23rd January, 2022 / 15:30 -
18th April, 2018
Discussions of music and social structure are often framed in terms of their reciprocal impacts.
Scholars ask how music is shaped by social structure and vice versa, supposing them to be separate but related. This neglects the fact that music has and indeed is a social structure. This is true on several levels but most obviously in relation to social networks. Part of what is meant by ‘social structure’ is network structure; the pattern of connections (relations and interactions) between social actors within a population. Music has a social structure, in this respect, because it involves interaction and relations between social actors (including both individual actors and such corporate actors as record labels), playing a variety of roles: e.g. composers, performers, audience members and what Becker (1982) calls ‘support personnel’.
‘Musicking’ is social interaction (Small 1998) and as such variously generates and mobilises a network; that is, a social structure. Moreover, this network is attached to and thus forms part of the much wider network comprising the social structure of whatever society the participants belong to. In this presentation I elaborate upon this idea, drawing upon various empirical studies of musicking networks, including my studies of: early UK punk and post-punk, contemporary folk singing, the translocal underground heavy metal world and music festivals in both the UK and Turkey.
Nick Crossley is a professor of sociology at the University of Manchester (UK). His most recent book is Networks of Sound, Style and Subversion: the Punk and Post-Punk Worlds of Manchester, London, Liverpool and Sheffield, 1975-1980 (Manchester University Press, 2015). He is currently working on a further book, provisionally entitled The Social Life of Music, for Manchester University Press.