Howard S. Becker
independent scholar

Why Sociologists Who Study Music Should Know the Basics of Musical Expression and Language: Lessons from Ethnomusicology
Musical activity takes place through sounds that are largely non-verbal. If we want to understand how the collective activity that constitutes music-making takes place we have to understand that language. (This explains why so many sociologists of music have been or still are music-makers.) Ethnomusicology focuses on musics that are unfamiliar to ears trained in Western music based on a twelve tone scale and all the other apparatus of conventional 20th century music. I will explore a classic ethnomusicological work, La fanfare de Banguiby Simha Arom, which contains a remarkable analysis of a kind of music that is very different from Western music and which had to be studied by methods Arom had to invent for the occasion.

Marie Buscatto
Professor in Sociology, I.D.H.E.S, University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne - CNRS

Exploring gender in music…  to better grasp musical work

In the last forty years, international scholars have explored ways contemporary female musicians, as compared to their male colleagues, find it more difficult to get access, to remain, and to be recognized as legitimate professionals in various musical worlds – e.g. classical, jazz, rock, pop, techno or rap (Buscatto, 2010). While most musical worlds are quite masculine – rock, jazz, rap or techno – others are mixed – orchestra music, R&B or pop. But in all circumstances, it is always more difficult for women than for men to succeed as a musician in contemporary western societies while all legal barriers have disappeared and formal equality between sexes is considered as a priority in those sectors. Current research in this field has identified several processes which explain such differences – gendered norms, conventions, stereotypes, networks, family roles or socialisations –, and have explored ways women progressively overcome such barriers – schools, producers, practises or family.

My objective would be here to discuss how our knowledge of such processes – which produce and legitimate gendered differences as well as question and sometimes overcome them – can enlighten our knowledge about music as work. Based on our current research on gender in music and arts (Buscatto, 2007, 2010, 2014) and on artistic work (Becker, Buscatto, 2007; Buscatto, 2008, 2012), we intend to show how our knowledge of ways women tend to be excluded from musical worlds (and of ways they more and more overcome such informal barriers) enable us to better grasp ways musical work is socially constructed and transformed over time.

Tia DeNora
Professor of Sociology of Music and Director of Research, University of Exeter

The unsung work of music sociology?

This paper sings the praises of music sociology. I suggest that the study of music as a part of what sociology does can nourish sociology as a whole. Sociological research on music has enriched understanding of how to think about values, relativism and strong attachments. It has contributed to studies of work and creativity, shedding light on the intermediaries involved in musical production, distribution, and reception. Music sociology has had much to say about social identities and their formation in music and through musical practice. It has developed theories and case studies of how it is that social movements ‘move’ and of the often tacit, emotional and aesthetic bases of action, individual and collective. Music sociology has even had things to say about how our bodily sensations are culturally (musically) mediated and how wellbeing (individual, group, community) can be enhanced through musical engagement. More recently, music sociology has addressed the relational character of personhood, capacity and dis/ability through studies of musical ecologies and it has described how social relations and social settings are sometimes – and more often than we might assume - musicalized. In short, music sociology is a vibrant and potentially powerful area that is too-often sidelined as a specialist corner of our field. As such it has been, I believe, a mostly untapped resource for thinking sociologically. Perhaps on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Institut für Musiksoziologie, it is excusable, and timely, for music sociology to ‘blow its own trumpet’.

Antoine Hennion
Research director, Center for the Sociology of Innovation, Paris

From mediation to pragmatism: making sociology sensitive again to the value of things?

By elaborating on the concept of mediation, I tried to overpass the dualistic opposition between social and musical analyses of music, the former dealing with everything around music but not "music itself", the latter taking music for an object existing by and for itself. Musical works and experiences produce their own worlds, they are not data inside a given space, that musicologists and sociologists could analyse, each in their own way. Music is made of practices, devices, scenes. Considering those mediations does not lead to a bric-a-brac mixing scores, instruments, bodies, performances, institutions, etc.: it means that, while there is no musical event without a minute attention paid to each of them, none of them contains or explains the advent of music. It is impossible, then, to separate music and its value: music can only be valued after its effects, it exists as it is praised, loved, sustained. By no way this implies a psychological reduction of music: subjects are not given any more than works. Both emerge in an open, never-ending process. Documenting empirically this process may provide a non-dualistic account of what makes music count.

Christian Kaden
Professor (emeritus) of Musicology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and founder of the subject area Music Sociology/Social History of Music at the same place

Music Sociology in the GDR: Under Political Dictatorship, despite of Political Dictatorship

There is no dispute that the state machinery of the former GDR was a political and an ideological dictatorship. Often ignored, however, is the fact that scientific activities in East Germany “produced” remarkable results: not because of the dictatorship described but despite of it. The development of music sociology, as it seems to me, is a paradigm of this process. At least during the 1970ies and the 1980ies it succeeded in keeping distance to the dogmas of Marxism and Leninism. This liberalization was influenced by paradoxical determinants:

1. Up to the end of the 1960ies the conviction was dominating that a general Marxist sociology could be available in Historical Materialism. Only after 1971 when Erich Honecker had become the leader of the East German ruling party, some rights of sociology as an independent academic discipline were accepted: by establishing special approaches in theory and method, for instance in a sociology of medicine or in a sociology of music. Indeed these so called “special sociologies” profited by the absence of a sociological canon valid for the GDR in its totality. Thus the special sociologies got the chance to define themselves as niches – where, in contrast to ideological indoctrination, explicitly positive theories could be formulated and empiric studies could be realized.

2. Namely the East Berlin musicology developed an advanced model of interdisciplinary research. The central “figure” of the scene was Georg Knepler who had been compelled to retire from his academic position in 1969, because of having supported the Prague spring movement. Being a rather independent scholar he organized an efficient network of private and semi-official contacts to leading scientists of different disciplines. Among them were linguists, representatives of cognitive psychology, ethology, and ethnomusicology. Music sociology was embedded in this network: via discussions on communication theory.

3. The activities of the so-called “K.-group” (“Knepler-Gruppe”) – the name was an invention of the Staatssicherheit, the GDR secret service – were corresponding to a completely new conception of Systematic Musicology at the Berlin Humboldt-University itself. The concept was inaugurated, in 1977 (!), by the mathematician Reiner Kluge. And it was brought to academic reality once again by a team, including specialists for music psychology, music sociology, general system theory, computer assisted musical analysis, and neuroscience. The crucial point of the approach was a revised understanding of the word “systematic”: not in the sense of “logic”, but as “systemic”, concerning material systems. Consequently cybernetics became the methodological fundament of systematic musicology. And respective procedures were successfully executed in many case studies. In this way the dichotomy of historical and systematic research became essentially irrelevant. For evolution, and history are explicit characteristics of dynamic systems.

The concept, represented by Knepler, Kluge and, after the publishing of the book “Musiksoziologie” in 1984, by Kaden appeared as an authentic alternative to the highly conservative structure of German musicology. Unfortunately the conservatives came to triumph again after the Change in 1989. The paper given is therefore an appeal to remember scientific strategies which might one day be strategies of the future.


Peter J. Martin
Professor of Sociology, University of Manchester

This symposium is timely, since it provides an opportunity to reflect on recent developments in the sociology of music, during the period in which two other relevant specialisms - the 'new' musicology and popular music studies - have emerged.  Moreover, it would be impossible to speak of such matters in Vienna without acknowledging the pioneering work of Kurt Blaukopf.  Accordingly, I will consider the rise of these specialisms with reference, where appropriate, to Blaukopf's studies.

In respect of the 'new' musicology, I will argue that from a sociological point of view it looks much like the 'old'.  As far as popular music studies are concerned, I will suggest that these developed at a time when the record industry was at its peak, dominating the music business.  Since then, much has changed: even formerly 'major' record companies are now themselves part of global corporations, and digitisation has produced the most fundamental challenge to the industry since the invention of recording.  Some of the implications of these changes will be considered.


Motti Regev
Professor of Sociology, Open University of Israel

Musical Cosmopolitanism, Bodies and Aesthetic Cultures

Amid the growing sociological interest in cosmopolitanism, the paper seeks to outline major aspects pertaining to the role of music – and pop-rock music in particular – in the consolidation and materialization of cosmopolitanism.
The paper will explore several dimensions through which (pop-rock) music has been a key actor in propelling cultural cosmopolitanism, especially at the micro level of bodily practices and everyday life.
I will argue that pop-rock musical styles and genres, as clusters of sonic idioms, and therefore as physical entities, have penetrated urban spaces and individual human bodies in all parts of the world, rendering them constituents of cultural domains best characterized as aesthetic cultures of cosmopolitanism.
The paper will revolve around the idea of the sonic "thingness" of (pop-rock) music, how it turns the cultural body into a cosmopolitan body, and its effect on various dimensions of culture and everyday life, such as urban spaces.
Inspiration and insights are brought in this regard from areas of research and theory such as cultural globalization, sociology and anthropology of the cultural body, and so-called "thing-theory" (material culture studies, ANT, etc.) in order to propose possible foci for investigating how musical cosmopolitanism comes into being and functions as a cultural reality.


Alfred Smudits
Professor and head of the Institute for Music Sociology

Music-sociology after Massmodernism

I will start with the discussion of the terms ‚modernity‘, ‚modernism‘, and ‚modernization‘. In this context several dimensions of modernization, such as rationalisation, individualisation, differentiation, domestication etc. will be identified as well as several stages of modernity (early modernism, bourgeois modernism, mass modernism).

One oft he main issues of music sociology was the understanding of  the modernization of the musical field. Max Weber argued that rationalisation in the beginning of early modernism was the main characteristic of the specific developement of occidental music. The rise of mass media, in particular of electronic media in the beginning of the 20th century (the beginning of massmodernism) forced sociological theories of music to integrate mass ‚media‘ in their concepts. That means that modernization of society goes along with a modernization of the field of music, and alltogether these developements ask for a modernization of music-sociology, the development of an adequate sociological concept of  music (actors, objects, practices, structures, functions).

With the emergence of digitalisation a new step of modernization takes place. Sociology of music  has to face the challenges that arise out of this newest step of modernization, which means above all to keep in touch with culture sociology and general sociological theories.