A proper understanding of iconic signs and their metaphorical variant, in particular, requires that we appreciate both the imagination and embodiment of the listener. Listeners not only perceive. They play imaginatively with what they perceive, forging metaphorical analogies in some cases and responding accordingly. Embodiment is important because, as Johnson (1987) has argued, metaphor often works through and by means of the body (see also McClary 2002; Scruton 1997). Metaphor is fundamental to the way in which we make sense of the world, for Johnson, but not only in the narrow literary sense in which we usually think of metaphor. He suggests, for example, that reflective reasoning often sublimates, imaginatively and metaphorically, more basic embodied experiences; higher cognitive functions drawing metaphorically upon the embodied understanding of sensory-motor schemata; and he points to the way in which we transfer sense, metaphorically, between our senses. Though he does not explicitly discuss music, this account illuminates the process most likely underlying the signification of metaphoric-iconic signs. A rapid descent down the scale is experienced as physical descent, for example, because the two are metaphorically paired in our embodied experience when we ‘tune in’ to a song. As in dance, we transform temporal dynamics and tonal distances into spatial dynamics and distances. Eco (1979) misses this point in his critique of the idea of iconic signs. Part of his critique involves him disputing whether iconic signs really resemble their objects in any meaningful way; and suggesting that the ways in which they might varies hugely from one case to the next. Resemblance is often weak, tenuous and haphazard, he suggests, such that iconic signs could not represent their object without a further element – which, for him, is convention. Which signs we take to resemble which objects is often a matter of convention and we have conventional ways of generating resemblances: for example, onomatopoeic words, which are supposed to sound like what they represent, vary by language, country and region. Convention is important, and I will return to it. However, I believe that Eco’s account is flawed in the respect that he fails to appreciate the active role which Peirce accords to the perceiver in the semiotic process. The gap in objective similarity between sign and object may be filled by the imaginative work of the listener. A snare drum doesn’t really sound much like a gun, but I can imagine that it does; just as I can imagine that two of my fingers and my thumb are a gun and shoot people with them. Whether or not I make that leap will depend upon other factors

Semiotic interactions   117 which frame my perception of the drum, including, importantly, convention; but what makes the drum sound like a gun is imagination, not convention. Further aspects of Eco’s critique resonate a little more, and we have to allow that conventions often play a role in the constitution of iconic signs. He suggests, for example, that the object of iconic signs is often general: a concept rather than something specific. ‘The Streets are Ours’ does not invoke a specific protest for me, for example, but rather protest in general; a concept rather than a particular event. The point here is that protest, as a concept, is defined by way of convention. Furthermore, he suggests that the defining features of objects, which an iconic sign will typically hook on to, can vary across cultures according to convention, generating variation in iconic signs too. My knowledge of what bats fleeing bell towers sound like is based upon horror films that I have watched, for example, and is therefore shaped by cinematic (sonic) conventions. Bauhaus’ sound effects work for me because they resemble the conventional representation of bats in my culture, not real bats. However, the sound functions as a sign because I hear a resemblance and Peirce’s concept of iconic signs is therefore supported. Indexical signs Indexical signs indicate. They call attention to an object and do so because of a ‘dynamical connection’ which they enjoy with it, for the actor. The exclamation ‘Shark!’ in my earlier example functions indexically, for example, because and to the extent that it directs my attention to the large man-eating fish in my vicinity. Likewise, a pointing finger is an indexical sign because it calls attention to whatever it points at. More importantly, for our purposes, indexical signs often work by way of memory or association. Sounds re-call events or acquaintances from our past or they mobilise expectations about future events because we associate them, on the basis of past experiences, with those events. The object of an indexical sign is concrete and singular: ‘they refer to individuals, single units, single collections of units, or single continua’ (Peirce 1932: 172). ‘Shark!’ functions indexically when and because it calls my attention to a specific shark, for example, rather than invoking the general concept of sharks. That said, however, musical applications of this idea, suggested by Turino (1999, 2008), allow for relatively abstract objects. He suggests, for example, that national anthems indexically signify nations, which are relatively abstract and arbitrarily defined objects. However, there is a difference between invoking the abstract idea of nations and nationhood, as a sociologist might, and pointing to a particular nation, as a national anthem does. The particularity of the association, amongst other things, is what makes a national anthem an indexical sign.

118   Connecting sounds Indexical signs are important in musical meaning because music is woven into our lives; becomes associated with many key objects of our experience, including people, events and life stages; and has the power, because of this, to signify those objects. This may be an individual or interpersonal matter. Some couples have an ‘our song’, for example, which indexically signifies their relationship (Kotarba 2013). Indexical signs often have a wider, collective meaning, however, like a national anthem. Songs soundtrack collective histories as well as individual biographies and their meanings are widely shared. The diffusion of such indexical associations has been greatly enhanced by mass media and film and television in particular. Music is often used in film and television in a manner which cements associations across large populations. I cannot be the only person for whom the Glenn Miller version of ‘In the Mood’ invokes the period style of the big band era, for example. The song was released almost thirty years before I was born, however, has never charted during my lifetime and wasn’t something my parents listened to. ‘In the Mood’ has acquired these associations for me, and presumably others too, from the ways in which it has been used in television and film. An association between musical elements and non-musical objects is sometimes deliberately cultivated in drama. Wagner’s operas, for example, are famous for their use of musical motifs. A musical element (phrase, instrument, effect, etc.) becomes linked with a character, mood, etc. through repeated juxtaposition such that it serves to announce the impending arrival of that character or mood – or at least to lead audiences to expect it. My earlier examples of the shark theme and ‘Ave Satani’ work in much the same way. Moreover, they are not restricted to the film. Where successful, as these two pieces were, they enter general culture. I have seen television comedies, for example, which use one or the other of the pieces and the meaning they convey in a farcical way, to generate laughter: e.g. the shark theme may be played as a character approaches a children’s paddling pool. In addition, music often signifies ‘place’, from the steel drums of Trinidad and reggae rhythms of Jamaica, through the flamenco guitars of Spain, the samba and bossa nova of Rio, to the pan pipes of South America and fiddles and penny whistles of Ireland. Particular artists, as well as films and television, sometimes help to cement these relations. Stan Getz’s collaboration with Astrud and João Gilberto helped to bring the bossa nova to a large worldwide audience, for example; simultaneously forging the association which allows that musical style to signify Brazil and, via ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ in particular, a certain cool sophistication. Likewise, social position and status can be indexically signified within music. McClary (2002), for example, explores the way in which signs of gender have been generated, like motifs, through repeated juxtaposition

Semiotic interactions   119 within opera and the Western art music tradition more generally. This serves an ideological function, she maintains, because it often operates beneath reflective consciousness – we hear femininity without being fully cognisant of doing so – and because the feminine is, in turn, associated with failure or weakness in these works. The same signs signify femininity and weakness such that femininity itself comes to signify weakness. In a similar vein, Walser (1993) has explored some of the ways in which masculinity (amongst other things) is signified in heavy metal, encouraging identification by male listeners and perhaps partly explaining the disproportionately male profile of metal audiences. Class, too, may be indexically linked with particular musical elements and thereby signified by those elements. Wiseman-Trowse (2008), for example, considers how working-classness is signified in both folk and punk. Their apparent low-tech simplicity suggests music made on a low budget, which anyone could afford to make; for example, using skills which do not depend upon an exclusive and expensive musical education. Moreover, the accentuation of regional accents in the vocals and appropriation of popular song forms such as, in the case of punk, the football chant (most obvious in Sham 69’s ‘If the Kids are United’ but widely used in the ‘street punk’ or Oi! style which Sham 69 kick-started) all carry workingclass associations. And from the other end of the spectrum, classical music, if only because of its historical association with well-to-do audiences and publics, expensive musical educations and stiff, formal occasions, signifies an upper-middle class status. As in all cases, however, there is some play in these semiotic processes. Bands with strong working-class identities might sometimes quote classical music, for example, for critical and/or comic effect. Madness quote the opening bars of Beethoven’s ‘Fifth Symphony’ in their song ‘Misery’, for example, ironically drawing upon the dramatic seriousness which that opening connotes to humorous effect. Similarly, music may signify age, race or sexuality. In part this is a matter of particular musical styles or figures being associated with specific types of music in the public imagination. The disco music of the 1970s thrived in gay clubs during its early history and thus acquired a symbolic association with the gay community, for example, coming to signify gay identity (Gilbert and Pearson 1999). In other respects, however, it may be a matter of artists employing particular figures and gestures within the music, intentionally or not, which, to a particular audience, at least, signify a collective identity. Rose (1994), for example, refers to the ‘hidden transcripts’ in much black music and particularly hip hop, which include stylistic markers which many African Americans hear as affirmations of their identity, allowing them to own the music. Like iconic signs, indexical signs sometimes rely upon convention. A pointing finger only calls our attention to an object if we look to where the finger is pointing, for example; and that response, as Wittgenstein

120   Connecting sounds (1953) suggests, is conventional. As with iconic signs, however, this does not undermine the idea of indexical signs nor erode their distinction from symbols, which are entirely conventional. Symbols The link between symbols and objects, as defined by Peirce, is purely conventional. The relationship of words to the concepts which they represent, as defined in a dictionary, is the paradigm example. Any sign which is linked to its object purely by means of convention is functioning as a symbol for Peirce, however, and other examples include tickets, road signs, the markings on a football pitch and the Western system of musical notation, which instructs performers which notes to play and for how long. Police sirens, such as the one sampled in the introduction to The Clash’s ‘White Riot’, and burglar alarms, such as the one sampled in the introduction to the Ruts’ ‘Babylon’s Burning’, are both symbols. Each has a meaning conferred by convention, although in the two examples cited it is their indexical meaning further down the semiotic chain – of social disorder – which is probably more important. In relation to musical meaning, lyrics are an obvious symbolic element; but it is important to note that words can function indexically and iconically too. Just as nothing is a sign in and of itself, unless and until it functions as a sign for an actor who perceives it, signs are not of one sort or another in and of themselves, but rather only by virtue of the way in which they connect to an object and create an interpretant. Many artists play with quotations in lyrics, for example, which is firstly iconic, in the sense that what is said resembles something that has been said previously, and then also indexical, in the sense that it trades upon an association with the original singer or something about them. When Frank Turner sings ‘The times they aren’t a-changing’ in ‘Once We Were Anarchists’, for example, he invokes Bob Dylan and specifically Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’’, indexically invoking a mood and optimism against which he seeks to compare his own sense of hopelessness and pessimism. Moreover, love songs are often addressed to ‘you’ and, as such, point directly to a concrete person – even if we don’t know who they are. That said, however, lyrics do often function symbolically too, telling stories, recounting experiences and making claims. Internal meaning External meaning, to reiterate, refers to the capacity of music or some aspect of it to affect the listener by way of a connection which, from the perspective of that listener, it enjoys to an object outside of itself. A song takes me back to my youth, for example, and makes me happy; or sounds

Semiotic interactions   121 sad, making me feel sad too because I empathise with it. Internal meaning, by contrast, is centred upon the way in which the parts of a piece of music fit together. This idea is developed in a semiotic direction by Meyer (1956). Meyer’s work is regarded somewhat critically in contemporary musicology. I still find much that is of value in it, however, and believe that it provides a good basis for beginning to think about internal meaning (see also Huron 2007). Meyer proposes a triadic, relational model of musical meaning: it arises out of … the “triadic” relationships between (1) an object or stimulus; (2) that to which the stimulus points – that which is its consequent; and (3) the conscious observer. (Meyer 1956: 34)

The terminology is different (I will stick with Peirce’s to avoid confusion), and there are some differences. However, this model of musical meaning is very similar to Peirce’s semiotics. Music is meaningful, for Meyer, when it or some part of it has an effect upon the listener by virtue of a relation which it enjoys (for the listener) to something else. This meaning may be external, according to Meyer, but his book is focused upon internal meaning: what a musical stimulus or series of stimuli indicate and point to are not extramusical concepts and objects but other musical events which are about to happen. That is, one musical event (be it a tone, a phrase a whole section) has meaning because it points to and makes us expect another musical event. (Meyer 1956: 35)

Like Schutz (see Chapter 2), Meyer envisages the listener ‘tuning in’ to the music and following it, but he embellishes this notion by suggesting: first, that following the music involves anticipation of what is to come; and second, that this anticipation is in some part an effect of the music itself. What I hear now generates an expectation about what will follow. It functions as a sign whose object is a future event and whose interpretant is anticipation of that event. More precisely, it functions as an indexical sign because it ‘points to’ a future event. Again echoing Peirce, Meyer explains this effect by reference to listeners’ habitual familiarity with particular musical conventions. This works at the level of the individual song. Patterns established early on in a song are expected to persist. We generally expect tonal music to stay in the same key, for example. We expect tempo, beat and rhythm to maintain a regular pattern; and a pattern of verse/chorus alternation, if established early on, to persist. In addition, however, Meyer is interested in different musical styles, cross-cultural and historical as well as intercultural. He suggests that exposure to particular styles cultivates habitual familiarity with and understanding of their conventions which, in turn, allows us to form expectations about new (to us) songs in one of those styles. It also

122   Connecting sounds entails that ‘music in a style with which we are totally unfamiliar is meaningless’ (Meyer 1956: 35). We can’t follow a piece in an unfamiliar style because what we hear has no association for us and fails to generate expectations about its likely direction. Meyer associates meaning with affect and pleasure. Indeed, he suggests that internal musical meaning is, in the first instance, affective. Building upon Dewey’s (2005) aesthetics and also his theory of affect (Dewey 1894, 1895), he argues that composers and performers, because they are also listeners, know what listeners expect and play with these expectations. They generate expectations which they then frustrate, creating a tension which the listener registers affectively, before finally delivering on these expectations or otherwise allowing the listener to find a pattern, thereby releasing the tension in a pleasure-inducing manner: Affect … is aroused when an expectation … activated by the musical stimulus situation, is temporarily inhibited or permanently blocked. … in musical experience the same stimulus, the music, activates tendencies, inhibits them, and provides meaningful and relevant resolutions for them. (Meyer 1956: 31)

Huron (2007) has explored variants upon this which, he suggests, are generative of different affective responses (he also replies to some of Meyer’s critics (see also Ball 2011; Crossley and Bottero 2015)). This is not the place to follow this up, however. For present purposes it must suffice to make four brief observations. First, note that Meyer’s theory suggests the need for a balance of un/ predictability in music, if it is to be experienced meaningfully and pleasurably by listeners. Music which is too predictable, which follows the ‘formulas’ of the past too closely, will not create tension and excitement. It will be boring. Music which is too unpredictable, however, and which listeners are unable to order at all, will be meaningless for listeners and unpleasant. Second, this creates a dynamic of innovation within music. Composers and performers must work within certain conventions, the conventions of what Meyer calls a ‘style’, if their listeners are to find their work meaningful and pleasurable. They can’t stray too far from what has gone before. However, innovation is necessary if work is to be found interesting and pleasurable. We see this dynamic very clearly in many musical styles or traditions, according to Meyer. Each new generation takes up the conventions established by those preceding it but then, to borrow a term from Merleau-Ponty (1962), ‘coherently deforms’ certain of those conventions to create something new and, for an audience whose perceptual habits reflect that style and tradition, more interesting and exciting. Third, Meyer views musical interaction as a form of communication and stresses the importance of shared conventions to successful

Semiotic interactions   123 communication. Composers and performers must be able to project themselves into the perspective of the listener if they are to communicate with the listener, which in turn requires that they share listening habits with the listener and orient to the same conventions. This may be a matter of broad cultural differences, explaining, for example, why we may struggle to follow music from a distant historical era or geographical location. It may also apply more narrowly, however, to specific music worlds. We may fail to hear what enthusiasts for a particular type of music are getting excited about in relation to piece because we lack the embodied, habitual understanding which allows more competent listeners to be lead and, no less importantly, mislead by it. Finally, Meyer notes that whilst, for many, musical meaning remains at an affective and largely pre-reflective level, it is possible, as noted above, for listeners to reflect upon internal musical meanings and their mechanisms. The listener may ‘take the attitude of the composer’ (Meyer 1956: 41) reconstructing the composition process, the ‘tendencies of the music’ (31) or, more reflexively, may bring their ‘own expectations’ into conscious awareness. They may dissect the music and their involvement in it. The internal meaning of music is often grasped in dance. Dancers track and interpret the unfolding structure of the music by way of movement, anticipating changes which, in turn, they will respond to with different moves. ‘Dropping the bass’ in electronic dance music is a good example of this. Repetition builds up tension, signifying that a change is about to occur whilst simultaneously delaying that change. Then the bass drops, the rhythm changes and dancers respond, often ecstatically, as tension is released. Much of the pleasure that Gilbert and Pearson (1999) write about in their abovementioned account of dance music is related to this engagement with internal meaning, in my view, and in this respect they are wrong to claim that dance music defies ‘meaning’. The dancer doesn’t reflect upon the music. They find its patterns and interpret it by tuning into and moving with it. But this is still a matter of semiotic meaning, as each moment in a song triggers anticipation of what is to come. Moreover, the music is meaningful insofar as it is heard as dance music and as an invitation to dance. Like Merleau-Ponty’s footballer, discussed in Chapter 2, the dancer responds in a culturally appropriate way to what they hear because of the meaning it has for them. Dance is, in Peirce’s terms, an interpretant. Layers and chains The distinction between internal and external is analytically useful, but it is only analytic. In practice, signs interact within the experience of the listener and internal and external often overlap. This may happen in

124   Connecting sounds different ways. The ‘gunshot’ in Gregory Porter’s ‘1960 What?’ is not only an effect of iconic resemblance between a drum and a gun, for example, but also of a break in the drum pattern which makes it stand out. I notice those drum sounds because I am not expecting them. External meaning is emphasised by way of internal meaning. Furthermore, I suspect that the unsettling effect the drum fill has upon me is the combined effect of this breaking of expectations (which sometimes still takes me by surprise, even though I have heard the song many times) and the iconic signification of gunshot; and indeed, of the framing of this musical event by lyrics which inform me that this is the shooting of either Martin Luther King or an innocent young black man. Likewise, the exhilaration that I experience when I hear the opening bars of The Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy in the UK’. This is partly a matter of internal meaning. The song begins abruptly with a rapid descending sequence of chords (G, F, Em, Dm, C), catching me off-guard and generating a sense of uncertainty as to where the song is going. I am uncertain because the pattern and direction of the song aren’t immediately clear. This is enhanced by external meaning, however. The raw timbre of the guitar signifies, in a metaphoric-iconic way, the wild, untamed nature of those playing it. Because I know the song, moreover, the intro induces an anticipation of what will follow, not least an opening vocal line so filled with venom and menace that it still sends a shiver down my spine. Now, moreover, this is overlaid with memory and nostalgia. The song takes me back to my pre-teen years, re-invoking the excitement I felt upon first discovering the weird and wonderful world of punk. I have separated out the elements here, internal and external. They are not separate in the experience, however. My exhilaration is an effect of all of these factors in combination. Jimi Hendrix’s version of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, most famously the version played at the Woodstock festival, affords another interesting example (see Clarke 2005 for an alternative analysis). The melody is recognisable for many as the American national anthem; an iconic sign which becomes an indexical sign of patriotism within the semiotic chain (because the song is usually used to celebrate the nation and stir patriotism). Hendrix is playing the song on an electric guitar and using distortion pedals, however, iconically signifying ‘rock’ which, at the time, indexically signified a generation who were challenging the values and structure of US society, and particularly the war which the US was waging in Vietnam. The patriotism of the national anthem is put into question by the subversive connotation of rock. This is compounded, moreover, by guitar effects which, for some listeners, resemble (are iconic signs of ) those of the battlefield, indexically invoking the ongoing Vietnam war which many in the audience opposed. Furthermore, this was all being done by a black man, whose identity as a black man was itself symbolically charged in

Semiotic interactions   125 the US at the time, at a hippy festival which, qua both ‘hippy’ and ‘festival’, signified a challenge to US mainstream society. There is a lot going on in this sequence of musical interaction but my main point is that the usual indexical meanings of the anthem are subverted by other signs both simultaneous with it and sandwiching it in the context of the song. The different signs in the song interact with one another to create a bigger meaning. The semiotic subversions within his ‘Star Spangled Banner’ presumably created an effect which Hendrix expected and desired. However, this is not always the case. Gracyk (2001), for example, discusses the dismay experienced by members of punk group, X, when fans apparently interpreted what they had intended as an anti-rape song, ‘Johnny Hit and Run Paulene’, as a celebration of male sexual prowess. The problem, he explains, was that the accompaniment drew upon upbeat rock ‘n’ roll conventions which signified a celebration of male sexual prowess to many listeners (because these conventions are often used for this purpose), framing their reception of the lyrics. The accompaniment negated the meaning of the lyrics. Finally, to briefly reiterate an earlier point, songs serve as iconic signs of the styles we take them to represent, and this affects the conventions we orient to in listening to them and the expectations which their various signs induce in us. Internal meaning, as Meyer suggests, depends upon the listener’s habitual familiarity with the style of a song, which predisposes them to form certain expectations about the way in which one part of a song will follow from another; but this, in turn, depends upon how the listener categorises a song. External meaning impacts upon internal meaning. A song might be more positively received if heard as jazz, for example – against the backdrop of expectations and criteria that inform our conception of jazz – than if heard as soul. Whether we hear it, particularly in the first few bars, as jazz or soul frames and informs our subsequent listening activity, which in turn informs our experience and judgement of it. Conclusion To music, whether as a performer or a listener, is to orient to meaning and often many meanings on several levels. The very fact that we hear something as music (rather than mere noise or something else) entails meaning. Musical meaning can be internal. We identify patterns within a sequence of sounds whose unfolding parts are meaningful in the respect that they indicate to us what is likely to follow. Moreover, the process of pattern recognition, as I noted with respect to Dewey (2005) in Chapter 2, is often intrinsically pleasurable and may be even more so when it

126   Connecting sounds entails tracking unfolding patterns by way of dance, which brings both physical release and often sociability into the picture. And this pleasure is enhanced when music plays with our expectations, creating both temporary tension and opportunities for its release. Music is often externally meaningful, too. Lyrics which tell a story, announce an intention or claim an affiliation are an obvious and important part of this, but instrumental aspects of music can signify external referents as well. We hear not only organised sound, but organised sound which represents something for us and affects us accordingly. In the next chapter, I explore the idea that music’s meanings allow us to use it in particular ways, and can resonate with, and therefore enter into, our sense of self and identity. Notes 1  For example, (accessed 20 August 2018).


Practical interactions: use, taste, identity

In the last chapter, I discussed the semiotic meaning of music; the ways in which aspects of music function as signs, affecting listeners by virtue of their relation (for those listeners) to something else. This is only one facet of musical meaning. Music also takes on meaning by virtue of the uses to which we put our participation in it: e.g. relaxing, dancing, escaping into our imagination, seducing, etc. In this chapter, I explore this further facet of musical meaning and two related concepts: taste and identity. Our preference for particular songs, artists and styles, and the pleasure we derive from them, are interwoven with the uses to which we put them in our lives. Taste is coupled with use. And the use of musicking in identity work is particularly significant (see also Frith 1987). These are the arguments of this chapter. I begin with a brief elaboration of these arguments, considering some potential objections and briefly reflecting upon the significance of ‘homology’, a concept which Willis (1978, 1990) develops and which finds a slightly different expression in Bourdieu’s (1984) work too. I then digress briefly to discuss ‘identity’, drawing upon the work of Mead (1967) and Cooley (1902) (see also Crossley 1996, 2011), before elaborating upon the relation of music to identity. I start by considering the way in which music can help us to both present and form a reflective conception of ourselves. The relation of music to identity also extends to the various ways in which we manage our thoughts, feelings and embodied being more widely, however, and I discuss this too. Finally, I consider the relation of music to collective identities, such as race, gender and class. Use, taste, identity The idea of ‘using’ music rubs up uneasily against some aesthetic theories. Kant’s (1978) account of aesthetic judgement pits it against considerations 127

128   Connecting sounds of usefulness, for example. Proper judgement, he argues, requires the listener to assume a disinterested stance, suspending all practical interests. Similarly Adorno (1997) relishes what he perceives to be the uselessness of art, viewing it as a valuable source of resistance in a society dominated by utilitarian ethics and instrumental reason. Each has a point. There are uses of music and reasons for liking it which most of us would agree are not aesthetic; and most of us would no doubt wish to claim an intrinsic aesthetic value for music which constitutes it as a good in its own right, irrespective of many of its uses. Adorno himself assigns a use to music when discussing it as resistance, however, from which I conclude that his opposition is to particular uses of music rather than use per se. Kant’s approach is similarly flawed because it is far from clear why we would ever bother to engage with music unless we had an interest – both in the psychological sense and in the sense of standing to gain – in doing so. We engage with music for a reason or for different reasons and these reasons furnish music with a use. We may wish to bracket certain uses out when making aesthetic judgements, which is what Kant intends by ‘disinterest’, but again I would suggest that this is matter of bracketing out certain uses in an effort to prioritise others. The pragmatist approach to aesthetic value, suggested by Dewey (2005) and Shusterman (2000a, b, 2002), which conceives of it in terms of the varied ways in which art enhances our lives and experience, in a very broad sense, is a more fruitful starting point in my view, and that requires us to explore ‘use’. Furthermore, we have to take this approach if we want to achieve a satisfactory sociological understanding of taste. Kant offers a normative framework, stipulating how aesthetic judgements ought to be made. However, this sheds little light on how they actually are made in practice. ‘Use’ affords a way in. A reflection upon use requires us to revisit the concept of ‘affordance’ briefly introduced in relation to Merleau-Ponty (1965) and his football example in Chapter 2. Originating within ‘ecological psychology’ and used in sociology by DeNora (2000) and Prior (2018), ‘affordance’ has two aspects. First, it identifies a mutually constitutive interaction between perception and action. What and how we perceive is shaped by the purpose and demands of the activities we are engaged in at the time. The footballer does not see objects, but rather opportunities, dangers and possibilities for action. Conversely, how we act is triggered and shaped by what we perceive, often without the intervention of conscious reflection. The sight of an opportunity mobilises the footballer to take advantage of it before she has had time to think reflectively about doing so. Second, ‘affordance’ captures the way in which different perceptual materials invite, support and are more or less amenable to different lines of action; different uses. Different pieces of music, for example, have different affordances which make them more or less easy to use for particular purposes. Some songs

Practical interactions   129 are easier and better to dance to than others, some are easier to relax to, some more readily invite intellectual engagement, etc. The concept of use is closely tied to that of taste. The artists, songs and styles that we like are shaped in some part by what we use music for and the uses they afford. If I like to dance, then the chances are that I like music which affords dancing. There has been a huge amount written about the sociology of taste in recent years, mostly debating the work of Bourdieu (1984) and Peterson (1992). Much of this literature centres upon statistical patterns and associations which I believe are better understood when we have first considered what liking and using music entail. I therefore discuss liking and use here, leaving a discussion of statistical patterns to Chapter 8. Not all uses are equal in relation to taste, in my view. When I talk to students about their tastes, many report using a type of music for a particular purpose but suggest that I shouldn’t take this as an indication of their taste. There are two common examples. First, many indicate that they like to dance to catchy pop tunes or dancefloor bangers when clubbing with friends but hesitate to offer this as an example of their taste. Second, some indicate that they like to revise to classical music because it is calming, has no distracting lyrics, etc., but again, they add a ‘but’. Their reticence might be explained in different ways. In relation to pop hits, I take it that they are aware that such music is sometimes deemed lightweight and feel the need to distance themselves from it, even though they dance to it. Theirs is not quite the ‘ironic [‘cheesy’] listening’ described by Bennett (2013), but like his listeners they are clear to qualify the basis of their liking: it’s good to dance to but that’s all. In relation to classical musical, I take it that they want to indicate that they are not experts, so shouldn’t be quizzed about it. In both cases they are performing identity work: deflecting any judgement I might make about them because they dance to lightweight music; or pre-emptively ducking difficult questions about classical music which might expose their ignorance and make them look silly. At a further level, however, I believe that they are making a distinction between music which they merely like for a particular purpose and music which in some way engages their identity; music which they use in building and sustaining a sense of self. A number of writers have suggested that we use music to build our self-identity (e.g. DeNora 2000), and Frith (1987, 1998) has linked this to taste. Likes and dislikes are shaped by the uses to which music is put in ‘identity work’. This is partly a matter of how we present ourselves to others. Songs, artists and genres have intersubjectively shared semiotic meanings and value such that what we claim to like says something about us to other people; an impression we are usually keen to manage. This is bound up with a further process, however, in which we strive to interpret ourselves, working out who and

130   Connecting sounds what we are and want to be, and making sense of our experiences and the situations we find ourselves in. Music can be an important resource in this process for many reasons, but not least because it affords us both models we can emulate and vocabularies and narrative structures which articulate and render common human experiences intelligible. When music works for us in these ways, we form a special attachment to it which, I believe, is what the concept of taste in its fullest sense seeks to capture. The interplay between use, taste and identity is nicely illustrated in Willis’s (1978) comparative ethnography of ‘bike boy’ and ‘hippy’ subcultures, which I introduced in Chapter 6. The hippies spent hours debating the meaning of songs, using music as a stimulus for intellectual meditation and debate. Much of their discussion was focused upon lyrics but Willis notes that they also took delight in instrumental passages because they found the meaning of such passages more elusive and ambiguous, a characteristic which resonated with their belief in transcendent realms beyond language and logic and with their sense of themselves as explorers of such realms. By engaging with music, they reinforced their views of self and world. The bike boys, by contrast, were hostile to debates about meaning. They ‘recognised’ lyrics, in Dewey’s (2005) sense, but did not discuss or dissect them except in dismissal of songs whose themes departed from conventional narratives. The bike boys had a physical orientation towards the world and used music primarily for purposes of dance (something the hippies seldom did), a practice which reinforced their sense of themselves as physically powerful and masterful. Again, their use of music affirmed their sense of identity, but this use and identity were both very different to those of the hippies. The link between these uses and musical taste is very clear in Willis’s account. The hippies didn’t dance and therefore had little interest in beat or rhythm. They were attracted to music which provoked philosophical reflection and discussion, and particularly liked progressive and psychedelic rock, whose departure from pop conventions and use of experimental sound effects (e.g. backward tape loops and early synthesisers) created a sense of otherworldly weirdness and transcendence which resonated with their abovementioned beliefs about self and world. Moreover, they preferred LPs, particularly concept albums, because their length and format allowed complex meanings to unfold over time. The bike boys, by contrast, had no interest in debating meaning and therefore no taste for lengthy musical meditations. They wanted music to dance to, preferring catchy singles with a strong beat. More specifically they liked what, by the time of the study, was the slightly outdated rock ‘n’ roll of the late 1950s: Elvis, Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly. According to Willis, they identified with and emulated the masculine swagger of these artists and, indeed, that of the songs themselves. The music affirmed their definition of masculinity and

Practical interactions   131 way of being. Moreover, they particularly liked the crackly 78s,1 which had been phased out a few years earlier. To them these records and their sonic qualities signified a bygone golden era with which they identified; a time when ‘men were men’ and life was more straightforward One artist the two agreed upon was the Beatles – but even here their differences were clear. The bike boys liked the short, conventional pop songs of the early Beatles, finding ‘Sergeant Pepper’s’ and much that came after it ‘weird’ and unappealing. The hippies, by contrast, preferred the ‘Sergeant Pepper’s’ era material, with its strange sounds and, as they heard it, deeper meanings. Willis links these tastes to wider aspects of lifestyle and orientation, including dress and drug use. Choice in music, he argues, was reflected in each of these domains. He seeks to capture this with the concept of ‘homology’, a vague and contested concept which purports to map objective structural similarities across different socio-cultural spheres, with the implication that they are somehow linked. ‘Homology’ is a problematic concept in my view because there is no way to establish, objectively, a structural similarity between, for example, a mode of dress and a type of music. In what respects can an Afghan coat or long hair (hippy dress) be objectively similar to the sound of an early Pink Floyd record (hippy music)? Furthermore, the concept involves no plausible mechanism to explain any similarity which might be established. Even if long hair and early Pink Floyd records are somehow similar, how does this explain their convergence in hippy lifestyles? The concept of homology offers no leads. What Willis points to can be usefully conceptualised in terms of identity work and (Peircean) semiotics, however. What matters from this perspective is similarity or fit as perceived and forged by participants themselves in the process of collective identity formation. If hippies perceive a (perhaps metaphorical) similarity or fit between long hair and Pink Floyd, generating a metaphoric iconic sign, then there is one, sociologically and semiotically speaking, and our job is to understand and explicate it. Long hair and Pink Floyd have no objective similarity but they become semiotically associated in the collective imagination and identity work of the hippies. Moreover, irrespective of iconic signs, identity work forges indexical signs. For people of my generation, coming of age ten or twenty years after the hippies, the fit between long hair and Pink Floyd was obvious and taken-for-granted because we typically experienced them together, as a set, in the context of hippy style. To reiterate, there is no objective similarity; no homology; but there is an intersubjective, semiotic association deriving from the identity work of the hippies. I would make a similar case for identity in preference to Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’, a concept which incorporates ‘homology’ 2 and which Rimmer (2010, 2012), amongst others, has used to explain musical taste (see also Bennett et al. 2009; Prior 2011, 2013; Savage 2006). Habitus, as Bourdieu

132   Connecting sounds (1984) defines them, are unconscious dispositional structures shaped by the material conditions in which individuals live, and taste is one facet of them. I explain my disagreement with Bourdieu more fully in Chapter 8. For now, it must suffice to say that whilst I agree both that aspects of taste and indeed identity often become habitual, and that habits shape action, explaining taste by reference to habits (or habitus)3 begs the question of why individuals form the habits they do; a question which I believe is best answered by reference to actors’ quests, both individual and collective, to carve out a place for themselves in the social world and make sense of their existence; that is to say, identity work. Furthermore, as in Willis’s work, the idea that apparently very different facets of lifestyle somehow cohere and fit together, and indeed fit with actors’ wider social positions, is very difficult to defend if we take ‘fit’ and ‘coherence’ to be objective properties (as the habitus concept entails). Rather, tastes and other facets of lifestyle ‘fit’ and ‘cohere’ in terms of the intersubjective meanings they take on within interaction networks. As such, they are best understood by reference to ‘identity’ and identity work. Musical styles and sartorial styles become associated, for example, when appropriated by actors in social networks and invested with a common significance. I return to Bourdieu in Chapter 8. My next step in this chapter is to elaborate upon the concepts of identity and identity work. Identity and identity work ‘Identity’ refers to an actor’s sense and conception of their self and/or the concept which others form of them. Human beings are reflexive. We are conscious of ourselves as conscious, acting beings and this informs our ways of being and acting. Aspects of this self-consciousness may emerge from within. Hegel (1979), for example, argues that we achieve some degree of self-consciousness through hunger and other experiences of desire (or lack). However, many philosophers, including Hegel (1979) and also both Merleau-Ponty (1962) and Mead (1967), who I draw upon in this book and who each draw upon Hegel, have argued that a more developed self-consciousness requires that we learn to perceive ourselves ‘from the outside’ – as others perceive us. Consciousness is its own blindspot from this point of view. Like the eye, the ‘I’ does not perceive itself directly. It is outwardly focused. But it can learn to become an object for itself by adopting what Mead (1967) calls ‘the role of the other’. Research on infants supports this idea by pointing to their initial lack of a sense of self: a state sometimes confusingly labelled ‘egocentric’. A sense of self entails a sense of alterity, of not self, and in its most developed form a sense of other selves than one’s own (Schutz 1966). To be conscious of oneself is to distinguish one’s self and one’s perspective upon the world

Practical interactions   133 from the world itself and from the perspectives of others, but this is something that infants cannot initially do. They cannot distinguish between the world and their perception of it and do not appear to recognise that others too have a perspective upon the world which may be different from their own. They have to learn these things. Mead’s (1967) account of internal conversation, introduced in Chapter 2, is important to this process. He argues that by imitating others in play, children acquire both a sense of others’ perspectives and a perspective upon themselves. By being ‘mum’, for example, initially just imitating her actions and responses, they learn to play her role and experience and engage with the world from her perspective. Indeed, they learn that she has a perspective distinct from their own, also thereby learning that their own perspective upon the world is just a perspective: distinct both from that of others and from the world itself. They develop a sense of their self as a distinct perspective. Moreover, by making dolls or other objects substitute for themselves in role play (e.g. reprimanding a doll as their mum has reprimanded them) they learn to experience themselves as objects in the experience of others, simultaneously acquiring empathy with another (‘mum’) and a perspective upon their self. They form a sense of themselves as objects in the experience of particular others with whom they interact. This sense is further developed as they learn to play games, with rule structures, and internalise what Mead calls the role of the ‘generalised other’. They learn to perceive themselves as a member of a collective and to anticipate how their actions will be received, in general, within that collective, by reference to its norms and values. This reflexive process is further informed by direct interactions with others; a dynamic captured in Cooley’s (1902) theory of ‘the looking glass self ’. Like Mead, Cooley is interested in the way in which human beings achieve a perspective upon themselves. We are aided in this, according to Cooley, by the impressions of ourselves that others reflect back to us, both directly and indirectly, in interaction. The other is akin to a mirror, allowing me to perceive aspects of myself which would otherwise elude me, and to some extent telling me who and what I am in the very manner in which they address me. For Cooley, as for Mead, self-hood takes shape and is always embedded within networks of interaction. This is not to say that we passively accept all feedback. We may resist unfavourable representations of ourselves, particularly where there is room to question their veracity. Moreover, as Goffman (1959) argues, we present ourselves to others in particular ways, controlling the information flow regarding ourselves as far as possible in an effort to manage the impressions we give off. Self and identity are actively negotiated in social interaction, identities presuppose identity work, and a successful identity is one recognised by both self and all others interacting with self in a given situation.

134   Connecting sounds Self-identity is never fixed, however. It is always in-process; tracking our trajectory through life and the various events and existential dilemmas which punctuate it. Identity work is a constant in our lives as we plunge from one situation to the next. Our bodies change (e.g. puberty, ageing and illness), as do our roles and life stages, in each case calling for reflexive reworking of our identity. Moreover, as Giddens (1991) observes, recent social changes have amplified these challenges. Detraditionalisation, technological development and the critiques of new social movements have each raised questions and presented us with choices about who we are and how we want to live our lives. We have no choice but to make choices about our identity in the ‘late modern’ world, according to Giddens. Identity work is unavoidable and constant. For Mead (1967), moreover, identity has a competitive aspect. Following Hegel (1979) he argues that the emergence of self-consciousness generates a desire and struggle for recognition (see also Honneth 1995). This stems from a sense of alienation and lack that accompanies individual selfconsciousness. Our awareness of the consciousness of others induces awareness that ours is just one perspective upon the world, incomplete and perhaps wrong, and we experience ourselves as objects in the consciousness of others; ‘captives’, as Sartre (1969) puts it. Our being and activities have meaning for them which we may be ignorant of and cannot control. This motivates a desire to win the recognition of others; to get them to perceive us as we perceive ourselves. We want others to affirm our sense of self and reality; to eradicate the sense of alienation that we experience by showing us that they value and experience us as fellow, conscious beings. The only satisfactory resolution to this is a state of mutual recognition. However, more commonly the struggle for recognition is or becomes a struggle to be recognised as superior – a status contest: there is a demand, a constant demand, to realise oneself in some sort of superiority over those around us. We may come back to manners of speech and dress … to things in which we stand out above other people. We are careful, of course, not to directly plume ourselves. It would seem childish to intimate that we take satisfaction in showing that we can do something better than others. We take a great deal of pains to cover up such a situation; but actually we are vastly gratified. (Mead 1967: 205)

Identities are invested with this desire for recognition. Our identity matters to us and we are motivated to promote and defend it. As Kojéve (1969) suggests, moreover, arbitrary objects, gestures and actions assume meaning and value where they come to signify ‘the desire of the other’. We desire them because they are desired by others and we desire that desire; we imagine that having or doing whatever it is will make us desirable. Liking

Practical interactions   135 music because it is fashionable would be an example of this. We like it because it is liked and we want to be liked. Similarly, our identification with certain artists may involve an element of this. Perceiving them to be desired or desirable we may then want to be or be like them in order to be similarly desirable. The reflexive process by which consciousness turns back upon and becomes conscious of itself involves two moments, for Mead, which he labels ‘I’ and ‘Me’. The I is the active subject who is conscious of their self. The Me is the object of which they are conscious; the objectified self. When I look in the mirror, for example, the image that I see is Me. The I sees; the Me is seen. Likewise, when I recall stories from my life, it is I who narrate about Me. The I is the storyteller; the Me is the central character in the story. Self-hood is a process in which the actor (I) turns back and reflects upon their self (Me) by adopting the role of the other (particular or generalised). There is always both a retrospective and constructive aspect to this process. Self-reflection necessarily focuses upon our past, even if only of a moment ago. I can only reflect upon what I have done; and reflection cannot reflect upon itself. What is me now was previously I; and I can only know myself retrospectively, as me: a me which was the I at an earlier time. If you ask, then, where directly in your own experience the ‘I’ comes in, the answer is that it comes in as a historical figure [i.e. as ‘me’]. (Mead 1967: 174)

Moreover, retrospection is re-construction. It involves selecting from and editing remembered experiences in order to assemble a manageable, coherent and (for most people) positive narrative. Having said this, the I also projects this retrospective reconstruction of itself into the future; imagining itself, qua me, doing things it has not yet done. Having created a character and narrative of self, we outline and imagine a forward, future trajectory for that self. Alongside ‘me’ we also have a sense (or senses) of ‘we’: collective identities. Much of the time I identify as an individual, but on occasion my sense of individuation may give way to a more collective sense and even when experiencing myself as an individual I identify with various collectives (e.g. Spear of Destiny fans and Man City supporters). Membership and belonging are key aspects of identity. Social identities pertaining to, for example, race, gender and social class are often particularly important collective identities. Events often require us to identify with and orient to such categories. As Sartre (1948) suggests, however, this is more likely when an actor belongs to a group which is positioned and disadvantaged as ‘other’ within their society, when others act towards them in terms of their categorical belonging (a

136   Connecting sounds ‘looking glass’ effect). Actors are more often conscious of race if they are black in a white dominated society, for example, as women are more conscious of gender than men in patriarchal societies (Beauvoir 1988; Fanon 1986). Music and ‘me’ What counts as ‘me’ varies but may include: physical attributes, moral character, formal roles and relationships, property, social position(s) and tastes. Furthermore, it is interwoven with an individual’s wider lifestyle and sense of purpose and the good: what gives meaning and value to their life. Music is important in this connection, not only as a domain from which identity-defining tastes may be drawn, but also because its semiotic significations, discussed in the previous chapter, can resonate with these various elements, affording identification, affirmation and a means of both enacting and presenting aspects of their identity. As DeNora puts it: ‘Musical materials provide terms and templates for elaborating self-identity … [Individuals] “find themselves” in musical structures’ (2000: 68). In his discussion of the history of reggae, for example, Bradley (2000) notes its importance to Jamaican immigrants arriving in the UK during the 1950s and 1960s. Homesick and also often alienated and fearful as a consequence of the racist hostility many routinely experienced, reggae was important because it signified (indexically) the home they had left and the people they were. It triggered memories, supporting their biographical narratives, and reflected a positive sense of themselves back to them. Moreover, by dancing together at blues parties and sound systems organised within their networks (see Chapter 8), they were able to positively enact and affirm their Jamaican identities, mutually reinforcing their senses – individual and collective – of who they were. This is a matter of identity, but also of taste. Reggae potentially appeals on many levels. To the recently arrived immigrants, however, it was important because it spoke directly to their identities as Jamaicans. They could identify with it and through it could identify more fully with themselves, both individually and collectively. Such identification is an integral aspect of taste in my view. Our stronger tastes entail a sense that ‘this is me’ (see also Frith 1987, 1998). Reggae can do this with small musical gestures. Accentuation of the offbeat may be all that it takes. Likewise, other musical styles which resonate with national identities, from traditional Irish folk music, via Brazilian samba to Mexican mariachi. All orient to conventions which, in a matter of a few bars, bestow an identity upon both the music and those with whom this identity resonates. Note also, however, that music is used in these cases both to draw individuals together, creating an occasion for

Practical interactions   137 collective gathering, and because it affords an enjoyable, intimate and relaxed form of sociability: namely, dancing. The semiotic meanings of the music are important but there is more going on besides. People are coming together and renewing group bonds, and music, because it affords dance, is integral to this. ‘Impression management’, as Goffman (1959) calls it, may be important in this context. We assume that music has the same meaning for others as for us and therefore experience our musical tastes as saying something about us to others. If I perceive grime as cool, for example, then I might also imagine that liking it makes me cool, motivating me to make my taste known. If others claim to like it too, I might make it known that I have liked it since the early days, before it become ‘too commercial’, and so on. The music–identity link goes beyond self-presentation and status contests, however. Musical meanings can engage and resonate with the uncertainties, anxieties and insecurities which often surround our senses of self, along with the existential dilemmas that punctuate our lives. They can help us to assemble a sense of who we are and want to be, a sense of orientation to the world, in situations where such help is needed. They can affirm our sense of self and bestow recognition. A musician interviewed by DeNora (2000), for example, identified with lower register voices, such as that of the cello (which she played), and ‘juicy chords’, both of which sounded ‘meaty’ to her and signified ‘substance’. These were qualities which the cellist identified with herself and placed a moral value upon, and they formed a basis upon which she made sense of her place in the world: outside of the limelight but playing a solid and important role. Listening to cello music with ‘juicy chords’ allowed her to experience herself in this way and value her contribution to the world. Shank (1994) offers a further example in his ethnography of rock ‘n’ roll in Austin, Texas. Discussing the 13th Floor Elevators, he observes how they created weird effects in their music which those in the know associated with drugs and the expanded consciousness to which they aspired, encouraging identification. Some of these effects were achieved with a jug, moreover, which had additional significance for knowledgeable listeners because it referenced the ‘jug bands’ who had been central to Austin’s counter-cultural scene in an earlier era. Like Willis’s hippies, fans identified their own experiences, beliefs and selves in the music of the Elevators. Because the meaning of these musical signifiers and the experiences they referenced were limited to a hip crowd, Shank continues, the music also helped to create a sense of cultural distinction. The hip crowd experienced themselves as hip and superior to a wider ‘square’ society because they ‘got’ the drug reference in the music. They understood the music and had glimpsed the alternative plane of reality to which it referred.

138   Connecting sounds ‘Squares’ didn’t and hadn’t. However, Shank also suggests that such hipsters were often reacting to an earlier sense of alienation from wider society and mainstream culture. Their struggle for status was a response to a prior sense of exclusion and lack of status, and the ‘weirdness’ of the music resonated in some respects with their sense that they were or were deemed to be weird. Many accounts tell a similar story of music based identities being a response to alienation in the wider social world. Though short on detail, for example, Riesman’s (1950) account of ‘hot jazz’ enthusiasts suggests that many could not identify with mainstream culture and experienced jazz as a welcome (bohemian) alternative. Similarly, alienation is central to the CCCS’s explanation of working-class sub-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 other people and, likewise, that a proper understanding of certain songs was only possible for those who had undergone the type of crises they were undergoing. Similarly, Frith (1987, 1998) explains the popularity of love songs by reference to the resource they provide for those seeking to understand their romantic relations and feelings (for an alternative take on love songs, see Scheff (2011)). We often struggle to articulate the feelings stirred as we fall in and out of love or strive to manage ongoing relations, Frith observes, and the narratives and vocabulary of love songs can help, at the same time affirming our experience and offering the reassurance that what we are feeling is normal. They afford both self-understanding and recognition. The singer, we feel, understands us and knows how we feel. In other cases, by contrast, the singer might come to represent the lover we are searching for; the lover who, again, understand us, who says all of the right things or at least explains to us why they do what they do. A further identity-related use of music is ‘soundtracking’. I use the term ‘soundtracking’ to capture the way in which we use music to frame social situations. The use of music to create a romantic or party atmosphere is an example of this. The music signals to those present that a particular style of interaction, particular identities, are now called for. This may be unwelcome, prompting some to seek an immediate exit; but if welcome, the music may also help those involved to shift into that style and identity, with its attendant emotional mood. The advent of portable and potentially private means of listening to music in public, beginning with the portable cassette players of the 1980s

Practical interactions   139 and culminating, in the present, in portable access to streaming services via smartphones, has sparked a number of debates relating to soundtracking. In an early paper, Bull (2005) describes the ways in which individuals use music, via a portable player, to frame and enhance their experience of, for example, walking or cycling through urban spaces, and to embellish their enactment of fantasy narratives and identities, in some cases based on films and using the music from the film they are enacting. Listening to recordings frames the situation, generating an appropriate atmosphere for and experience of it (see also Beer 2010). In later work, taking account of more recent technologies, he continues this thread but also worries that accessing music privately in public spaces has a privatising effect which undermines the public nature of those spaces. We move around in private bubbles, he suggests, ignoring one another. Indeed, as Prior (2014, 2018) notes, individuals sometimes use headphones (without even listening to music in some cases) as a means of foreclosing potential interaction. Headphones signal our unavailability. Others, including Prior (2014, 2018), have also identified opportunities for sociability which new listening technologies afford, however (Beer 2007; Watson and Drakeford-Allen 2016). This is not the place to take up these debates in detail, but they are interesting because they further highlight the ways in which musicking, and indeed music-related technologies, are used and thereby take on value in personal life. Offloading, catharsis and self-management Identity work is not only a matter of self-definition and presentation. Our reflexive relationship to ourselves entails management of our bodies, emotions, habits, inclinations, impulses, etc. We may find that we deviate from our ideals in ways that we are not happy with and wish to correct, and we may find that we deviate in ways which are socially unacceptable, thus needing to institute some sort of change in order to avoid unpleasant sanctions. Such management is not altogether different from management of another and can require that we work upon our (sometimes recalcitrant) selves to achieve the goals we desire. Music is often an important resource in such attempts, not least because musical affordances allow us, in Krueger’s (2014) terminology, to ‘offload’. Krueger’s example centres upon exercise. He argues that it is easier to exercise to music because we can ‘let go’ and allow the music to carry our activity along. The organisational and motivational effort required to do the exercise is offloaded onto the music. In my view, this involves the exercising actor shifting into a pre-reflective mode by tuning into and immersing themselves in the music. In the case of the more habitual exerciser, the music will trigger appropriate body techniques and responses, without need for conscious thought and effort, circumventing any reflective

140   Connecting sounds choice the exerciser might otherwise enjoy (particularly the choice to stop). The exercising agent ‘obeys’ the music ‘without thought’ and thereby gets it done more easily. Like Merleau-Ponty’s (1965) footballer, referred to in Chapter 2, their activity (e.g. exercise) informs the way in which they perceive (i.e. hear the music) and what they perceive draws an appropriate (to the activity) response from them. They follow the music, keeping up with its tempo and empathising with it by, for example, increasing effort where they hear effort and struggle in the music, allowing it to dictate their activity. This helps because focusing upon the music reduces their awareness of tiredness and pain, they are less liable to the clumsiness which self-consciousness often induces and they are freed from having to decide upon such matters as pace and whether to carry on. They ‘offload’ all of this onto the music. When we exercise to music, we engage in identity as well as ‘body’ work, using music to bring about changes in our embodied orientation and thereby manage our subjective lives. By tuning in to the music the exercising actor raises their heart rate, releases endorphins and more generally revs themselves up such that they are pumped, primed and ready to engage. One of Rimmer’s interviewees, for example, notes that listening to new monkey, because it is exciting and instils confidence, gets him ‘into the rhythm to play football’ (2010: 268). A contrasting example of this same process is listening to music to relax, with the change of embodied orientation this entails. Again, we pre-reflectively follow and empathise with the music, slowing our own pace to match that of the music and perhaps feeling our own tension dissipate with the musical flow. This is not a matter of ‘musical determinism’. The meaning and therefore effect of the same music may vary between people. Some people hear ‘whale song’ as relaxing and meditative; others hear irritating new age pretension. Furthermore, the music will only have a relaxing effect for those disposed to relax, Relaxing music can be irritating if we do not want, at this moment, to relax. And as Acord and DeNora (2008) suggest, our disposition itself may be the result of preparatory work: e.g. getting comfortable on the couch and dimming the lights before listening to relaxing music. Music is a resource not a cause. We should also note, following Meyer (1956), that physiological effects apparently induced by music are often mediated by our behavioural responses. Relaxing music works, in so far as it does, because we tend to slow the pace of our movement and breathing to ‘tune in’ to it and this in turn has an effect upon our physiological state. Music doesn’t slow our heart rate directly, but it helps us to slow our breathing, by tuning in to it, and that slows our heart rate. This resonates with Merleau-Ponty’s (1962) discussion of the way in which our bodies situate us within the world and the ways in which we act upon ourselves in order to influence this process. His example is sleep.

Practical interactions   141 We cannot will ourselves to sleep, as anyone who has laid awake for hours at night knows. We must wait for sleep to ‘come over us’. It is a transformation of our embodied manner of being-in-the-world which is largely outside of our conscious control. However, we can seek to induce sleep by way of ritual; tapping into embodied powers which, to reiterate, are beyond our direct conscious control: I lie down in bed, on my left side, with my knees drawn up; I close my eyes and breath slowly, putting my plans out of my mind. But the power of my will or consciousness stops there. As the faithful, in the Dionysian mysteries, invoke the god by miming scenes from his life, I call up the visitation of sleep by imitating the breathing and posture of the sleeper. The god is actually there when the faithful can no longer distinguish themselves from the part they are playing … There is a moment when sleep comes, settling on this imitation of itself. (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 163–4)

By ‘imitating’ sleep, we can sometimes induce it. This applies to many other states and transitions, including relaxation (Crossley 2004). By acting relaxed, we often become more relaxed. Music is important because it soundtracks and affords this mode of acting, framing a situation appropriately and allowing us to offload onto it. It is interesting that Merleau-Ponty invokes the Dionysian faithful in the above passage, because music is sometimes linked to ‘the Dionysian’, not least by Nietzsche (1995). The ecstasy and frenzy of Dionysian ritual is in some respects the very opposite of sleep, but the process is the same. The Dionysian faithful induce an ecstatic state by imitating it, to a point where ‘they can no longer distinguish themselves from the part they are playing’ and their ecstasy involves an oneiric loss of self-consciousness akin to sleep. There is an obvious comparison here with the (generally drug-assisted) ecstasy that participants at gigs and raves often report. Dancer’s become immersed in the dance, abandoning self-consciousness either for an ecstatic sense of selflessness, akin to a religious experience, or for a sense of collectivity and oneness with their fellow ravers (Gilbert and Pearson 1999; Pini 1997; Shank 1994). This may seem to conflict with my argument about music and identity, suggesting rather that music is a means of escaping from the constraints of identity and self-consciousness. I agree that one of the attractions of musicking is the prospect of temporarily ‘losing oneself’ through immersion, and that this involves temporary suspension of some aspects of the reflexive process constitutive of self-consciousness. However, this is a state participants deliberately seek to cultivate, which they anticipate and prepare for, often as an escape from the pressures of the rest of their lives, and it is a state which they subsequently reflect upon and work over, reflexively, in retrospective narratives. It is therefore very much a part of their identity work.

142   Connecting sounds The pursuit of ecstatic states or relaxation and revving up for exercise are all examples of self-management. They are ways in which we work upon our own subjective lives in an effort to either attain particular goals or deal with stresses and strains. Another example of this is catharsis, or what is sometimes more colloquially referred to as ‘venting’. Besset (2006), for example, discusses the way in which her interviewees use the music of ‘angry’ female artists, such as Ani DiFranco and Tracy Chapman, to vent. When they feel frustrated, angry or low they play this music, projecting themselves into the singer’s role, imaginatively singing and playing as her, and thereby discharging the tension they were experiencing. Besset focuses primarily upon lyrics but instrumentation and its internal meanings, as discussed in Chapter 6, are important too. Meyer’s (1956) account of tension and release in music describes a cathartic process. Music arouses expectations but then delays their fulfilment, creating tension which is subsequently released as the music resolves, allowing wider tensions to be released at the same time. Furthermore, dance, moshing and other ritual elements at gigs can serve a cathartic function. Drawing upon a three-year ethnography of heavy metal gigs and festivals, Sinclair and Dolan (2015) offer an interesting account of this. Following Elias and Dunning (1986, see also Elias 1984) they argue that the demand for self-control and restraint in contemporary societies generates pent up feelings which require release and inspires a ‘quest for excitement’ in our leisure lives. Much of the appeal of live metal, they suggest, is that it affords this release and excitement. Gigs provide a space in which participants can express otherwise socially unacceptable feelings of anger and aggression and where physical exertion, mock violence (e.g. in the mosh pit) and the excitement of risk taking (e.g. stage diving) are allowed. In contrast to some similar accounts of the gig experience (e.g. Halnon 2011), and wisely in my view, Sinclair and Dolan stress that this is ‘controlled chaos’. Though what happens would be unacceptable in many contexts, it is expected at a gig and supported by conventions and norms which render it safe. Indeed, they suggest that observance of the rules is essential to acceptance and status within the metal world. Nevertheless, release is achieved and that is the point. Metal heads go to gigs for many different reasons but catharsis is amongst them. And there is no reason to suppose that this is specific to metal heads. Many forms of musicking, from dancing at raves to blasting a favourite anthem in a brass band, afford similar opportunities for release. Collective identities Much of the above is focused upon individual identities but our identities also have a collective dimension, relating particularly, for present purposes,

Practical interactions   143 to our social positions and status group memberships – and music engages these aspects of identity too. Rap lyrics, for example, often articulate the experience of young black men and women, creating characters and scenarios and weaving stories which listeners are invited to identify with. This begs an important question regarding difference: how do listeners in one social position relate to music which seems to explicitly address the identities of those occupying another? In an important study of the consumption of mainstream hip hop, based on interviews and premised on the observation that rap artists are predominantly black whilst a significant section of their audience is white, Jeffries (2011) seeks to examine whether and in what ways black and white audiences differ in their interpretation of the music. In many respects, he concludes, they do not. However: black respondents … build a racialized hip-hop identity and believe that they are connected to other hip-hop enthusiasts because hip-hop is, in part, about black experience. White respondents do not link their appreciation of and experience with hip-hop to collective racial identity … Black respondents also affirm a collective ownership claim that does not exist within [the interviews of white respondents]. (Jeffries 2011: 190)

Hip hop addresses the racial identity of black listeners, according to Jeffries, and they feel able to own the music as ‘ours’. White audiences are no less enthusiastic, and in many ways concur in their interpretation of the music, but they do not identify with it in the same way. They may identify with the narrative voice of the song and, on an imaginative level, with the scenarios described, but not as black. Interestingly, however, identification can cause black audiences to have concerns about the music which white audiences do not have. Specifically, they are more inclined to worry about the ‘gangsta’ imagery which, Jeffries suggests, is encouraged by white record company executives seeking to sell the music to white middle-class boys. Black listeners believe that such imagery may generate negative stereotypes which will have consequences for them. They feel misrepresented by the music in a way that white audiences do not. Jeffries does not say whether his white respondents report identityrelated difficulties in their hip hop engagement. However, in her abovementioned study of audiences for ‘angry’ female music, Bessett (2006) notes that male listeners, whilst they interpret the music similarly to female listeners and use it for similar purposes, struggle with the discrepancy between their gender identity and that of the singer. Both genders use the music to ‘vent’, taking the singer’s role. When the listener is male, however, this is not straightforward. A number of Besset’s male interviewees reported difficulties with gendered pronouns, for example. When the singer reports relationship difficulties with ‘him’, for example, heterosexual

144   Connecting sounds male listeners feel awkward stepping into ‘her’ shoes, and report that this interferes with their venting. They cannot, as one of her respondents puts it, ‘let it all fly’, because that would mean playing at being a woman or at being in a romantic relationship with a man, neither of which they feel comfortable with. Nevertheless, both Jeffries’ white hip hop enthusiasts and Bessett’s male venters were able to identify with the music on some level. Whilst music’s semiotic resonance with certain identities may encourage attachment amongst those who have that identity, it does not necessarily preclude attachment for others (and of course there are many black listeners who dislike hip hop because they do not identify with it). Indeed, as Gracyk (2001) notes, the fact that listeners can often find an angle through which to enjoy and identify with music which makes claims to an identity different to their own, actually generates a basis upon which they may come to appreciate the perspective of ‘the other’. White listeners may come to better appreciate the perspective of young, poor blacks by engaging and identifying with hip hop, for example. The angle that affords such access may be another identity or perceived similarity. Rap does not only articulate the experience of blacks, but also often young, poor males, and as such it may resonate with individuals who, though not black, are young, male or poor. Alternatively, the internal meaning of the music may provide the hook (see Chapter 6). It is not necessary, for purposes of enjoyment, to identify with a song’s external meaning if one is gripped and finds pleasure in its internal meaning, and finding pleasure at this level may encourage greater empathy with the external meaning over time. The beat and rhythm of hip hop may furnish its initial attraction to some listeners, for example, allowing them to identify with it in a way that, over time, encourages sympathetic reception of its message. Moreover, all social identities involve imagination and one need not belong to a particular social group in order to identify with it on some level, at least temporarily. Wiseman-Trouse (2008), for example, discusses the Glastonbury audience singing along to Pulp’s ‘Common People’ during their celebrated 1995 appearance. The semi-autobiographical song voices the dismay of a young male art student who meets a ‘posh’ female student who wants to try living ‘like the common people’ but fails to comprehend what that would be like. As they sung along, Wiseman-Trouse suggests, the audience put themselves into and played the role of the song’s (by implication ‘working-class’) protagonist, despite the fact that many were as posh and uncomprehending as the female student. Indeed, though the song draws upon his own experience and though he did grow up in a working-class area of Sheffield, Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker was from a middle-class background himself. Singing the song and identifying with its protagonist does not make the audience working class, of course, nor

Practical interactions   145 allow them to experience life from a working-class perspective, but it may project them into a perspective they would not otherwise be aware of, affording at least some insight, and it certainly allows them to enjoy the song. Singers and songwriters sometimes seek to distance themselves from the protagonists and narrative voices of their songs, reminding us that music is art and involves imagination, and the same is true for audiences. Frith (2011) says something similar to this when he insists that music does not reflect social identities so much as construct them. The situation is more complex than this suggests, in my view, not least because our identities have multiple sources in addition to music. What I take from it, however, is an acknowledgment that the content and demarcation boundaries of our senses of ‘me’ and ‘we’ are not fixed or determinate but are rather negotiated in interaction, including musical interaction. Music may create or redefine a social identity such that, for example, the ‘common people’ might be extended to include a well-heeled Glastonbury audience. The identity affirmation afforded by music may be particularly important where identities are fragile, insecure or under threat. Walser (1993), for example, suggests that the appeal which the often hyper-masculine signification of heavy metal has for listeners lies in the antidote it provides to the insecurities that often attach to masculine identity and the need to prove oneself a man. Engaging with the music and its lyrics allows the listener to experience himself as masculine. It affords an affirmation of masculinity in a context where it may be felt to be in question. Ch, ch, changes Because they are so intimately connected, changes in identity can precipitate changes in taste and vice versa. One of DeNora’s (2000) interviewees, for example, had been a fan of Roxy Music in her youth. The glamorous and romantic feel of their music resonated with the life she was living at the time. They provided a romantic soundtrack which enhanced her sense of living an exciting and glamourous life. As she got older, however, becoming a mother and taking on more responsibilities, the glamorous world which Roxy Music conjured had less resonance and her tastes changed. That said, however, another way in which music is interwoven in our identities is through its capacity to signify and remind us of our past. A sense of me entails a sense of both biographical continuity and change, and music helps us to maintain this. Because music soundtracks our activities and is interwoven with our lives, songs can become indexical signs of past episodes, phases and relations, thereby finding a place in

146   Connecting sounds the narratives with which we construct our identities. Songs remind us of people, places and events, often triggering not only visual but felt bodily memories and inviting us to slip back into the ‘role’ of our former self (Kotarba 2013). Whilst DeNora’s interviewee no longer identifies her present self with Roxy Music, the very fact that she mentions them indicates how they signify, for her, an earlier chapter of her life; her ‘Roxy Music phase’. And though DeNora doesn’t say, perhaps listening to Roxy Music now may help her to briefly relive moments of her earlier, more glamorous self, experiencing continuity with her earlier self and reminding herself of how she used to be. This is not to say that everybody grows out of the music of their youth. There is a growing body of literature exploring the increased tendency for individuals either to return to the musical styles, attachments and activities of their youth when they reach an age where meaningful engagement becomes possible again (e.g. because children have grown up and career progression has levelled off ), or never cease engaging in the first place (Bennett 2012; Bennett and Hodgkinson 2012). People do change, however, as their circumstances change, and this may change the way in which particular songs or artists resonate with their experience. Conclusion In this chapter, I have discussed some of the ways in which musicking is integrated into our wider lives, focusing upon the ways in which we use music and, more specifically, the uses to which we put it in the context of identity work. Certain songs, artists and styles resonate with our sense of who we are, appealing to us because they reflect a positive self-image back to us, or they help us to make sense of ourselves when our sense of identity is under threat. On another level, moreover, engaging with music can be a way of managing our embodied states (e.g. relaxing or releasing tension) and thereby of reflexively managing ourselves. This is important because identity itself is important, but also because the link between music and identity is integral to a proper understanding of musical taste. Our tastes are not random preferences. Our most deep-seated musical tastes reflect the interplay of music and identity discussed in this chapter. Taste is a facet of identity, in this respect. My tastes are part of who I am. But identity is equally a facet of taste, in the respect that music’s appeal is influenced by its capacity to speak to our sense of who we are. None of this happens in a vacuum, however. What I listen to, the meaning I hear in it and uses to which I put it, as well as my identity more generally, are all shaped within the network of interactions that comprises my life and the positions I occupy in the wider social world. In the next chapter, I turn to this social facticity.

Practical interactions   147 Notes 1  The records of the 1950s were made of shellac (a very brittle material) and spun at 78 revolutions per minute. 2 Bourdieu scholars often use the term ‘homology’ to capture the statistical association which, they believe, is found between taste on one side and social class position on the other. However, Bourdieu also seems to use it in the deeper sense, akin to Willis’s use, of different facets of tastes and lifestyle manifesting a common underlying structure, adding a structuralist inflection which owes something to Levi-Strauss. 3  The relation of ‘habitus’ to ‘habit’ is complex and contested. For my own take, see Crossley 2013b.


Division, inequality and taste: musicking in social space

Contemporary societies are divided along lines of race, gender, class, age, sexuality and disability, to name only the most obvious, and the effects of these divisions are numerous. I have already touched upon them in this book in relation to a number of themes, including the operation of the music industry, musical meaning, taste and identity. In this chapter I introduce a way of thinking about social divisions which integrates them more centrally into my approach, reflecting both upon their impact on musicking and the ways in which musicking might act back upon them. Musicking is shaped by social divisions, I will argue, and in some cases reproduces them; but it also has the potential to bridge and challenge divides. My approach to social division centres upon the idea of ‘social space’. I begin the chapter with a discussion of this concept, considering its salience for explaining social variations in musical taste and pitting its explanatory power against the model of taste suggested by Bourdieu (1984): a model which has had a huge influence on music sociology (Born 2010b; Prior 2011, 2013). Bourdieu also has a concept of social space but I take mine from a different sociological tradition which, I will argue, does a better job of explaining social variation in taste. In the third section of the chapter, I discuss a further challenge to Bourdieu’s ideas posed by Peterson’s ‘omnivore thesis’, explaining how this thesis is accommodated within my own approach (Peterson 1992; Peterson and Kern 1996). In addition, I consider the idea that changes in musical technology have undermined the traditional association between taste and status. In the fourth section, 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. 148

Division, inequality and taste   149 As noted, the chapter revisits the concept of taste, discussed in the previous chapter, focusing now upon its social distribution. It is useful, in this connection, to bear in mind a distinction which Mark (1998) draws between weak and strong tastes, and also an argument he makes with respect to investment in strong tastes (see also Lizardo 2006, 2011; Pachucki and Breiger 2010). Many of us ‘like’ a wide range of musical styles, but such liking is typically ‘weak’, in Mark’s sense, because we do not invest very much time, money or effort into the style in question. We may stream it occasionally, or enjoy it when it is on the radio, but no more. Tastes are strong for Mark, by contrast, when we make a greater investment of time, energy and other resources in them and such investment tends to preclude our having many strong tastes. The time and effort I devote to reggae (listening, hunting down records, attending gigs, reading about it etc.), for example, is time and effort that I cannot devote to grime. Likewise, a dedicated folk singer who attends two or three folk-singing nights a week has very little time for anything else at all in their leisure life, let alone a further, equal musical passion (Hield and Crossley 2015). Most of the surveys which sociologists draw upon when discussing the social distribution of musical taste fail to distinguish weak and strong tastes and it is important to be mindful of this when considering the conclusions drawn from them. With that said, we can turn to social space. Social space Having argued in Chapter 5 that musical interaction is embedded within networks, I want to argue in this chapter that networks themselves are both embedded in and embed ‘social space’. There are several versions of the concept of social space in the sociological literature, most famously Bourdieu’s (1984). I opt for an older and less well-known formulation posited by Blau (1974, 1977) and developed by McPherson (2004) and Mark (1998, 2003). Blau’s version has two advantages over Bourdieu’s. First, what social space adds to our discussion is a consideration of social inequalities and divisions, but in Bourdieu’s version this is restricted to social class or, more specifically, the distributions of economic and cultural ‘capital’ 1 which Bourdieu believes class to be founded upon, ignoring divisions centred upon race, gender, sexuality, age and disability, for example. Bourdieu (2001, 2013) does discuss gender and also colonial relations in separate work but these are not included in his concept of social space. This is significant because these neglected dimensions of inequality are important for music sociology. Even if Frith’s (1983: 9) claim that ‘The sociology of rock music is inseparable from the sociology of youth’ is outdated in an era of ageing rock fans, for example, it still serves to underline the significance of age divides in relation to music.

150   Connecting sounds Likewise, the fact that ‘black music’ remains a commonly used musical category indicates a need to take full account of race. Bourdieu-inspired studies in music sociology often discuss such divisions (e.g. Bennett et al. 2009; Savage 2006; see Prior 2013 for a review) but in doing so they go beyond what Bourdieu’s concept of social space explains, thereby necessitating a rethink of that concept. Blau’s (1974, 1977) model of social space allows for the inclusion of multiple intersecting divisions and therefore provides a good starting point for this rethink. Second, Blau posits a view of social structure centred upon social networks and interaction and his model of social space builds upon this relational conception. Bourdieu’s conception, notwithstanding his claims to ‘relationality’, individualises actors, failing to fully engage with the importance of concrete social relations, interactions and networks (Bottero and Crossley 2011; Crossley 2011, 2013a). He conceptualises social space as a ‘cloud of individuals’, to quote the statisticians who worked with him (Le Roux and Rouanet 2004, 2009), defining ‘relations’ in the minimal sense that individuals are positioned relative to one another along distributions of economic and cultural capital. There is some recognition of interaction and even ‘value homophily’ (see Chapter 5) in Bourdieu’s work. Both are granted a role in the important process of social class formation. However, as I discuss further below, he relegates concrete interactions and relations to a subordinate position in his theory, failing to recognise their necessity for explaining the phenomena he wishes to explain and thereby leaving himself with a huge explanatory gap. Blau’s conception plugs that gap and in doing so rejoins both the arguments I have been building in this book, concerning interaction, relations and networks, and the wider context of relational sociology upon which those arguments rest (Crossley 2011). More to the point, Blau is right to emphasise concrete interactions and relations. The atomised actor of individualist philosophies (and such statistical models as Bourdieu’s) is an abstraction and a myth. As I noted in Chapter 1 of this book, we are always already connected to others; interdependent and interacting; and sociology must take this as its starting point. Blau (1974, 1977) conceptualises societies as networks (of human and corporate actors). Crucially, however, he observes that each of us is only directly connected to a tiny proportion of the others making up these networks, and that who we are connected to is not purely random. There is an element of chance, but some relations have a higher probability than others. Many factors affect this probability. Focusing specifically upon family and friendship relations between human actors, however, Blau discusses the effects of geographical and social distance. The impact of geographical distance is obvious. Actors are more likely to form ties to others who live or work in close proximity to them because their ‘time-space trajectories’ (Giddens 1984) are more likely to converge. They are more likely to come into contact, on a regular basis, increasing

Division, inequality and taste   151 the likelihood that they will form and maintain a tie. Research suggests that even within quite small areas, such as workplaces and university campuses, spatial proximity increases the probability of tie formation (Newcomb 1956; Preciado et al. 2011). Distance relations exist, of course, and ‘small world’ studies such as Milgram’s (1967), which I discuss below, suggest that network paths remain quite short even within geographically dispersed populations; but geographical distance makes a difference. By ‘social distance’, Blau seeks to capture the effect of status differences between actors. Resources, such as money and education, are unequally distributed through society and form a basis for status hierarchies. The better educated and better paid enjoy higher status. In addition, everybody occupies a number of intersecting statuses centred upon, for example, race, sex/gender, sexuality, age, (dis)ability and their intersections. These statuses are social constructions, attached to physical, behavioural and/ or social markers. As Gilroy (1987) says of race, however, they are powerful and consequential constructions which shape the way in which we are perceived and treated in social interaction, often having a significant impact upon life chances. Numerous studies point to their salience for musicking, not least in relation to the industry (see Chapter 3). Presently, however, following Blau, I want to focus upon what Lazarsfeld and Merton (1964) call ‘status homophily’. ‘Homophily’, as discussed in Chapter 5, refers to the widely observed tendency for actors to disproportionately form ties to others similar to themselves in some way (McPherson et al. 2001). ‘Status homophily’ specifies the nature of that similarity in terms of status. Actors are more likely to enjoy ties, at least of friendship, with others with whom they share one or more salient statuses. Why status affects the probability of ties is insufficiently explored in the literature. I suggest three mechanisms. First, status impacts upon time-space trajectories and thus upon the likelihood of actors coming into contact. University students have a higher than average proportion of fellow students amongst their friends, for example, because they spend much of their time at university, where they meet other students. Similarly, income and wealth affect where people live, which affects who they meet locally, where they socialise, where their children go to school, which other parents they meet at the school gate, etc. In her ethnographic account of life on a deprived housing estate in Nottingham (UK), for example, McKenzie (2015) observed that most residents scarcely ever left the estate, whilst very few outsiders ventured onto it. Rimmer (2010), whose work on new monkey was discussed in previous chapters, makes a similar claim regarding residents of the Byker estate in Newcastle, where he conducted his fieldwork. This clearly affects opportunities for interaction and thereby shapes patterns of ties. Second, actors may be ‘status conscious’ and concerned to ‘stick to their own’. Differences, and particularly perceived inequalities, can make

152   Connecting sounds interaction awkward or embarrassing and status categories are often loaded with prejudices which discourage contact; racism being an obvious example. In addition, actors may seek to affirm their own status, qua identity, by way of their patterns of association; proving that they are ‘middle class’, for example, by mixing in middle-class circles and avoiding relations which might call this status into question. Third, differences in life experience and living conditions associated with status differences inform cultural differences which make communication across status groups more difficult and therefore less appealing. Interlocutors lack common ground, rendering communication hard and reducing the likelihood that actors will bother. Furthermore, reduced contact across status divides, for whatever reason, amplifies cultural differences, generating a self-reinforcing feedback loop. Lack of interaction across social groups allows each group to develop different cultures, making cross-group interaction more difficult and thereby rendering it less likely. Status homophily, or at least racial homophily, can be illustrated by reference to Milgram’s classic ‘small world’ studies (Milgram 1967; Korte and Milgram 1970; Travers and Milgram 1969). Seeking to explore the network structure of US society, Milgram ran a number of chain letter experiments. ‘Starter’ individuals were given a package and the name and address of a target individual, usually based in a different state, to whom the package should be delivered. The starter could only pass the package to somebody whom they knew on a first name basis, however, who they were asked to request the same of until the package eventually reached the target. Milgram then tracked the paths along which the packages travelled, looking at who passed their parcel to whom. One of Milgram’s interests was the mean length of the paths connecting starters and targets. How many times would the package be passed on before it reached its target? The answer to this question was to enter modern folklore. On average, each package was passed on six times before it reached the target, suggesting that any two individuals picked at random from the US population are, again on average, at ‘six degrees of separation’. Considering the millions of people comprising the US population, this was a surprise. One would imagine that average path lengths would be much longer. How such short paths emerge is a question which has aroused considerable interest in mathematics and physics, particularly as such ‘small world effects’ have been observed in a range of networks (Barabási 2003; Newman et al. 2006; Watts 1999, 2004). More significant for our purposes, however, is Milgram’s further observation that packages crossed geographical space more quickly and easily than social space. Packages usually moved very quickly from the home town of the starter to that of the target, irrespective of geographical distance. However, when the package needed to cross a race line, Milgram found that it often circled on the wrong side of the line for some time,

Division, inequality and taste   153 suggesting that participants did not know anybody of a different race sufficiently well to pass the package on to them (there was a less marked but similar gender effect). Social space was more difficult to traverse than geographical space. Milgram’s study is dated and specific to US society. There have been replications in recent years, but they have focused upon the ‘six degrees’ claim rather than status divides. In addition, Milgram’s observations were restricted to race and gender, ignoring issues of class, sexuality and age which are also of interest to us. The studies are interesting, however, because they illustrate status homophily. Passing on the package is an indication of meaningful contact, and Milgram effectively demonstrated a relative paucity of meaningful contact across racial lines. Though the details might differ and the magnitude would hopefully be less, there is every reason to suppose that we would detect similar effects today; not only in relation to race, but also class, age, sexuality and disability, etc. The point is not that we don’t know anybody who differs in status to ourselves. Most of us clearly do. Rather, the thesis of status homophily suggests that our circle of close friends will be disproportionately (when compared against the wider population) composed of others who are similar in status to us; that we will tend to socialise, informally, with others with whom we share one or more salient status. Which statuses manifest a homophily effect will vary across both societies and time, according to Blau. However, any status that manifests an independent homophily effect in a particular society at a particular point in time should be regarded as a distinct dimension of that society’s ‘social space’ at that point in time. Social space is multidimensional, each dimension corresponding to a form of status and homophily, and every member of society has a position in this multidimensional space in virtue of their various statuses. The more similar another person is to me, in terms of those statuses which can be shown to manifest a homophily effect, the closer we are in social space and the more likely we are to form a tie. Blau is drawing our attention to the way in which societies tend to divide into relatively segregated groups along lines of race, class, etc. and he is suggesting a way of looking at this process which maps onto a conception of society as a network. Moreover, though his work predates the concept of intersectionality, his insistence that social space is multidimensional recognises that social actors simultaneously occupy multiple statuses which combine in their social experience: e.g. race, sex, income, age, etc. This relates to musicking because musicking is social interaction, embedded in and embedding social relations and networks, and we would therefore expect it to be shaped by status homophily. In what follows I elaborate upon this claim in two steps. First, I discuss the distribution of musical taste across social space. Second, deepening this analysis, I discuss

154   Connecting sounds the way in which particular music worlds themselves are positioned within social space. Taste in social space It is well-established that musical taste varies with status (e.g. Atkinson 2011; Bennett et al. 2009; Bryson 1996, 1997; Chan and Goldthorpe 2007; Erickson 1996; Mark 1998, 2003). Young people have different tastes to old. Some styles, such as heavy metal, appeal particularly to men. Race impacts upon musical taste. And so on. It is tempting when addressing these issues to look for a fit between musical qualities and social identities, as described in Chapter 7. Perhaps metal audiences are disproportionately male because metal’s meanings resonate to a greater extent with masculine identity? However, we must be careful when drawing such inferences. The associations between taste and social position are often quite weak (statistically) and tend to be historically and geographically contingent. Moreover, as I argued in earlier chapters, the meaning of music is a function of how it is framed, heard and interpreted by audiences; the uses to which it is put; the assumptions made by audiences; and the interpretive conventions drawn upon. We cannot take the meaning or appeal of particular types of music for granted. Neither, for that matter, can we take social identities for granted. Masculinity, to stick with this example, can assume different forms and none of them are fixed. Meaning and identity are important, but they are only part of the story. Social space is another important part. Musical tastes vary with position in social space because tastes are formed through mutual influence within social networks (see Chapter 5) and social networks are typically status-homophilous (see also McPherson 2004; Mark 1998, 2003). Tastes are passed on through networks, like Milgram’s packages, and like Milgram’s packages they tend to travel within rather than between status groups. Indeed, the tendency is likely to be stronger than Milgram observed because there is no imperative for actors to find routes outside of their own status groups in everyday life, as there was in his experiment. Much of the literature on youth sub-cultures tacitly adopts this position (Hebdige 1988; Willis 1978). It suggests that young people forge their own tastes and styles in interaction with other young people, and in particular other young people of the same race, gender and social class background as themselves. In what follows I will elaborate the argument further by way of a critical engagement with a classic sociological statement on taste which takes a different view: Bourdieu’s (1984) Distinction. Bourdieu observes that musical taste is statistically associated with social class. He distinguishes between ‘high’ (e.g. classical and opera),

Division, inequality and taste   155 ‘middle’ (e.g. jazz) and ‘low-brow’ (e.g. popular) genres and suggests that the taste for these genres is disproportionately associated with the uppermiddle, middle and working classes, respectively. This is not a matter of class shaping taste, however. Rather, he believes that taste plays a role in the formation of social classes (Bourdieu 1987). Tastes are shaped by material circumstances for Bourdieu (1984, 1987), and differences in taste are an effect of differences in such circumstances. Members of the working class tend to share musical tastes because they share many of the same living conditions. This contributes to class formation because similarities in taste, as the concept of value homophily suggests, draw individuals together, encouraging bonding and group formation (see Chapter 5). Individuals develop similar tastes because they live in similar material circumstances, and their similarities in taste draw them into association such that they become a group or class. Similarly, differences in taste, rooted in differences in material circumstances, serve to keep classes apart, perpetuating their existence as distinct classes. Bourdieu argues that the working class feel alienated and inferior in the presence of high-brow culture, for example, and therefore avoid situations in which they might come into contact with it. Likewise, the upper-middle class feel a haughty disdain for and repulsion towards low-brow culture which motivates them to avoid it. By avoiding the music enjoyed by members of other classes, each avoids sociable contact with members of those other classes, consolidating social divides and the existence of classes as distinct social groups. Bourdieu points to an important way in which taste can help to reinforce social divides. If different groups like different things, then they are less likely to come into contact and less likely to hit it off if and when they do. However, the details of his account do not bear close scrutiny. In the next section of the chapter I will consider the challenge posed by Peterson’s ‘omnivore’ thesis (Peterson 1992; Peterson and Kern 1996). Presently, however, I want to take a closer look at the way in which tastes become associated with particular social groups. Bourdieu is no doubt correct to suggest that taste is affected by material living conditions. In an unrelated discussion, for example, Tagg (2013) argues that the noisy living and working conditions in which many poorer working-class families live are unconducive to the listening required to develop a sophisticated grasp upon Western art music. In addition, he argues that understanding as a listener is greatly enhanced by learning to play, which requires money for equipment and lessons as well as a practice space where one will not be disturbed. The poor are at a distinct disadvantage. However, whilst this is an obstacle to the working class, it is not insurmountable. The repertoire of working-class brass bands was often classical, for example (Russell 1997). Moreover, material inequality only explains why the less well-off struggle to access certain musical

156   Connecting sounds forms, failing to explain why (if Bourdieu is correct) the better off, in spite of the range of options open to them, converge upon a narrow range of musical preferences. Or why the lower middle-class, who do not typically experience the disadvantages Tagg identifies, tend to prefer middle-brow forms such as jazz (if indeed they do) rather than the high-brow forms preferred by the upper-middle class. Material disadvantage can only explain a tiny part of the class-based distribution of taste that Bourdieu describes. It may be objected that I am not taking proper account of ‘cultural capital’ here. An individual’s social position is not only determined by their economic resources, for Bourdieu, but also their cultural resources. These typically take one of three forms: institutionalised (i.e. educational qualifications), objectified (e.g. reproductions of classic literature, painting and music owned by individuals or households) or embodied (e.g. dispositions which allow an individual to engage appropriately with objects of high culture and mark them out as cultured to others). These resources are important but it would be circular to claim that they shape tastes because they already involve taste. Knowing how to make sense of highbrow art (embodied cultural capital) and liking it sufficiently to purchase reproductions of it (objectified cultural capital) are facets of high-brow taste and therefore cannot be used to explain it. Bourdieu further widens the explanatory gap in his account when, correctly in my view, he argues against the idea of any essential link between social position and taste, suggesting that what is a working-class taste at one point in time may be a middle-class taste at another, and vice versa. This precludes the possibility of any necessary relationship between taste and material living conditions and begs the question why incumbents of particular social positions converge in their tastes, as Bourdieu suggests that they do. If there is no necessity for individuals living in particular material conditions to develop particular tastes, why is it that individuals living in the same conditions tend to develop the same tastes? Moreover, it flatly contradicts his claim that taste is an effect of material conditions. If different tastes attach to the same material conditions at different points in time, then it is difficult to see what role such conditions play, directly, in the formation of taste. As I noted in the introduction to this chapter, moreover, Bourdieu’s explanation is entirely focused upon class, ignoring other social divides which have been shown to influence musical taste, including age and race, and it is unable to explain this influence. We need an approach which can explain taste differences across the range of social divides. My explanation, which draws upon Blau’s conception of social space, does. My contention, drawing upon the abovementioned concept of social space and contra Bourdieu, is that members of status groups disproportionately share tastes because they interact disproportionately with and influence one another (see also Mark 1998, 2003). If there is any association

Division, inequality and taste   157 between, for example, jazz and the middle class, this is not because the material conditions of middle-class life somehow induce a liking for jazz (a fact attested by the origins of jazz amongst some of the poorest and worst treated members of US society). It is because jazz, for historically contingent reasons, caught on amongst some members of the middle class, who subsequently passed on the taste for it to other members of the middle class with whom they routinely came into contact. And because, having caught on, the taste for it has been perpetuated within middle-class interaction. Likewise, if jazz is not popular amongst the working or upper-middle class, this has nothing to do with the material conditions in which they live but is rather an effect of their relative lack of meaningful contact with members of the middle class and ‘the jazz bug’ circulating in middle-class circles. The taste for jazz has diffused through social networks but, like Milgram’s packages, its path has been constrained by status homophily. This argument does not only apply to social class. Where we observe racial homophily, for example, we would expect to observe differences in musical taste between racial groups. Likewise, age-related differences in taste can be largely explained in this way. Young people like different music to older people because tastes are formed within age-homophilous (generational) groupings. Indeed, wherever there is status homophily, we would expect to observe corresponding variations in taste. Notwithstanding his Bourdieusian leanings, Rimmer (2010) offers an illuminating illustration of these ideas in his aforementioned work on the taste for new monkey on the Byker estate. The taste was more or less ubiquitous amongst the young lads on the estate, each having acquired it (often having found the music unappealing at first) from one or more of the others. Furthermore, though they were not the only ones to like it, it was not very widely liked and the lads were, in Rimmer’s judgement, distinguished by their taste for it. He explains this by reference to the confinement of the lads’ friendships and activities to the estate. Their tastes were neither diversified by outside influence nor passed on to others beyond the estate. Indeed, when Rimmer discusses a new monkey fan from off the estate (Dale), he is quick to point out that Dale grew up on the estate as a child, such that he still had close friends on it, and that this was the channel by which his taste had been cultivated. The taste for ‘new monkey’ is akin to one of Milgram’s packages in this situation, passing from one lad to the next, its path of transmission conditioned by the social network through which it is moving. Lads from the estate mix socially with other lads from the estate and nobody else, such that all acquire the taste but it spreads no further. The network itself is shaped both by geographical space (the lads all live in close proximity on the estate and seldom venture off it) and by social space (the estate provides housing for lower working-class families and the lads tend to

158   Connecting sounds make friends with other males of a similar age to them). This may be an unusual example, but it nicely illustrates the mechanisms I am suggesting to explain the social distribution of musical tastes. Tastes are passed between friends and friends tend to be both geographically and socially proximate. This argument, which I am adapting from McPherson (2004) and Mark (1998, 2003), suggests no necessary or inevitable link between particular statuses and tastes. It allows, as Bourdieu suggests, that any taste could in theory attach to any social group, and that tastes may migrate across social space, from one group to another, over time. However, it explains how tastes become contingently attached to and (statistically) associated with particular statuses in any particular case and at any particular point in time. Importantly, moreover, it engages with what I said in earlier chapters regarding meaning and identity. The link between taste and social space is not always a matter of different status groups liking different music. It may sometimes be a matter of them liking the same thing but for different reasons, experiencing the music differently. As McPherson (2004) observes in relation to non-musical examples, different social groups generate different cultures of appreciation by way of their (status-homophilous) interactions. Lady Gaga may be enjoyed for her dancefloor bangers or her performance art, for example. It is a matter of how audiences approach and appreciate music; what they listen for; how they use music; the critical tools they bring to bear (or don’t). Linking to Danto (1964) and Fish (1980), it is a matter of interpretive conventions oriented to background knowledge and assumptions (see Chapter 2). And linking to Peirce (1991), it is a matter of shared associations which bestow semiotic meaning (see Chapter 6). In all cases, the listener is influenced by the circles in which they mix, within which a culture of appreciation is forged; circles which reflect their position in social space. Identity is involved here because the collective identities that attach to specific statuses are negotiated in status homophilous interactions, and so are the resonances which link identities to music. Listeners decide collectively, by way of interaction, whether a particular song, artist or style is ‘us’. Artists may try to appeal to particular groups, of course, but their success or not will depend upon interaction within those groups. Similarly, intergroup relations may be implicated in aesthetic judgements. For example, the early reception of jazz amongst the white middle class was infused with racism (Kofsky 1998). Jazz was perceived as black music, and therefore inferior and uncivilised. The music did some of its own work in changing this perception. It was, for some, too good to dismiss in this way, perhaps even challenging their racism; if ‘that group’ made ‘this music’ then they cannot be inferior in the way I have been led to believe. However, jazz also enjoyed a greater chance of being appreciated

Division, inequality and taste   159 amongst the white middle classes as the white middle class, again largely by way of interaction within their circles, became more critical of racism and put a higher value upon liberal politics and a cosmopolitan outlook. When the white middle class decided that positive engagement with ‘the other’ was a good thing, they collectively created the conditions under which their members would spend more time listening to ‘other’ music, extolling its values and potentially thereby developing a genuine liking for it. Mark (1998) further develops the idea that musical taste is shaped by status homophilous networks by suggesting that certain forms of music acquire a niche in social space, and that an actor’s likelihood of coming into contact with a particular musical style – at least under the meaningful conditions conducive to acquiring a taste for it – depend upon their proximity to that niche. In its early days, for example, grime was both geographically and socially concentrated amongst black working-class youths in particular areas of East London (Wiley 2017). Anybody outside of that particular niche in geo-social space was very unlikely to be exposed to it, let alone develop a liking for it – although, as the Milgram experiment showed and Fine and Kleinman (1979) observe with relation to the diffusion of sub-cultures, geographical distance is often relatively easily traversed. The fact that I now know about grime and can refer to it in full expectation that you will know what I am talking about, testifies to the fact that such states of affairs change and that musical styles can and do diffuse beyond their point of origin in socio-geographical space, not least when their commercial potential is spotted by major record labels and radio stations who have both a vested interest and the resources necessary to expose them to as wide an audience as possible. Indeed, it has been argued that streaming and related developments afford everybody access to all of the world’s music, with recommendation algorithms and sharing and playlist options encouraging eclecticism (D’Arcangelo 2005; Prior 2018; Sandywell and Beer 2005). I accept that new technologies afford different possibilities, and concede that the niche idea works better for musical styles outside of the mainstream because we are all exposed to a wide range of mainstream music via radio, television, streaming, etc. The niche idea remains important, even in relation to the mainstream, for three reasons, however. First, as Mark suggests, networks and niches function as filters, narrowing down the range of styles we pay serious attention to and devote the time and effort necessary to cultivate a taste for. Listeners have limited time, money and energy, and choice can prove overwhelming unless narrowed by the example of friends. In addition, following the example of friends affords individuals common points of reference around which talk, social activities and a sense of belonging – and perhaps even distinction – can be generated. Shared tastes have a social value and different musical

160   Connecting sounds styles often have a different value across different niches within social space. Second, though musical culture diffuses outwards across social space with the help of technology and key economic-cultural actors such as radio stations and record labels, potentially reaching the whole population, appreciation may vary across social space as a result of the time it takes for innovations to travel from their original niche to other areas of social space – not to mention the cultures of appreciation referred to above. In his discussion of blues and jazz in the US, for example, Jones (2002) refers on various occasions to the ‘lag’ between black and white appreciation. The sharp racial segregation of US society in the early and mid-twentieth century meant that the innovations of black performers took time to filter through to white audiences, such that the latter were always a step or two behind most black audiences and a fortiori the black vanguard. Likewise, I suspect that whatever I may know of grime, and whatever streaming service I subscribe to, as a white, middle-aged, middle-class university professor I am nowhere near the cutting edge. Commercial and mainstream media sponsorship does not alter this because commercial packaging takes time and record labels and journalists typically only capture musical innovations after the event, tending also to seize upon a style at a particular point in its evolution and fix it at that point in their conception – rather than tracking its evolution (Negus 1999). Third, as Prior (2018) notes, evidence for the levelling effect of streaming is lacking to date, and as recommendation algorithms recommend on the basis of what individuals already listen to, it is just as likely that they consolidate existing taste profiles. The omnivore thesis Sticking with both taste and eclecticism, I turn now to Peterson’s ‘omnivore’ thesis, to consider how it squares with the ideas I am suggesting (Peterson 1992; Peterson and Kern 1996). The omnivore concept has triggered a great deal of empirical work and its meaning has inevitably warped as a consequence, rendering it somewhat ambiguous and confusing (Rimmer 2012). For present purposes, it will suffice to focus upon its original, strict meaning, as outlined in Peterson’s early papers on the topic. Peterson claims that the ‘snobbishness’ which once characterised middle-class taste and which is captured in the work of Bourdieu has eroded as a consequence of wider social changes relating both to the increased availability of most forms of music for most people and the declining social acceptability of snobbishness and ethnocentrism. Examining a series of national surveys in the US which asked respondents to nominate which of a range of forms of music they liked and to identify a favourite,

Division, inequality and taste   161 Peterson identified those who liked both of the high-brow musical forms listed (opera and classical music) and who chose one of those forms as their favourite. He labels these respondents ‘highbrows’. Highbrows, he found, tend to be more educated and highly paid, as Bourdieu (1984) would predict. They are also typically about ten years older, white and female (aspects of social space ignored in Bourdieu’s thesis). More importantly, Peterson investigated whether highbrows only liked highbrow music, as Bourdieu’s theory would predict, finding the number who did to be vanishingly small and decreasing over successive waves of the survey. Highbrows aren’t snobs, he concluded, they are omnivores. They like a range of styles of music, cutting across the high-, middle- and low-brow spectrum. As noted, this work has stimulated a huge amount of debate and research (e.g. Atkinson 2011; Bennett et al. 2009; Bryson 1996, 1997; Chan and Goldthorpe 2007; Erickson 1996; Lewis et al. 2008; Mark 1998, 2003). Some writers defend Bourdieu, others criticise him. There appears to be general agreement, however, that if anything characterises the tastes of the middle classes, it is omnivorousness rather than snobbishness. These ideas might seem to challenge the ideas regarding social space that I have been discussing, but they do not. The growth of omnivorousness does not mean that musical tastes are no longer divided along lines of social status, and none of the advocates of the omnivorousness thesis suggest that it does. I will make four brief points in relation to this. First, most accounts suggest that omnivorousness is a middle-class disposition. In other words, class divisions in taste have not disappeared. They have just changed form. Once the middle class were ‘snobs’, now there are distinguished by omnivorousness. Second, network-related accounts help to shed some light upon this. DiMaggio (1987) makes an interesting contribution to the debate when he notes that higher status social actors (according to empirical studies) tend to have more contacts, usually deriving from different social circles. This encourages omnivorousness, he argues, because it means that the actor is exposed to a greater number and range of cultural influences. Erickson (1996) sheds further light upon this in work I introduced in Chapter 4. She observes that elites often bond with one another via shared esoteric tastes. Their shared taste for high-brow culture draws them into association and facilitates bonding between them. However, they also interact and form working relationships (if not friendships) with non-elites on a daily basis. As bosses, for example, they interact with their workers. This requires that they engage with ordinary conversational topics, including popular music, which both exposes them to popular influences and gives them an incentive to invest time and energy in keeping up with popular music; in both cases increasing the likelihood that they will acquire a taste for it. Popular music (amongst other aspects of popular culture) is

162   Connecting sounds the currency of everyday interaction, in this account, and some degree of familiarity and engagement with it is both unavoidable and necessary for getting by, even if one also likes more esoteric and avant-garde forms. And familiarity gives rise to liking. This argument applies to a variety of status groups, not only the elites to whom Erickson refers. Specialised musical knowledge and taste can be valuable for bonding different status groups within society, with the advantages which such bonding has for the group: e.g. high levels of trust, cooperation and mutual support. Everybody moves in a variety of different social circles, however, including some populated by others who are very different from them in terms of status, and familiarity with popular music can be important for greasing the wheels of such interaction. That most people have a selection of mainstream tastes, sometimes alongside more esoteric preferences, is therefore inevitable. Mainstream popular music constitutes a bridge across different social groups on this account, with the advantages bridging confers both upon those involved (e.g. a wider range of sources of ideas and resources) and society more generally (i.e. greater coherence and integration; see also Lizardo 2006, 2011; Pachucki and Breiger 2010). Peterson adds a network aspect to his own thesis, moreover, when he explains omnivorousness by reference to, amongst other things, increased social mobility and migration. These processes, he argues, have reduced the ‘closure’ around classes and increased social mixing across traditional divides, allowing for greater diffusion of tastes and culture. Status homophily has decreased, increasing the traffic of musical influence across traditional boundaries. Third, note that this debate, like Bourdieu’s original thesis, is very much centred upon class. It says nothing about, for example, racial and age-based divisions of taste. Many surveys suggest that, in fact, they may be the strongest status-based divides in relation to musical taste (Bennett et al. 2009). Furthermore, the debate is focused upon the division between so-called high-, middle- and low-brow tastes, leaving open the possibility that we may find significant divides within one of those broad categories (Rimmer 2012). Which popular songs, artists and styles individuals like may well vary with class, for example. Many studies suggest that heavy metal is a predominantly white and disproportionately male musical preference, for example; whilst, as noted above, grime attracted a largely black audience during its early days (Walser 1993; Weinstein 1991). Finally, Mark’s (1998) distinction between weak and strong preferences remains an important consideration. Much of the work on the omnivore thesis focuses upon surveys which ask respondents which of a number of musical styles (from a short list of very broadly defined options) they ‘like’. At best this captures weak preferences. ‘Liking’ a musical style potentially involves only a tiny investment of time, energy and money,

Division, inequality and taste   163 such that it is very easy to like a wide range of styles (see also Lizardo 2006, 2011; Pachucki and Breiger 2010). Were we to focus upon stronger preferences, requiring a greater investment, we might expect to find narrower ranges of choice and perhaps also clearer social divides. It is worth bearing this in mind as we turn now to music worlds. Music worlds in social space My argument so far, building upon Mark (1998), has been that musical tastes sometimes become lodged in specific niches in social space. It is not only tastes that can become lodged in this way, however. Entire music worlds may be lodged in niches, appealing to and attracting disproportionate levels of participation from particular status groups. The early history of reggae provides a dramatic illustration of this. Reggae emerged, in the form of ska and later rocksteady, in the ghettoes of Kingston, Jamaica, during the 1950s. Through the 1940s the leisure lives of the city’s poor became centred upon ‘sound systems’ whose DJs played American R&B, often brought onto the island by sailors. As R&B gave way to rock ‘n’ roll in the US during the 1950s, however, and as rock ‘n’ roll failed to catch on amongst Jamaicans, sources dried up, prompting DJs and other musical entrepreneurs to look to local musicians to fill the gap. They did, creating a hybrid musical form, ska, which combined aspects of American jazz and R&B with various indigenous forms, including mento, calypso and the Nyabinghi rhythms of the Rastafarian communities that had been flourishing on the island from the 1930s (Bradley 2000). Over time, this musical form morphed from ska into rocksteady and eventually reggae (Bradley 2000). Reggae was almost exclusively concentrated within Jamaica at first. The country’s island status and the low geographical mobility of reggae’s ghetto-bound enthusiasts constrained diffusion. Reggae had no means of traversing geographical space. However, mass migration to the UK during the 1950s and 1960s, instigated by a UK government keen to tackle labour shortages, changed that. Significant numbers of Jamaicans came to the UK, bringing reggae with them. Moreover, many maintained ties back home, creating a channel through which new records and news about artists, innovations and styles could flow. Reggae had found a way of traversing geographical space. As in Milgram’s experiments, however, social space proved a more difficult terrain to traverse. Overt racism and hostility towards the newly arrived immigrants pushed them into ghettoes, and lack of meaningful contact with the host population deprived reggae of channels by which it could diffuse through to UK society more widely. Having traversed geographical space, reggae had no means of traversing social space.

164   Connecting sounds Housed together and unwelcome in ‘white’ leisure spaces, immigrants were forced to carve out their own (Bradley 2000; Gilroy 1987). The result was a flourishing culture of ‘blues parties’ and sound systems, but this was concentrated within immigrant networks and neighbourhoods. There was little sociable mixing between natives and immigrants and therefore little opportunity for reggae to diffuse into the wider population. Reggae remained concentrated within a specific niche in social space, that of the Jamaican immigrant, at least initially (although see below). A similar story could be told of many forms of ‘black music’ in the context of white-dominated and racist societies. Much of the early history of jazz and blues in the US, for example, was shaped by the segregation of blacks and whites, and subordination of the former (Kofsky 1998; Jones 2002). Other music worlds, conversely, are more or less exclusively white. In two collaborative projects – one on Sheffield’s folk-singing world, the other on audiences within the UK’s trans-local underground heavy metal music world – for example, my colleagues and I found music worlds which were, as far as we could tell, exclusively white (Hield and Crossley 2015; Emms and Crossley 2018). Moreover, these two worlds had other interesting demographic features. The average age in the folk-singing world was 51, for example, with a large number of participants falling in the 55–65 range. This contrasts sharply with the average of 31 that we found in the metal world, and I suspect that the figure would be lower again for other music worlds (e.g. grime and contemporary club cultures). Different worlds occupy different age niches. Furthermore, whilst gender was relatively evenly balanced in the folk-singing world, with 45% of participants being women, only 26% of our metal enthusiasts were female, supporting the widespread contention that metal, in both its mainstream and underground forms, is male dominated (Walser 1993; Weinstein 1991). In addition, both our folk-singers and metal heads tended to be highly educated; a trend particularly marked amongst the folk-singers: 75% of the folk-singers had a university degree and 35% had a higher degree. This is because many became involved during the folk revival of 1960s, a phenomenon largely concentrated upon university campuses. Of course this also explains their age profile and, as universities were more or less exclusively white in the 1960s, perhaps their racial profile too. I am suggesting that music worlds sometimes occupy distinct niches in social space. In addition, however, they may straddle niches in a way which creates internal divisions and tensions. Or they may concentrate along one dimension of social space (e.g. race), whilst straddling another. In the abovementioned folk-singing project, for example, we identified three distinct clusters of participants, distinguished by the events in which they participated. Profiling the demographic composition of these clusters we found that one was quite distinct. Participants were predominantly

Division, inequality and taste   165 female (58%), contrasting with the slight male predominance in the others. They were more highly educated (47% with a postgraduate qualification compared to 30% and 28% for the other clusters) and they were younger (mean age of 43 compared to 53 and 56). Ethnographic and interview data gathered by my colleague suggested that age was of particular significance (see also Hield 2010). Our cluster analysis was capturing a younger generation within the folk-singing world. Some within this younger generation were the offspring of 1960s revivalists. Their taste for folk was cultivated by intergenerational influence within the family. However, they were gravitating together (status homophily) and, within their distinctive cluster within the folk-singing world, generating different and distinctive ideas about folk-singing. Smith (2009) finds something similar to this in relation to northern soul. She observes different generations within this music world who are antagonistic to an extent, but also linked, in some cases, by family ties. The younger soul boys and girls acquired their taste for soul from their parents, within their families, but – tending to gravitate towards others of their own age within this world – formed distinctive clusters whose relations to ‘older’ clusters could be somewhat tense. I would expect to find many other examples of this, particularly given the trend, identified by Bennett (2012), for music enthusiasts to either maintain their participation in music worlds into middle and old age or to revive their participation when the parental responsibilities which once inhibited it lessen (see also Bennett and Hodgkinson 2012). And age is unlikely to be the only status causing divides and tensions within music worlds. The location of music worlds within or between particular niches in social space may constrain access to those outside of a niche, even where they have a taste for the music and a desire to participate. Cohen’s (1991, 1997) work, which I briefly discussed in Chapter 5, provides a strong example of this in relation to gender. Gender is an unusual status in relation to homophily because, in the heterosexual context, romantic, sexual and adult family relations are heterophilous (we link to members of the opposite sex) and this inevitably spills over into wider relations of friendship and socialisation. Moreover, music is often integral to the practices and contexts in which romantic and sexual ties are forged. Partners meet whilst dancing at clubs, go to clubs together (to dance), use music in their efforts to romance and seduce one another, symbolise their relationships with (‘our’) songs, etc. However, sex-specific friendship groups are still common and there is good reason to believe that certain interests and tastes, including those relating to music, are both cultivated and serviced within these groups. Focusing upon indie in Liverpool in the mid-1980s, Cohen finds plenty of evidence of gender segregation. The male musicians she was studying

166   Connecting sounds had grown up in (mainly working-class) households where men and women socialised separately, and they expected to do the same themselves. More importantly, for present purposes, this expectation informed their musicking. Going to gigs, whether as performers or audience members, was something that they did with male friends. Likewise chatting about music, listening to records and exchanging information and other music-related goods. Indeed, though supported in their musical activity (materially and otherwise) by wives, girlfriends and mothers, many viewed music as a means of escaping from women and the pressure of domestic concerns and responsibilities. The gender-homophilous nature of these networks made entry into them very difficult for female musicians, according to Cohen, and this was further exacerbated by the times and spaces at which they occurred: dark places in insalubrious locations, late at night, such as would be perceived to be dangerous, physically and/or symbolically (i.e. to their reputation), for many women. In addition, the interactions often assumed a macho form and involved sexist or misogynistic content which, again, tended to preclude female involvement. To invoke the multivalence referred to in Chapter 2, male musicians ‘did’ their music, male friendships and masculinity simultaneously, in the very same interactions, and this excluded women from musicking. The exclusion of female musicians was further encouraged by male musicians’ wives and girlfriends, according to Cohen (1991). Like their husbands and boyfriends, they perceived women in sexual rather than musical terms, as potential partners (for their boyfriends and husbands) rather than bandmates. For this reason they discouraged any other female involvement than their own. This might not matter were it not for the fact, also noted by Cohen, that this male-dominated network constituted the infrastructure of Liverpool’s indie music world and conferred huge advantage upon its (male) members. Musicians learned about opportunities by way of the network; they exchanged ideas, tips, techniques, records and equipment, as well as favours. Indeed, as Bennett (1980) also suggests in his work, they became musicians by way of their interactions in the network, acquiring the local knowledge and tricks of the trade necessary for survival, and also the contacts and patrons who helped them to succeed. Exclusion from the network deprived women of the ‘social capital’ (see Chapter 5) necessary for successful participation in this music world. The gender homophily observed by Cohen is also reported by many of the female musicians interviewed by Bayton (1998). Many report difficulties in interacting and forming working relations with male support personnel, from sound engineers at gigs who assume they know nothing and refuse to follow their instructions, to music shop assistants with similar assumptions who, when a female musician is accompanied by a

Division, inequality and taste   167 male friend, direct all technical talk at him, even if he has no knowledge and little interest in such matters (see also Leonard 2007). Such exclusion is by no means restricted to women. I have already noted the exclusion of black musicians from important and musically influential circles in the history of jazz (Kofsky 1998; Jones 2002). And, to give another example, many disabled musicians have struggled to gain acceptance within the musical networks whose support they require for advancement (McKay 2013). Musical integration So far, I have discussed the way in which tastes are shaped by pre-existing social divisions. This is only part of the story, however. It is incomplete in at least two ways. First, though social divisions shape tastes, it is equally true that tastes contribute to the process whereby divisions are consolidated and reproduced. Different tastes concentrate in different regions of social space because actors tend to mix disproportionately with others in the same position as themselves. Tastes vary by both age and race, for example, because they are formed within age and race homophilous networks. However, taste feeds back into processes of network formation by keeping incumbents of different positions apart. We are less likely to meet and form bonds with others of a different age or race to ourselves because we have different tastes, and our tastes both dispose us to socialise in different places and mean that we have less in common to bond around on the occasions when we do meet. Moreover, as Bourdieu (1984) suggests, differences in taste will tend to reinforce social identities and distinctions. ‘We’, it will seem, are very different to ‘them’ because we like ‘this’ and they like ‘that’. In the case of music, which is often intimately tied to identity, such differences are likely to feel very significant. For the same reason, however, musicking has the potential to bridge divides and encourage greater social integration. Though the taste for reggae was initially concentrated into Jamaican immigrant network clusters, for example, it was appropriated by some whites, notably the early skinheads, who lived in close proximity to immigrant neighbourhoods and came into contact with both the people and their music. Indeed, the skinheads adopted aspects of the Jamaican ‘rude boy’ look, and this cross-cultural identification served as a bridge enabling some white working-class skinheads to forge meaningful friendship ties with their black neighbours (Hebdige 1988, 2000). They liked the same music, enjoyed dancing to it and dressed in a similar way. It was their contact with Jamaicans which allowed the skinheads to develop a taste for reggae, but having cultivated it, this taste brought the two groups together, encouraging

168   Connecting sounds the formation of ties and a shared identity between them and enabling some level of mutual understanding (Letts 2017). This was only temporary. Far-right recruitment campaigns directed at skinheads, coupled with a turn to Rastafarianism amongst young blacks, encouraged conflict and polarisation during the late 1970s (Hebdige 2000). For a time, however, reggae created a bridge in social space. Something similar might be said of jazz. In the context of a discussion of racism in jazz, for example, Monson notes that: ‘the jazz world has always been a place where greater black and white interaction has taken place than in the rest of society’ (1996: 14). There was racism in and around the jazz world but the music brought black and white together in the context of a highly segregated society; and where whites acquired a taste for jazz, they often also developed an admiration and respect for black artists. This was no magic bullet, but it contributed to a reduction of racial divides. Similarly, music has, on occasion, provided an important bridge across sectarian divides in Northern Ireland. The most famous example of this is punk. At a time when ‘the Troubles’ were at their height, with tit for tat murders and bombing campaigns, ‘Punk music culture … created a non-sectarian common ground for young people and articulated a rejection of violence and repression’ (Heron 2016). Youths from both sides of the divide came together at discos and gigs, creating neutral spaces where their differences didn’t matter and their shared loved of punk gave them a unified identity. Gilbert and Pearson (1999) suggest something similar in relation to rave. Music and dance created a bond between participants from the different communities in Northern Ireland, temporarily suspending the forces of division. A shared love of a particular type of musicking drew young people together (value homophily), overriding differences in status and identity which ordinarily kept them apart. It would be naïve to grant music too much power in this respect, but what it can achieve is important. It is not only shared statuses which bring actors together in relations and networks (status homophily), but also shared tastes (value homophily), and the contact and shared identification which this facilitates, whilst not sufficient to dismantle social divisions in and of itself, can at least create bridges, encouraging those involved to work for change and giving them some basis to build and work upon. It is also important in this respect that whilst music often resonates with our social identities, we have various identities with which it can resonate and, no less importantly, that music often affords multiple entry points which are not all dependent upon identity (see Chapter 7). Punk did not address the youth of Northern Ireland as Protestants or Catholics, Republicans or Unionists, even though many in their respective communities did. It addressed them as the alienated young people which they also were and united them around that identity. Perhaps more importantly,

Division, inequality and taste   169 for them, it addressed their shared love of music and particularly raucous rock ‘n’ roll. Likewise, whilst black music – from blues to jazz, soul, funk and hip hop – has often appealed directly to the experience of African Americans, it has nevertheless had far wider appeal, drawing in and ‘speaking’ to listeners who in some cases had very little understanding of the experiences it sought to articulate, but who – again, at least in some cases – having found their own way into the music, have been opened to its wider meanings and messages. Though formed within social space and liable to reproduce its divides, music has the capacity to bridge social distances. Conclusion Much of what I have argued in this chapter hinges upon three claims: (1) music is social interaction; (2) social interaction is often shaped by status homophily; (3) therefore we tend to find status divides within musicking which musicking inevitably reproduces. I have considered these claims in relation to difference facets of musicking, particularly taste and music worlds, and I have touched upon some of the many complexities which must be addressed if these claims are to be plausibly fleshed out. In the final section of the chapter, however, I also considered that – and how – music might challenge and bridge social divides. The same music can, for a variety of reasons, appeal to different and even conflicting groups, giving those groups a common ground on which to converge and perhaps build better social relations. Value homophily sometimes trumps status homophily, and that affords it a potential to reshape social space. Notes 1  That is, economic and cultural resources which have an exchange value or can be converted into other forms of resources which have such value. See especially Bourdieu (1986).


Political interactions: publics, protest and the avant-garde

I argued in Chapter 2 that social interaction is multivalent, such that musical interaction is often simultaneously also economic interaction, political interaction and has many other dimensions besides. Much of what has followed has unpacked and supported this claim. In this chapter, I return to it one final time by considering music’s political dimensions. I begin by considering the political potential which Adorno identifies in avant-garde art music and revisiting, from a political perspective, his critique of popular music. Adorno’s views 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 music sociology for his critique of popular music, a critique I discussed in Chapter 3 and to which I briefly return below. Importantly, however, this critique is premised upon a belief in the critical potential of music, a potential which Adorno believes to be realised in more avant-garde musical forms; in particular, at his time of writing, in the atonal music of Schoenberg and his circle. This critical potential does not relate to the content of works but rather their form (Jarvis 2007; Paddison 1997). Music is not political or critical in virtue of being ‘about’ something or other. Moreover, as Jarvis (2007) argues, Adorno would have been hostile to deliberate attempts to subordinate music to political ends, as protest singers do, because such uses employ 170

Political interactions   171 an instrumental, means-end rationality of the type he critiques extensively throughout much of his work. The critical potential of art music, for Adorno, derives in some part from its uselessness. In being useless it symbolically and performatively critiques the idea that everything must have a use and serve a purpose; that everything must be subordinated to the demands of the economy or wider ‘system’. As in most matters, Adorno’s account of music’s political potential is vague on detail, but he makes three key points. First, challenges to convention within art music unsettle audiences, evoking their wider sense of alienation and exciting their reflective and critical capacities. Audiences are made to feel uneasy and are shaken out of their complacency. Their habits of thought are challenged and they are forced to reflect and question – not least upon the alienation which the music brings to light. Second, the negation and contestation which drive the history of music, such that each new wave of composers challenges the conventions instituted by their predecessors – only to have their own innovations challenged by the next – illuminates the potential for human freedom and transformation of the status quo, teaching by example. Art challenges our tendency to perceive the status quo as given and natural, revealing it to be humanly constructed and amenable to change. Moreover, in doing so it alerts us to our agency. We perceive the world as something we make and can remake. Third, returning to uselessness, art is a domain as yet not completely colonised by the economic and bureaucratic forces that have taken over much of the rest of society. It remains a space where human freedom and potential can be nurtured. The critical potential of art music is inherently historical for Adorno, however. Works which are challenging at one point, because they depart from established convention, serve to institute new conventions and in time thereby become conservative. What challenges the status quo at one point is the status quo at the next, and art music is only critical to the extent that it is in a state of perpetual revolution. Adorno’s arguments regarding avant-garde music and its critical potential are focused upon the classical tradition and upon Schoenberg in particular. However, similar claims have been made for other avant-garde musical forms. Stevenson (2014), for example, whilst mindful of important limitations to which I return, argues that the bebop and free jazz of the midtwentieth century constituted a challenge to dominant musical conventions and the culture industry and facilitated an exploration of the meaning of freedom, particularly the freedom of African Americans. Likewise, exploring contemporary forms of underground and fringe music, again including free improvisation in jazz and also noise, Graham (2016) points to the political meaning which such music has for many of its practitioners; the ways in which, for example, the alienating effect of the music articulates wider social alienation, whilst its refusal and subversion of dominant

172   Connecting sounds music conventions constitutes both a symbolic challenge to the status quo and a transgression which illustrates the possibility of resistance in the wider world. In a slightly different vein, and drawing upon Adorno’s colleague, Benjamin (1968), Laing (1978) argues that innovations in form in early UK punk music generated ‘shock effects’ which unsettled audiences, engendering a more critical attitude. Moreover, Hebdige’s (1988) analysis of sub-cultural style in some ways echoes Adorno, pointing to the way in which sub-cultural styles challenge convention and, in the case of punk in particular, denaturalise social order. It is unlikely that Adorno would have expressed anything but scorn for punk had he lived to hear it, but these analyses suffice to show that a more open-minded appropriation of his concern with form and its effects might find application outside of the musical traditions with which he himself identified. The political potential of avant-garde experimentation contrasts sharply with the depoliticising effect, as Adorno sees it, of popular music. Again, the details are vague, but there are two strands to this claim. The first centres upon distraction. He claims that popular music, which he deems frivolous and trivial in every respect, is a distraction from issues which ought to command more of our attention, and indeed from a sense of injury and alienation which we might more fully identify within ourselves were we not dazzled by popular music. Where avant-garde music confronts us with our alienated state, popular music affords a diversion from it. We are seduced by a fantasy world whose prominence in our lives tends to obscure the more troubling state of our real world. Our engagement with popular music amounts to fiddling whilst Rome burns. Moreover, beyond the songs, Adorno believes that we are distracted both by the glamour of pop stars and their lives and by the (fetishist) pleasure of collecting records and related merchandise and memorabilia. The second aspect of Adorno’s critique is captured in his likening of popular music to a baby’s dummy. Distraction is involved again here. Shoving a dummy in a crying baby’s mouth typically, and sometimes quite dramatically, shifts its focus away from whatever was causing it to cry. However, Adorno also seems to believe that listening to popular music lulls audiences into a passive and uncritical stupor. We regress to a state not unlike that of the infant sucking on its dummy. In sharp contrast to avant-garde music, the adherence of popular music to widely shared conventions creates a sense of familiarity which makes people feel safe and reduces any inclination towards critique and questioning. He views popular music as akin to the ‘happily ever after’ narratives typical in popular films and novels, which resolve and exorcise any tensions they might raise before they conclude, leaving the audience with a ‘feel good’ sense that all is well with the world and that life is ordered and meaningful after all. Listening to popular music eases the sense of alienation engendered

Political interactions   173 by life in modern capitalist societies. Importantly, however, it does not address the causes of that alienation, and in soothing the pain makes us less inclined to seek out and address those causes. Popular music, for Adorno, is somewhat like religion was for Marx (2009); an ‘opiate’ which protects an unjust system by numbing the pain it causes and offering pleasure, without tackling the cause of the misery which is being masked. Emotions might be stirred or simulated in popular music, Adorno acknowledges, but always in safe and contained ways. This is partly a matter of lyrics. However, it is equally a matter of musical conventions and form. Popular music, as Adorno hears it, adheres to a very narrow range of familiar formats and, insofar as it admits of tension, resolves it very quickly in neat endings which serve to reassure the listener. Halnon (2005) offers a contemporary updating of this line of argument in her account of what she calls ‘F*** the Mainstream Music’ (FTMM). Focusing upon artists such as Eminem, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot and Marilyn Manson, who rail against both the mainstream and commercialism in music, often articulating feelings of intense alienation, she notes that this music resonates with young people who themselves feel alienated. Audiences identify with these artists because the artist appears to understand how they feel, whilst others do not. This may suggest a critical potential in popular music, contradicting Adorno’s account. However, Halnon argues that rather than turning alienation into a positive force for change, FTMM provides a context in which anger can be vented and alienation ultimately thereby managed and contained: it effectively channels youth away from their traditional historical role as harbingers of social change. As a ludic and liminal retreat from the realities of everyday life, FTMM may constitute a challenge to officialdom, but does so in ways that make little difference outside the music. (Halnon 2005: 462, her emphasis)

FTMM is a safety valve, protecting ‘the system’ by allowing those alienated by it to ‘let off steam’, thereby reducing pressure which might otherwise lead to social-political change. The cathartic effect of music serves a politically conservative function (see also Hesmondhalgh 2013b). Furthermore, the music is firmly embedded within the commercial contexts that it purports to challenge and, in effect, commodifies alienation. Resistance to the mainstream and to commodification is just another commodity that consumers can buy, and as such doesn’t amount to much qua resistance. Halnon’s argument is flawed in my view. Live events may provide a context where alienated youths let off steam but this is not necessarily depoliticising. Participation in the collective rituals of live music can engender a sense of collective identity which, whilst not necessarily political

174   Connecting sounds in itself, constitutes a political potential; a resource which, to anticipate a later theme of this chapter, political actors may seek to tap, channelling the anger and discontent expressed in the music in a political direction (Eyerman and Jamison 1998; Futrell et al. 2006; Roy 2010). Alienation is not, or at least not only, a matter of pent up feelings which can be released like air from a radiator, returning the actor to ‘normal’; nor is engagement with ‘angry’ music only a matter of ‘venting’ and letting off steam. Listeners engage in identity work when listening, both at gigs and when listening to recordings, generating more enduring frames through which to understand their life, circumstances and feelings (see Chapter 7). Music allows them to make sense of their lives and it may afford an explicitly political understanding, particularly when interpreted for them by political recruiters and activists seeking to align their own message with that of the music. In this context, the emotional high afforded by the music is not a moment at which discontent is dissipated, but serves rather as a promise or prefiguration of alternative possibilities, a utopian element which, again, political activists may seek to tap. Against Adorno I will return to these themes. Presently, I want to consider some of Adorno’s own flaws. There is a lot to unpick but I will begin with the avant-garde, whose experimentation with form can be interesting and challenging but, in my view, has only limited political potential – certainly far less than that claimed by Adorno, Graeme and others – and is not as progressive as they claim. The political meanings attributed to avant-garde music by Adorno et al., which are often treated uncritically as the meaning of the music, depend upon frames, conventions, uses and insider knowledge on behalf of the audience. The music doesn’t have an inherent meaning and only takes on meaning as it is heard and interpreted by audiences. This is true of all music, as I argued in Chapter 6 and 7, but in the case of avant-garde music the size of the potential audience willing and able to hear political meaning in it is tiny and extremely selective. The majority, where they come across this music at all, generally find it meaningless, pretentious and unengaging, and they ignore it. Indeed, Blanning (2008) identifies Schoenberg’s atonal work as the historical moment at which innovation in classical music lost its popular audience. Before that point, he notes, composers had taken their audiences with them; combining experimentation with popular appeal. With the rise of atonal music, however, audiences for new classical music begin to fall dramatically: the abandonment of tonality was ‘both symptom and cause of an ever-widening gulf between composers and public’ (Blanning 2008: 59). Similarly, Born (2013) describes

Political interactions   175 a concert at which Henry Cow, the avant-garde rock group to which she belonged, played to Italian peasants, at the behest of the local Communist Party: ‘responses of displeasure, of criticism and rejection, continued throughout the ninety-odd minutes of our set … any putative aesthetic politics of bringing modernist rock to the people was, certainly, put in question or even annulled’ (61–2). This has two effects. First, the music generates or at least bolsters a social division between a cultured elite who understand and appreciate it and the masses who don’t. Second, any political message which the music may potentially communicate only ever reaches a tiny audience, who already subscribe to or at least are familiar with its political message – as they must be in order to read this message within the music in the first place. Avant-garde music preaches to a very small pool of the converted. This point applies beyond avant-garde forms of music. Roy (2010), for example, notes how the efforts of the US Communist Party to use the music of the first wave of the US folk revival to reach out to the people often fell on stony ground. There were various reasons for this, some of which I return to, but a large part of the problem was that the music did not have the same meaning for ‘the people’ as for party intellectuals, because it was framed in a particular way by the latter, drawing upon ideas which had not diffused beyond their social circles. This is not intended as a critique of avant-garde music, nor folk. Both can be exciting, interesting and have great aesthetic merit. Rather, to stick with the avant-garde for the moment, it is a critique of the progressive political claims sometimes made for it. Avant-garde music encourages elitism, which in a political context runs contrary to the democratic principles upon which progressive politics rests. Furthermore, it fails to reach out to the majority of people as it must necessarily do if political change is to be achieved. It is also a critique of academic accounts of the politics of music which fail to consider the role of reception in the construction of musical meaning. Stevenson (2014) touches upon this in his aforementioned paper on jazz, citing Miles Davis’s view that rock and soul were much more politically effective than free jazz, because they connected and communicated with large audiences – whilst the latter appealed only to a small circle of intellectuals and bohemians, putting most other people off. Stevenson recommends a middle path in which avant-garde music is accompanied by explicit efforts to engage and educate audiences, such that it might break out of its elite silo. This view has some merit but in what follows I want to turn to the political possibilities of popular music. My disagreement with Adorno’s critique of popular music runs deep. I find much of its philosophical and political grounding outdated and problematic. (DeNora (2010) updates certain of its aspects in an interesting

176   Connecting sounds way, but at the cost of removing much of its critical and political edge, in my view.) For present purposes, I want to make four brief points about the politics of popular music, which I will pick up at various points later in the chapter. First, echoing Miles Davis and in sharp contrast to Adorno, it is relatively easy to identify moments in the history of popular music where it has assumed a progressive and critical political role. From blues and jazz, via soul, funk and reggae, to hip hop and grime, for example, pop music has served to articulate and highlight issues of racial division and injustice, often contributing to the raising of black consciousness (Neal 1999, 2003). The most recent example of this, as I write, was Beyoncé’s very widely discussed appearance at the 2016 Superbowl, singing ‘Formation’, a song which addresses black politics, flanked by dancers dressed in the uniform of the Black Panthers. It is difficult to imagine any avant-garde musical event generating debate on black politics on the scale that this performance did. Within Eastern dictatorships, moreover, Western pop has served as a mobilising symbol of freedom and democracy. And more generally rock and pop have commonly adopted what Wiseman-Trouse (2008) calls ‘the folk-voice’; that is, the voice of the common people, mocking and talking back to the powerful. Indeed, as Melly (2008) suggests, pop and rock, from the mid-twentieth century onwards, have asserted the value of a previous disvalued working-class culture, challenging cultural hierarchies imposed by middle-class elites and refusing the demand for deference to such elites. From ragtime to grime, via the Beatles, Vandellas and Oasis, pop music is a celebration of the everyday culture of ordinary people and a demand for their recognition. And that in itself is political. We must be cautious in making this claim. Halnon’s (2005) contention that protest within FTMM has no political effect outside of its own contexts beyond maintaining ‘the system’ by serving as a safety valve, may in some cases be true and not only in relation to FTMM. Celebrating the lives of the oppressed is not changing them. Moreover, as Taylor (2016) observes, folk and otherwise oppositional voices in music have a connotation of coolness which marketing departments in many major corporations are eager to tap. Artists who speak out sell trainers, amongst other things, and critiques of ‘the system’ have thereby become incorporated within it (see also Hesmondhalgh 2013b). I agree; but would add that this doesn’t necessarily neutralise the political effect of music. Artists who speak out may both sell trainers and contribute positively to the issues they speak out about. Second, the political status of music is not, as Adorno suggests, an all or nothing matter, in which particular forms are either progressive and critical or conservative. Popular music engages differently with politics at different times and in different places. Often, it doesn’t engage at all (it may engage with a range of existential issues or simply afford an

Political interactions   177 opportunity for fun); but that doesn’t mean that it never does. The totalising logic which, despite his best intentions, frames Adorno’s work, assigns a definite function or role to music; but it has no such role, and its social and political effects vary case by case. Third, Adorno is wrong to prioritise form over content. He allows his aesthetic belief in the priority of form to guide his political analysis and is ultimately thereby misguided. Form may be important in some cases, but so too is content and in particular the content of lyrics. When Edwin Starr declares, ‘War, What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!’, he makes a political claim which the vast majority of people recognise as such and identify with. Likewise when Aretha Franklin demands ‘Respect’ or Lady Gaga engages gay activism with ‘Born This Way’. Moreover, the conventional formal devices employed in such songs, though they might sound distasteful and clichéd to Adorno, serve to deliver that content in a way which many of us find both forceful and persuasive. Finally, popular music has political potential precisely because it is popular. Politics, particularly democratic politics, is a numbers game. It concerns the will of ‘the people’. Avant-garde music will always struggle to make much difference politically because it is, by definition, the preserve of a tiny and usually highly privileged minority (a self-appointed ‘advance guard’, ahead of the rest of us in their thinking); but popular music, again by definition, engages the hearts and minds of many and that gives it political potential. With this said, we can now explore the politics of popular music in more depth. I begin by considering the idea that music can form, or least become involved, in a political public sphere. Political publics Several authors – particularly, though not exclusively, authors focused upon rap and other African American-based genres – have argued that music constitutes a political public sphere, drawing upon and critically engaging with Habermas’s (1989) version of that concept (Chanan 1999; Neal 1999, 2003; Pough 2004; Rose 1994). A political public sphere, for Habermas, is a ‘space’ constituted by debate between interested parties which generates public opinion and puts pressure upon government and other influential actors to act. It mediates between the private (or privatised)1 individual and the state, constituting a crucial mechanism in the operation of democracy. Moreover, and importantly for Habermas, particularly in his later formulations, it is ‘communicatively rational’ (Habermas 1987). Participants seek to persuade one another of their views by way of the force of the better argument, anticipating and seeking to counter the objections of others, whilst always prepared to concede

178   Connecting sounds to arguments which beat their own. Each is open to the perspective and arguments of the others and discussion may result in a new, synthetic perspective, stronger because it incorporates each of the more limited perspectives which preceded it, combining those claims and arguments which have proven more persuasive and robust on the testing ground of open debate. In an early, historically focused study, Habermas (1989) identifies the coffee shops which sprung up in their hundreds in major European cities during the eighteenth century as key examples of public spheres, citing the early history of the press as a further important development. However, in an analysis which has some parallels with Adorno’s critique of the culture industry, he identifies numerous factors which have undermined this potentially democratic space in more recent times (see also Habermas 1987). Many of those inspired by his work have extended this critique, exploring the democratic deficit in contemporary societies, but some have identified alternative spaces which, they claim, approximate his idea of the public sphere. Moreover, others still have sought out spaces where groups otherwise denied a voice in public debate have been able to formulate and voice their concerns. The suggestion of the writers referred to above is that some music worlds, some of the time, play this role. In what ways does music constitute a public sphere? As noted, several of the writers who have invoked this idea have been focused upon rap specifically, echoing Chuck D’s2 often cited claim that ‘rap is CNN for black people’,3 but also resonating with historical accounts which show that music was one of the few ways in which African Americans were allowed to communicate publicly during slavery. Slaves were forbidden from engaging in public debates for fear that this might encourage resistance, but they were allowed to sing and play music – and music often, therefore, became an important vehicle through which coded expressions of dissent could be shared and collective sentiment and identities created. The gist of Chuck D’s claim and that of writers such as Pough (2004) and Rose (1994), who invoke the public sphere in their discussions of rap, is that though African Americans now enjoy formal freedom of speech, their perspectives are not represented by politicians, the major news channels or mainstream media more generally. This means that music, especially rap in the contemporary era, remains an important channel through which black voices can be publicly aired, connecting a geographically dispersed black population and potentially pushing the opinions of the black community onto wider political agendas, where they might shape social and political change. Pough and Rose each add an important dialogical element to this, moreover, pointing to the way in which agendas are developed and shaped by way of the successive contributions of different artists. Both acknowledge that rap is sometimes sexist and homophobic, for example, reflecting

Political interactions   179 prejudices within the wider communities from which rappers hail, but they point to challenges to those prejudices within rap itself. Rap is a means by which problems and issues in black communities, and more reflexively within the rap world itself, can be aired, debated and addressed. The perspective of the rap world qua ‘generalised other’ is formed and reformed over time through the contributions of successive waves of rappers who challenge the claims of their predecessors and move debate forward. Rap is an alternative public sphere, servicing a group who are poorly represented within the mainstream public sphere of US society. Habermas’s concept needs to be reworked according to Pough (2004). Specifically, it needs to be more attentive to difference and the challenges it poses (the publics studied by Habermas were composed entirely of white, bourgeois men). There needs to be more recognition of the difficulties excluded groups experience in having their voices heard and the strategies they must employ to achieve this. Moreover, she challenges the sharp distinction which Habermas makes between public and private issues. Several writers have challenged this distinction from various angles but Pough notes that the impact of slavery upon black family lives was such that ‘the private sphere’ is much less settled and remains an area of contention. In addition, she argues that questions of identity and subjectivity which Habermas is inclined to put outside of politics are live political issues for African Americans on account of their history and oppression. With such provisos, however, she maintains that the idea of a black public sphere is a useful lens through which to make sense of black politics and the role of hip hop (and the blues and other black musical forms, which she also briefly discusses) within it. It may be objected that musicking departs significantly from Habermas’s definition of the public sphere as a domain of open and rational debate; even if, as Hirschkop (2004) observes, Habermas (1998) does refer to rock concerts in one of his later discussions of the public sphere. Musicking in whatever form, but particularly the presentational forms dominant in contemporary Western societies – including rap – is not open debate. There is typically a sharp division of labour, for example, between those who ‘speak’, those who support them and those who listen. In a live context, audiences may enjoy a limited ‘right of reply’ to the views expressed, and it is not uncommon in my experience for audience members to challenge artists who express political views between songs. Furthermore, the rise of Web 2.0 has afforded audiences an opportunity to respond to and challenge artists’ views via such channels as Twitter. However, the elevated status of the artist, demands of live performance, format of recordings, numbers of people involved and ratio of artists to audience members all preclude effective debate. In addition, lyrics do not typically amount to reasoned arguments in favour of particular positions and such argumentation is usually precluded

180   Connecting sounds by the aesthetic demands of song writing and, indeed, the song form itself. We don’t look to songs for evidence and logical argument. Songs and political arguments are different ‘language games’, to borrow Wittgenstein’s (1953) concept. They typically require that we orient to and engage with them in different ways. This is the wrong way of looking at the issue, however. Popular music isn’t public debate in itself but it can stimulate such debate, generating interest in issues and offering up opinions which audiences, in their capacity both as audiences and more widely as citizens, debate, forming their own opinions. Denselow (1989), for example, notes how music generated considerable interest in South Africa’s system of racial apartheid during the 1980s and in the plight of the then jailed African National Congress (ANC) leader, Nelson Mandela. Music didn’t do the debating for people, nor particularly debate with them, but it stimulated them to debate amongst themselves. The contribution of Paul Simon’s Graceland LP is particularly interesting in this context, because it generated debate by virtue of the fact that many people disagreed with Simon having broken a widespread musical boycott of South Africa. Although the LP was widely respected, musically, Simon mostly generated debate because people were critical of him. Denselow also identifies The Specials’ single, ‘Free Nelson Mandela’, as a crucial vehicle for putting the plight of the jailed ANC leader before a wide audience. The point here is that musical gestures can raise consciousness about and stimulate debate in relation to an issue, encouraging people to discuss and think about it, rather than necessarily persuading them of a view in and of itself. Musicking is not constitutive of a public sphere in its own right but rather triggers debate in wider publics or contributes to their formation, without being entirely co-extensive with them, by initiating debate around particular themes. This applies to what I suggested with respect to rap above. Rappers do not make up audiences’ minds for them. They trigger reflection and debate in which their audiences make up their own minds. They stimulate and create a focus for debate, animating existing publics or initiating a process whereby such publics come into being. In a different vein, music may serve to publicise views and voices already existing and refined by way of debate and argument within particular communities, which would not otherwise be heard outside of these communities; voices of politically underrepresented groups. This point is not straightforward. There are complex issues of representation to be addressed. Nobody would suppose, for example, that Nina Simone could speak for all African American women of her generation, any more than Phil Collins speaks for all ageing white British males. As Pough (2004) stresses, there is no single black voice. However, songs such as ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Mississippi Goddam’ articulate and publicise a (not the) perspective common within some African American circles. Nina Simone cannot

Political interactions   181 represent all black women of her generation, but neither are her views hers alone. She publicly articulates what, with reference to Mead (1967), we might call a generalised perspective; the collective view of a circle to which she belongs. The celebrity of the artist is important here, not for finally persuading members of the public to agree with what is being said, but rather for bringing a previously unrepresented perspective before them. Pough (2004) makes an interesting point here when she notes that underrepresented groups typically have to create a spectacle in order to be heard. Habermas’s understanding of public discourse assumes that speakers enjoy and exercise a right to be heard; but excluded groups often have to make themselves heard, and music, with full bells and whistles, along with a strong visual presence, is an important means of achieving this. Moreover, though songs are not arguments and do not displace the need for rational engagement, they allow artists to present particular perspectives upon events in a way in which rational argumentation arguably could not and which supports such argument. They show as much as they say and convey something of the feeling of the actor, inviting empathy in a way that a logical argument could not. Listening to ‘Strange Fruit’, as sung by Nina Simone, can be a sobering experience because it not only draws our attention to the fact of lynching, as an argument might, but also conveys, by way of the modulation of the voice, the delivery and melancholic accompaniment, something of the feeling of those whose communities are subject to such extraordinarily cruel treatment. To reiterate, this is not rational argumentation and cannot substitute for it, but if communicative rationality entails different parties striving to appreciate and engage with one another’s perspectives, then it can make an important contribution – establishing the empathy upon which rational argument might build. In addition, music can be important for generating pressure upon politicians to act – a crucial aspect of the public sphere as Habermas defines it. Music and musicians attract passion and support, capturing the hearts, minds and imagination of audiences on a scale and with a level of intensity that politicians and activists can only dream of. And politicians and activists need such support. In a democracy, their legitimacy and authority are ultimately dependent upon public support. As I discuss below, this can make music a very attractive resource for political actors, a means of boosting either their own public support or at least support for the causes they advocate. It also makes music a potentially very important element in the public sphere, however. Denselow (1989), for example, makes the case that musical mobilisation around the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, which included an eleven-hour concert at Wembley Stadium (UK) attended by 72,000 people and televised worldwide, made this an issue which politicians could not ignore and, in the final

182   Connecting sounds analysis, thereby contributed to the political process which secured his release and the dismantling of apartheid. Music, when popular, can make issues difficult for politicians to avoid and can symbolise a strength of opinion which they are fearful of offending. We must be careful, from an analytic point of view, not to take all demonstrations of political will in music at face value. Audiences may enjoy music in spite of its politics, may fail to grasp its politics or may only play along with the politics for the duration of the songs. However, music clearly can and does serve to stimulate and work alongside political publics some of the time. Music as a political resource The idea that music generates a public sphere emphasises the political agency of artists. This is important but it is not the whole story of musical politics. Music worlds generate resources which political parties, social movement organisations (SMOs) and campaigners need to be effective, but often struggle to generate or accumulate for themselves. Relatively successful artists enjoy the passionate support of huge pools of fans, who listen to and are influenced by what they say, for example, and who collectively pay large sums of money to see them play or purchase recordings. Music has a power of attraction well in excess of what many political causes and actors can typically muster, often within constituencies that political actors find difficult to reach. Moreover, as observers have noted in relation to a number of different music worlds, musicking has the capacity to generate a sense of collectivity, which is extremely important to social movements (Eyerman and Jamison 1998; Futrell et al. 2006; Roy 2010). This inevitably incentivises political actors to seek to use music for their own ends. Music is perceived and used as a political resource. This idea is captured in some part by Snow et al. (1986) in their seminal paper on framing in social movements. The concept of framing, which I have also used in this book, has been popular in recent debates in social movement studies. The idea is that SMOs, such as Greenpeace, Black Lives Matter and Act Up, have to persuade an often disinterested public of their ideas, generating adherents, if they are to succeed. They do this by framing both themselves and their message in different ways. Snow et al. consider a number of framing strategies but one in particular – ‘frame extension’ – refers directly to music. Activists identify objects, practices, etc., such as particular bands, artists and musical styles, which are already popular within their target constituency, and they align themselves with those objects and practices. They extend their own remit and range of interests, claiming, for example, to stand for particular types of music, in an effort to attract support.

Political interactions   183 It is for this reason that politicians sometimes express their liking for particular artists or musical styles, why they invite pop stars to events, ask them to play at election rallies and inauguration ceremonies, and why they might endeavour to make appearances at musical events. British political party leaders and prime ministers provide many examples of this. In 2017, for example, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn delivered a speech at the Glastonbury Festival, having also held a number of high-profile meetings with various grime artists. Glastonbury is an interesting festival in this respect, having itself been strongly associated with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) during the 1980s (McKay 2000). Indeed, Corbyn is an old friend of Glastonbury organiser, Michael Eavis, on account of their shared history of involvement in early CND marches. Before Corbyn, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron raised eyebrows (and a rebuke from Smiths’ guitarist, Johnny Marr) when he declared his longstanding love for the Jam and the Smiths. And before that, Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair enjoyed a highly publicised association with Britpop. Britpop artists were celebrated in the Labour Party magazine, New Labour, New Britain, and leading Britpop musicians, such as Noel Gallagher, were courted at Downing Street. Benefit gigs are another important strand in this strategy. In addition to forging associations between popular artists and political causes, they tap the revenue-generating potential of popular music. Many more people will pay for a gig than will donate to SMOs or pay to hear a campaigner speak. Beyond this, moreover, benefit gigs provide SMOs with a captive audience for their message and efforts at recruitment. This is further encouraged where the music itself has a political message, of course. In that case, ‘frame extension’ may be less of a stretch. Artists and other musical actors are not necessarily passive in this process. The association between Corbyn and grime was cultivated in some part from within the grime world itself, for example, by way of Grime4Corbyn and other such musically-rooted groups. Likewise, various musicians banded together in the mid-1980s, under the banner of ‘Red Wedge’, in an effort to boost the British Labour Party’s support before the 1987 General Election (Frith and Street 1992). Music is still being used as a political resource in these cases, however, as musicians – whose songs may in some cases have no direct political message or effect – lend their endorsement and thus both kudos and revenue-generating potential to a political cause. Moreover, as I discuss further below, artists are not always willing participants in the political uses of their music and may, in some cases, be opposed to it. Frame extension works in part by harnessing the attention-grabbing potential of music to publicise a political cause. However, it often also involves an attempt to forge a semiotic association between the two, relying upon the human desire for cognitive consistency, described by

184   Connecting sounds Festinger (1957), to translate musical into political passion: if I like ‘this’ music, which is associated with ‘that’ political position, then I must support that political position. Political support achieved by such means is no doubt often superficial, but superficial support is a start from the point of view of an SMO or party. Political framing can be cynical. Parties and SMOs may seek simply to use artists and styles who hold no intrinsic interest or value for them for instrumental purposes. This is not always the case, however. Political actors may sometimes genuinely perceive political significance in musical happenings, believing that they – the political actor – represent interests and ideas expressed in the music. During the late 1970s, for example, as Worley (2012, 2013) has shown, parties on both the far-right and the far-left of UK politics targeted punk as a potential site for recruitment. Not everybody in these parties was convinced of the wisdom of this, nor of the virtues of punk, and no doubt some of those who went along with the strategy did so with a degree of cynical detachment. However, some activists on both sides interpreted the expression of anger and alienation on behalf of the punks as an underdeveloped articulation of ideas and sentiments which they were pursuing themselves. Punks were perceived as (perhaps unwitting) proto-communists or proto-fascists who might become fully-fledged communists or fascists given the right encouragement and education. They just needed a better understanding of the cause of their anger and alienation; an understanding which the activists were happy to impart. Such educative processes are discussed by Snow et al. (1986) under the rubric of ‘frame bridging’ and ‘frame amplification’. Frame bridging, as the name suggests, involves the forging of links between views expressed by the target and those expressed by the SMO, such that the latter appears to speak for the former. It involves identification of and then building upon common ground. Expressions of working-class pride and hostility to bosses and the state within music might be seized upon by a Trotskyist group, for example, who will draw attention to their own hostility to capitalists and their alignment with the working class. They create a bridge between their own perspective and that of the would-be recruits, which they encourage those would-be recruits to cross. Frame amplification involves an attempt to work upon sentiments and beliefs in such a way as to make them bigger and more significant for the targets. Far-right groups might seize upon racist remarks and jokes on behalf of a potential recruit, for example; cultivating the racism of their targets from a peripheral habit of mind into a political project. Music was important in the cases described by Worley on account of its audience demographic: young, white working-class males who fitted the revolutionary profile imagined by the political groups and might serve as foot soldiers. It was also important because of the anger with which

Political interactions   185 it was associated. In contrast to the scenario Halnon (2005) describes, punk and especially its Oi! offshoot cultivated an anger and aggression which recruiters on both the right and the left seized upon and sought to both frame and channel (Worley 2012, 2013). Early UK punk is a particularly interesting example of framing and attempted political co-optation because both the far-right and the far-left perceived some potential in it and fought over it, illustrating that the affinity claimed by both sides was not as clear cut as they might have suggested and was dependent upon interpretive work. It is also interesting because it throws up examples of artists opposed to the political co-optation of their work who struggled to extricate themselves from it. Popular punk band, Sham 69, for example, despite publicly speaking out against fascism and racism, and playing Rock Against Racism gigs, nevertheless attracted a strong fascist following. The so-called Sham Army would make Nazi salutes and shout ‘Seig Heil’ in unison at their gigs; whilst far-right recruiters sought to recruit within a captive audience, some of whom, influenced by this framing, heard the music as right wing. Even Two Tone, a music world involving black and white musicians and audiences which formed in some part in opposition to the Sham Army and the growing wider influence of the far-right, was – perhaps because of its skinhead associations – targeted by far-right recruiters. Pauline Black (2012), for example, notes that the National Front attempted to recruit at shows at which her (primarily black) band, the Selecter, were performing, and that fascist salutes and chants were common. Of all of the Two Tone bands, however, Madness in particular had a significant far-right faction within their audience, and struggled to shake off the inevitable imputation that they were a right-wing band. Like Sham 69, they became a rallying point for the far-right and struggled initially to challenge this association. I do not mean to deny the political agency of punk musicians themselves – or indeed any other musicians. Whilst I believe that claims regarding the political nature of the very earliest stirrings of punk in the UK are often overstated, politics very quickly became an important component of punk and a significant number of bands and artists advocated political positions in the strongest of terms; from Crass on the far anarchist left, to Skrewdriver on the far-right, and much in-between. This is true of many other music worlds today, from folk to grime. My point is that, in addition to this and irrespective of the political orientations of musicians themselves, music and more particularly music’s capacity to mobilise hearts, minds and wallets is a potentially invaluable resource for political actors who seek to tap into and use it for their purposes, politicising particular music worlds and bands. Artists can be voluntarily involved in politics but also involuntarily, and perhaps both, and music worlds can be infiltrated by ‘external’ political movements and actors.

186   Connecting sounds Before concluding this section it is important to note that music may be used as a political resource by citizens who have no direct involvement in SMOs, not least on account of its symbolic meaning. In his analysis of student resistance to the Milosevic regime in Serbia during the 1990s, for example, Steinberg (2004) notes how Western rock and pop became a symbol of resistance, signifying identification with the West and its political and wider cultural values and institutions. Playing and identifying with the music was a way of signifying one’s dissent and forging links with other dissenters. In addition, Steinberg notes, it was often used in the context of protests, both as a way of preparing protestors emotionally for collective action, much as a military band might stir soldiers before battle, and of laying claim to spaces by way of impromptu street parties – a strategy similar to that of Reclaim the Streets anti-road and antiglobalisation protests in the West. There are several examples of Western rock and pop taking on a political significance in non-Western contexts. Often this is a matter of protestors seeking democratisation of their country in a manner they perceive in the West. Tas (2014), however, notes that in Turkey, where the government has sought to establish a Western style democratic system, Western rock and pop tend to signify adherence to this dominant tendency. In this context, where there is some resistance to secular democracy from Islamic groups in particular, Islamic folk music has, for some, acquired a symbolic meaning and charge as a symbol of resistance (Tas 2014), as indeed other forms of folk music have in various nationalist movements. Steinberg (2004), for example, discusses this same process in relation to Serbian nationalism in the period prior to the abovementioned student protests. Politics as a musical resource If politics sometimes piggy-backs off music, the reverse is also true. Associations between music and politics can be mutually beneficial. As I argued in Chapter 3, music worlds typically need some sort of organisational and economic infrastructure in order to flourish. In the case of commercial-mainstream music, this infrastructure is typically furnished by ‘the industry’. Record labels, managers, producers, promoters, etc. organise and resource musicking because they expect to yield financial rewards by doing so. In some cases, the state may contribute by way of an arts council or culture department. And other organisations – such as churches, NGOs and civil society actors, as well as organisations dedicated to the promotion of particular musical styles – may all play a part. The Church of England, for example, plays an important role in maintaining choral music; and black churches in the US have played an important role in maintaining gospel music and the many forms influenced by it.

Political interactions   187 Many important soul singers, for example, including Aretha Franklin (a minister’s daughter), began their singing careers in church. In some cases, however, this infrastructure is provided by SMOs and/or political parties. The first wave of the US folk revival, for example, was sponsored in some part by the Communist Party (Roy 2010). Prior to the revival, folk was not generally perceived in political terms by either outsiders or those involved in it. This was to change when it was adopted by the Communist Party, some of whose members came to perceive and value it as an expression of both the voice of ‘the people’ and times past, untainted by the corrupting influence of capitalism. The communists perceived folk as a form of musicking which existed outside the commercial tentacles of capitalism and ‘the industry’, potentially prefiguring that of a future communist society. Aside from this intrinsic interest, moreover, folk was perceived in more strategic terms as an instrument of propaganda. It was a resource which activists could use for political ends. By the same token, however, and more importantly for present purposes, the intervention of the Communist Party played an important role in supporting and encouraging the folk revival. The party adopted folk and in seeking to use it for political ends generated a network of events and opportunities within which the music and many of its chief practitioners were able to flourish. Party resources – including the time, energy and organisational and promotional skills of activists – were channelled into folk and this played a key role in the revival (Roy 2010). Another interesting example of this is the Rock Against Racism (RAR) campaign in the UK during the late 1970s (Frith and Street 1992; Street 2012). Though the idea had been floating for a while, the campaign was instigated in response to an onstage drunken outburst by Eric Clapton, in 1976, in which he expressed racist views and called upon the audience to support Enoch Powell – a politician whose name was synonymous with the demand for repatriation of blacks living in the UK (further impetus was provided by David Bowie’s apparent flirtation with fascism around this time). Four activists wrote a letter to the New Musical Express criticising Clapton and calling for a movement to challenge such racism. They received hundreds of responses to this letter and a campaign was launched. Though the movement was multifaceted, one of its chief activities was the organisation, around the UK, of gigs involving, in each case, a mix of black and white musicians, which usually meant reggae and punk bands – in the hope of drawing black and white audiences together, breaking down barriers between them and building links. These gigs were often DIY affairs, but organisational assistance was provided from RAR’s central HQ. As with the US folk revival, RAR was a political campaign, challenging racism, which utilised music as a resource to achieve its ends. The instigators of the campaign were seasoned political campaigners with links to

188   Connecting sounds various political groups, including the Socialist Workers Party, and they clearly sought to channel passion for music into passion for a political cause; namely, tackling racism. The impact of the campaign was, by most accounts, considerable, achieving palpable and concrete changes in race relations. It was also important musically, however; in part because it brought two music worlds together, encouraging crossovers such as would be witnessed most obviously in the late 1970s Two Tone movement, but also because it created opportunities for young bands. RAR gigs needed artists and, though they would not pay those artists for performing, they could offer organisational support, legitimacy, publicity and an audience. RAR made use of music but in doing so it stimulated a great deal of musical activity, helping punk, reggae and their various offshoots to thrive at a local level. On a lesser scale, a symbiotic relationship between music and politics is also evident at the other end of the spectrum. Far-right activists responded to RAR with their own campaign, Rock Against Communism, and the aforementioned targeting of punk audiences by the far-right continued as punk splintered in the late 1970s, attaching in particular to the strand which became known as Oi! (Worley 2012, 2013). Not all Oi! bands and enthusiasts subscribed to far-right ideologies, but a significant number did. More to the point, far-right splinter group, Combat 18, were directly involved in Blood and Honour, a record label, zine and promotion/ distribution outfit which sought to promote Oi! bands with a far-right affiliation and message (Lowles 2001). Again, political resources were put to musical ends, albeit in expectation of political rewards. Alternative spaces Hitherto, I have discussed politics in its formal, institutionalised sense. Some studies of musical politics hinge upon a different sense of politics, however, more resonant with accounts of the so-called ‘new social movements’ (Habermas 1987; Melucci 1989). It is suggested, for example, that particular music worlds (heavy metal and rave are prominent examples) address issues which fall outside of the parameters of mainstream political discourse. Rather than questioning ‘who gets what’, they focus upon matters of identity, definitions of the good life and perhaps deeper philosophical issues about metaphysical categories which structure experience in modern societies. Both Gilbert and Pearson (1999), in their study of rave, and Halnon (2011), in a later paper on heavy metal in which she appears to retract her ‘safety valve’ theory, stress the centrality of the body in musicrelated cultures, for example, and the challenge this poses to widely observed ascetic norms rooted in puritan and rationalist discourses. The hedonistic ethos of many music worlds challenges the work ethic and

Political interactions   189 norms of restraint (see also Gilroy 1987). Likewise, Gilbert and Pearson (1999) and also Pini (1997) suggest that the androgynous styling and suspension of sexual coupling within early rave culture provided a challenge and alternative to dominant conceptions and norms of gender and sexuality. Pini’s female respondents, in particular, stressed the importance of being freed from unwanted male attention at raves and the sense of liberation this afforded them. Furthermore, both Pini and Gilbert and Pearson discuss the collective nature of musicking at raves, suggesting that they pose a challenge to the individualism of contemporary societies at a phenomenological level. Dancing and other rituals of appreciation integral to these forms of musicking, albeit aided in many cases by drugs, allow for a loosening of the bonds of self-consciousness, they argue – sometimes to a point where dancers are completely immersed in their activity and connected to other participants. They afford actors a lived sense of collectivity which challenges the individualisation to which they are subject in most of the rest of their lives. In addition, again resonating with new social movement theories, it is argued that participants in particular music worlds, though disgruntled with their wider society, have little faith in either institutionalised politics or the claims of self-styled revolutionary sects to bring about meaningful change; they therefore seek to create alternative ‘spaces’ in which they can, albeit only temporarily, escape from the conditions they reject in the ‘outside world’ and act in accordance with their own preferred values and ways of being. They create their own alternatives within the context of a wider society whose values and structure they criticise. For Pini’s (1997) interviewees, for example, a rave was a space where prevailing social identities ceased to matter (though Pini does question this by suggesting that most early ravers were white), where traditional gender relations in particular had been suspended, freeing women from their control, and where non-phallic forms of sexuality (the jouissance achieved whilst dancing high on ecstasy) were possible. Riley et al. conceptualise this as in terms of temporary escape: The aim is therefore not to change the world, but to survive in it – a politics of survival rather than resistance, through the creation of sites in which to experience communal hedonism and pleasure. (2010: 384)

Moreover, they stress that such activities are political because they allow participants to carve out areas of autonomy and control for themselves. This is a very thin conception of politics and hints at the safety valve thesis discussed above; rather than trying to change social conditions which concern them, participants create spaces in which they can temporarily escape them and let off steam. However, these spaces do constitute

190   Connecting sounds alternatives. A rave or gig is an alternative to a more conventional night club. They are spaces in society where individuals are able to practise social relations, and indeed self-hood, differently. In this respect, moreover, they are potentially prefigurative, allowing participants to experiment with alternative social forms which may achieve wider currency, should they prove successful and appealing. And in some cases, they become bound up with wider political projects. In the case of rave, some participants were politicised in a more conventional sense of ‘politics’ as a consequence of external interference in their world. Media sources whipped up a moral panic around rave in the early 1990s, prompting a repressive response from politicians, specifically the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, which criminalised raves (Hier 2002; Hill 2002). This, in turn, radicalised some ravers, bringing them into contact with other political activists, particularly radical environmentalists and anti-roads protestors, and making them more open to recruitment (Welsh and McLeish 1996; Wall 1999). Alternative music worlds might challenge the norms and assumptions of ‘wider society’, but they also often challenge conventional musicking practices. We see this to some extent in relation to rave, which at least in its early stages challenged the commercialism, male domination and sexual norms of existing club culture. An equally notable example, however, is Riot Grrrl, particularly during its first wave in the early 1990s (Marcus 2010; O’Shea 2015). Riot Grrrl not only put feminist issues onto the agenda by way of its lyrics. It challenged the patriarchal structures of the punk world it grew out of. Female bands were one manifestation of this but there were many other self-conscious efforts to bring about change including, for example, the practise of drawing women to the front at gigs and insisting that men stand at the back. Riot Grrrl was as much a challenge to sexism in music as to sexism in wider society, and as such it reminds us that musicking, as social interaction, has its own internal politics: a politics of musicking itself. Conclusion Back in the mid-twentieth century, Adorno worried that the rise of the culture industry and popular music would serve to silence the masses. Popular music, in his view, had a depoliticising effect. It would be naive to dismiss his views out of hand; but he was wrong. Popular music worlds have frequently served as arenas for the expression of political criticism, generating political debate and a pressure for change. Moreover the evident political potential of music has enticed political actors from across the spectrum to make use of it, generating a symbiotic relationship in which music serves political ends and politics serves musical ends. In addition,

Political interactions   191 music worlds are often much more than music worlds. They are spaces in which new lifestyles, identities, values and norms can be generated and experimented with, informing wider movements for change. They are, that is to say, political worlds. Notes 1 The private individual assumed in some political theories is a fiction, for Habermas; and to the extent that we are private today, this is a historical construct. 2  Of the celebrated rap group Public Enemy. 3 (accessed16 March 2018).


Louis Armstrong’s All Stars (2001) ‘Basin Street Blues’, Da Music (also available on many other collections). Bauhaus (1979) ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, Small Wonder. The Beatles (1967) ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, Parlophone. Beethoven, L. (1808) ‘Symphony Number 5’, available on various collections. Prince Buster (1964) ‘Al Capone’, Blue Beat. John Cage (2001) ‘4’33’, edition Peters (this is the reference for the sheet music but various ‘performances’ can be found on-line). The Clash (1977) ‘White Riot’, CBS. Crass (1978) ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’, Small Wonder. —— (1978) ‘Reality Asylum’, Crass Records. —— (1981) ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand; Second Sitting’, Crass Records. The Cure (1979) ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’, Fiction. Bob Dylan (1964) ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’’, Columbia. Aretha Franklin (1967) ‘Respect’, Atlantic. Lady Gaga (2011) ‘Born this Way’, Streamline. Stan Getz and João Gilberto (2014) ‘Getz/Gilberto’, Decca. Jerry Goldsmith (2010) ‘Ave Satani’, on ‘The Omen’ (soundtrack), Varese Sarabande. The King Blues (2008) ‘The Streets are Ours’, on ‘Save the World, Get the Girl’, Universal Island. Evgeny Kissin (1999) ‘Chopin – 4 Ballades/Piano Work’, Sony (many other renditions by different performers are available). Kraftwerk (1977) ‘Trans-Europe Express’, on ‘Trans-Europe Express’, Kling Klang. Madness (1979) ‘The Prince’, Two Tone. —— (2012) ‘Misery’, on ‘Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da’, Entertainment One. Glenn Miller and his Orchestra (1939) ‘In the Mood’, Bluebird. Gregory Porter (2010) ‘1960 What?’ on ‘Water’, Motéma Music. Pulp (1995) ‘Common People’, Island. 192

Discography    193 The Ruts (1979) ‘Babylon’s Burning’, Virgin. The Sex Pistols (1976) ‘Anarchy in the UK’, EMI. Sham 69 (1978) ‘If the Kids are United’, Polydor. Michelle Shocked (1988) ‘If Love Was a Train’, London. Paul Simon (1986) ‘Graceland’, Warner Brothers. Nina Simone (1964) ‘Mississippi Goddam’, on ‘Nina Simone in Concert’, Phillips. —— (1965) ‘Strange Fruit’, on ‘Pastel Blues’, Phillips. Spear of Destiny (2003) ‘Mayday’, on ‘Morning Star’, Eastersnow. The Specials (1979) ‘Gangsters’, Two Tone. —— (1984) ‘Free Nelson Mandela’, Two Tone. Edwin Starr (1970) ‘War’, Motown. Frank Turner (2007) ‘Once We Were Anarchists’, on ‘Sleep is For the Weak’, Xtra Mile. —— (2008) ‘Long Live the Queen’, on ‘Love, Ire and Song’, Xtra Mile. John Williams (2000) ‘Jaws’, Decca. X (1980) ‘Johnny Hit and Run Paulene’, on ‘Los Angeles’, Slash.


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13th Floor Elevators 137 ‘1960 What?’ (Gregory Porter) 114, 124 affect/emotion 21, 28, 57, 75, 110, 115, 120, 122, 138, 139, 173, 174, 186 affordance (musical) 27, 128, 129, 130, 136, 137, 138, 139, 141, 142, 145, 172, 174, 176 Age 71, 119, 146, 148, 149, 151, 153, 156, 157, 158, 162, 164, 165, 167 alienation 70, 134, 138, 171, 172, 173, 174, 184 ‘Anarchy in the UK’ (The Sex Pistols) 124 art world (concept) 6, 14, 15, 29, 70, 73, 74, 95, 107, 109 ‘Asylum’ (Crass) 12, 15, 38 audience 2, 5, 9, 10, 12–16, 20, 21, 29, 30–7, 40, 42–56, 58–61, 65–9, 71, 75, 76, 83, 87, 89, 90, 96, 99, 102, 108–10, 113, 118, 119, 122, 124, 143–5, 154, 158–60, 162, 164, 166, 171–5, 179–85, 187, 188 ‘Ave Satani’ (Jerry Goldsmith) 110, 111, 118 ‘Babylon’s Burning’ (The Ruts) 120 ‘Basin Street Blues’ 24 Beatles 131, 176 Beethoven 32, 56, 119

‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ (Bauhaus) 114, 117 Black, Pauline 185 body techniques 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 27, 28, 139 bossa nova 118 Bowie, David 187 Boyd, Moses 102, 105 Broudie, Ian 93 Cage, John 12, 15, 35, 96 Chapman, Tracy 142 Chopin (Ballade No 1) 23 Chuck D 178 Clapton, Eric 187 Clash, The 69, 120 classical (music tradition) 12, 14, 23, 31, 46, 72, 73, 75, 111, 119, 129, 154, 155, 161, 171, 174 Cochran, Eddie 130 Collins, Phil 180 ‘Common People’ (Pulp) 144–5 composer 10, 11, 23, 25, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 44, 45, 46, 48, 57, 108, 109, 122, 123, 171, 174 convention 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15, 25, 27, 30, 32–5, 37, 42, 45, 47–9, 66, 69, 74, 75, 83, 91, 95, 107, 109, 116, 117, 119–23, 125, 130, 131, 136, 142, 154, 158, 171–4, 177, 190 Cope, Julian 97 core–periphery 101–2 Crass 12, 15, 38, 185 critical mass 76, 89


208    Index dancing 16, 27, 28, 29, 42, 64, 75, 77, 116, 123, 126, 127, 129, 130, 136, 137, 141, 142, 158, 165, 167, 168, 176, 189 dance music 42, 64, 66, 77, 80, 81, 103, 110, 111, 112, 123 DiFranco, Ani 142 dropping the bass 123 Dylan, Bob 120 Eagle, Roger 97–8 Elvis (Presley) 50, 130 embedding (of interaction) 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 29, 38, 41, 87, 90, 133, 149, 153, 173 embodiment/body (see also ‘body techniques’) 11, 19, 24, 115, 116, 140, 188 Erdös numbers 98 Eric’s 88, 97, 98 Factory (label and club) 97, 98 ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’ (Crass) 12, 15, 38 foci/focus (network) 77, 78, 88, 89 folk (music) 2, 13, 14, 16, 42, 48, 55, 56, 61, 69, 75, 76, 78, 80, 81, 82, 89, 100, 119, 136, 149, 164, 165, 175, 176, 185, 186, 187 frames/framing 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 24, 35, 37, 57, 74, 103, 107, 108, 113, 115, 117, 124, 125, 138, 139, 141, 154, 174, 175, 182, 183, 184, 185 Franklin, Aretha 177, 187 Free Nelson Mandela 180 ‘Gangsters’ (the Specials) 114 Garcia, Nubya 102, 105 gender 4, 29, 56, 57, 58, 62, 64, 65, 71, 118, 119, 125, 127, 130, 135, 136, 142, 143, 145, 148, 149, 151, 153, 154, 158, 161, 162, 164, 165, 166, 167, 180, 184, 189, 190 generalised other 22, 23, 108, 133, 135, 179, 181 Getz, Stan and Astrud and João Gilberto 118 ‘Graceland’ (Paul Simon) 180 habit/habitus 40, 19, 22, 24, 32, 33, 35, 108, 109, 121, 122, 123, 125, 131, 132, 139, 147, 171, 184

heavy metal 2, 42, 61, 66, 67, 69, 73, 75, 78, 80, 81, 82, 89, 95, 100, 113, 119, 142, 145, 154, 162, 164, 188 Hell, Richard 99 hip hop 17, 67, 102, 119, 143, 144, 169, 176, 179 Holly, Buddy 130 homology 127, 131, 147 homophily 88, 150, 151, 152, 153, 155, 157, 162, 165, 166, 168, 169 Hucknall, Mick 98 ‘If the Kids Are United’ (Sham 69) 119 ‘If Love Was a Train’ (Michelle Shocked) 114 indie 66, 76, 79, 80, 81, 97, 165, 166 internal conversation (Mead) 22, 23, 133 internal goods 41, 61, 62, 69, 73, 89, 95, 96 interpretive communities (Fish) 14, 15, 29, 74, 95, 107, 109 ‘In the Mood’ (Glenn Miller version) 118 ‘Jaws (Shark Theme)’ (John Williams) 110, 111, 118 jazz 14, 18–20, 33, 42, 45, 48, 49, 56, 57, 58, 59, 61, 69, 73, 74, 75, 77, 78, 80, 81, 82, 89, 90, 96, 113, 125, 138, 155, 156, 157, 158, 160, 163, 164, 167, 168, 169, 171, 175, 176 ‘Johnny Hit and Run Paulene’ (X) 125 ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’ (The Cure) 115 Lady Gaga 158, 177 Lightning Seeds 93 listening/listener 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23–8, 31, 37, 38, 47, 48, 49, 67, 75, 84, 90, 96, 103, 104, 107, 108, 110, 112–16, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 127, 128, 129, 137, 138, 139, 140, 143, 144, 145, 146, 149, 155, 158, 159, 166, 169, 172, 173, 174, 179, 181, 182 ‘Long Live the Queen’ (Frank Turner) 111

Index    209 McCluskey, Andy 93 McLaren, Malcolm 99 Madness 114, 119, 185 Mandela, Nelson 180, 181 ‘Mayday’ (Spear of Destiny) 114 ‘Misery’ (Madness) 119 ‘Mississippi Goddam’ (Nina Simone) 180 multivalence (of interaction) 4, 5, 6, 9, 29, 38, 166, 170 musicking 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 15–17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 47, 54, 57, 61, 68, 71, 72, 75, 77, 80, 84, 85, 87, 88, 89, 90, 94, 100, 101, 104, 106, 112, 127, 139, 141, 142, 146, 148, 151, 153, 166, 167, 168, 169, 179, 180, 182, 186, 187, 189, 190 music worlds 1, 2, 6, 7, 14, 15, 29, 30, 34, 35, 41, 42, 44, 46, 49, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63–105, 109, 112, 114, 123, 124, 138, 142, 148, 154, 163–7, 168, 169, 170, 178, 179, 182, 183, 185, 186, 188, 189, 190, 191 New Model Army 69 new monkey 90, 100, 104, 140, 151, 157 Oi! 119, 185, 188 ‘Once We Were Anarchists’ (Frank Turner) 120 Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark 93, 98 Pattinson, Les 105 performance/performer 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17–23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 53, 55, 57, 58, 65, 66, 68, 75, 76, 96, 108, 109, 120, 122, 123, 150, 158, 166, 176, 179 Pink Floyd 131 pop 29, 56, 57, 69, 76, 79, 80, 129, 130, 131, 172, 176, 183, 186 post-punk 85, 86, 88, 95, 97 power 29, 30, 31, 35, 40, 42, 54, 55, 58, 94, 99, 114, 130, 176 ‘Prince, The’ (Madness) 114 Prince Buster 114

Public Enemy 191 Pulp 144 punk 1, 2, 12, 15, 32, 42, 64, 67, 69, 75, 80, 81, 86, 88, 96, 97, 99, 102, 119, 124, 125, 168, 172, 184, 185, 187, 188, 190 R&B 66, 163 race/racism 4, 7, 10, 16, 36, 41, 44, 56, 58, 62, 64, 65, 71, 114, 119, 124, 127, 135, 136, 143, 144, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 162, 163, 164, 167, 168, 169, 176, 178, 179, 180, 181, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, rap 52, 58, 66, 76, 143, 144, 177, 178, 179, 180, 191 reggae 75, 78, 81, 118, 136, 149, 163, 164, 167, 168, 176, 187, 188 resources 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 17, 30–2, 35, 37, 38, 40, 44, 54, 55, 60, 61, 66, 74, 75–7, 90, 93, 96, 97, 98, 108, 149, 151, 156, 159, 162, 169, 182, 187, 188 Riot Grrrl 190 rock 16, 29, 66, 75, 76, 79, 80, 97, 102, 124, 130, 149, 175, 176, 179, 186 Rock Against Communism 188 Rock Against Racism 16, 185, 187 rock ‘n’ roll 36, 50, 51, 58, 59, 67, 96, 125, 130, 137, 163, 169 Roxy Music 145–6 Selector, The 185 Sex Pistols, The 99, 102, 124 sexuality 64, 119, 148, 149, 151, 153, 189 ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’ (the Beatles) 131 Sham 69 119, 185 Simone, Nina 180, 181 Simply Red 98 Skrewdriver 185 social capital 85, 94–101, 166 social class 7, 45, 46, 58, 64, 65, 70, 119, 127, 135, 138, 143, 144, 145, 147, 148, 149, 150, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 166, 167, 176, 184 social movements 134, 182, 188 soundtracking 118, 138, 139, 141, 145

210    Index Spear of Destiny 114, 135 Specials (The) 114, 180 ‘Star Spangled Banner’ (Jimi Hendrix) 124–5 ‘Strange Fruit’ (Nina Simone version) 180, 181 ‘Streets are Ours, The’ (the King Blues) 114, 115 support personnel 2, 10, 11, 13, 16, 21, 30, 37, 40, 41, 42, 58, 60, 61, 62, 71, 76, 85, 166

technology 17, 30–2, 77, 148, 160 ‘Trans-Europe Express’ (Kraftwerk) 114 tuning in (Schutz) 20, 27, 28, 121, 123, 139, 140 Turner, Frank 36, 37, 111, 120 Two Tone 114, 185, 188 ‘War’ (Edwin Starr) 177 Wilson, Tony 97, 98