Formulating questions the 'music and
society' nexus

Music and society the 'grand' tradition

When Howard Becker published Art Worlds in 1982, his 'art as a form of work' perspective publicized a trend that had been developing in American scholarship since the 1970s. Known as the 'production of culture' approach, and developed by scholars such as Richard Peterson (1976), Lewis Coser (1978), Janet Wolff (1981) and Vera Zolberg (1990), this new perspective provided an antidote to the brand of cultural sociology that Bennett Berger cheerfully referred to as 'culturology' (Berger 1995). By this, Berger meant a kind of sociology devoted to the 'reading' of works or styles so as to 'uncover' or decode their social content. In Berger's eyes, the great virtue of the production approach was its ability to unhook the study of art works from the grand but often imprecise matter of associating styles of art with styles of social being and with patterns of perception and thought.

In relation to music, the most notable exponent of this 'grand' approach was T. W. Adorno. For Adorno, music was linked to cognitive habits, modes of consciousness and historical developments. While on the one hand, he refers to music that 'trains the unconscious for conditioned reflexes' (Adorno 1976:53), on the other hand, he speaks of music that 'aid[ed] enlightenment' (1973:15). For example, the music of Arnold Schoenberg:

demands from the very beginning active and concentrated participation, the most acute attention to simultaneous multiplicity, the renunciation of the customary crutches of a listening which always knows what to expect it requires the listener to spontaneously compose its inner movement and demands of him not mere contemplation but praxis. (1967:149)

Music such as Schoenberg's, Adorno believed, had the capacity to foster critical consciousness because its materials were organized in ways that countered convention and habit. By avoiding musical cliché, and by preserving dissonance instead of offering musical resolution and gratification, progressive music had the power to challenge cognitive,


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Music in Everyday Life


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