Music as a device of social ordering
'Pools of order', writes John Law, 'are illusory, but even such illusions are the exception. They do not last for long. They are pretty limited. And they are the product, the outcome, or the effect, of a lot of work – work that may occasionally be more or less successfully hidden behind an appearance of ordered simplicity' (1994:5). Law is writing about a research laboratory at a time of stress, but his observations perfectly introduce the concept of social order as an achievement, an effect of temporal action, and as his description of scientific work makes clear, such action draws upon (and is in turn shaped by) media and materials of all kinds – objects, discourses and technologies.
In daily life, as we have seen, music is one of these materials. This chapter considers music's role as a device of collective ordering, how music may be employed, albeit at times unwittingly, as a means of organizing potentially disparate individuals such that their actions may appear to be intersubjective, mutually oriented, co-ordinated, entrained and aligned. This social calm and the conductivity for social navigation that it facilitates is akin to Law's notion of order's 'pools'. This notion captures the temporal and achieved dimension of ordering. It gives sociological conceptions of order a tilt towards the ethnomethodological focus on order as an effect of work. At the same time, it creates an important space for culture as a medium of and for this work.
Adding music to the catalogue of cultural materials or devices of ordering contributes a whole new dimension to the focus of human–nonhuman interaction. It dispenses with the notion that society is merely 'people doing things'. It brings into relief the expressive and aesthetic dimension of ordering activity, a topic too often ignored in favour of cognitive and discursive 'skill' (Lash and Urry 1994; Mestrovic 1999). It highlights agency as consisting of feeling, as a corporeal and stylistic entity, and as something that may possess ceremonial features (Strong 1979). This vision of action has been taken up recently within social movement theory (Eyerman and Jamieson 1998; Melucci 1996a; Hetherington 1998; Tota 1999), where questions of aesthetic being and 109
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Publication information: Book title: Music in Everyday Life. Contributors: Tia DeNora - Author. Publisher: Cambridge University Press. Place of publication: Cambridge, England. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 109.
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