Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

The Organized Muse? Organization Theory and "Mediated" Music1

Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

The Organized Muse? Organization Theory and "Mediated" Music1

Article excerpt


Throughout musical history, organizations have occupied a significant role in the production of music. The article explores how scholarship might approach the study of musical organizations through organization theory. After a discussion of modernist and postmodern paradigms in organization theory, the article applies those principles, as well as the thought of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, to two case studies from the history of the New-German movement. The case studies illustrate how organization theory helps explain the failure of the Euterpe-Verein in Leipzig on the one hand, and the success of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein on the other.

Throughout musical history, organizations have played a decisive role in the production and dissemination of musical works. Collectively defined as "present[ing] actors ... with certain common traits and patterns of acting and thinking,"2 such diverse organizations as Telemann's Collegium Musicum in Leipzig of the early eighteenth century, the publishing house Breitkopf und Hartel of the last 275 years and the Stax recording company during the 1960s all mediated a body of music (often new) to a specific group of consumers. Through an introduction to organization theory and an application thereof to two case studies, this article intends to present an argument for regarding music through such mediating agencies and to argue for the value of the perspectives of organization theory.3

This topic arises from research into musical societies and performing organizations of the nineteenth century.4 In attempting to come to terms with the activities of those groups, the scholar discovers that traditional musicology has tended to focus on the creation and genesis of a musical work rather than the moments at which it has entered the public domain, which the societies, ensembles, and social institutions like the church or the salon have historically mediated. By broadening the inquiry, one realizes that the dissemination of Western art music has largely been mediated by organizations,5 a fact that has not always been recognized by musical scholarship, even though Marxism and Rezeptionsgeschichte have taught us that publication and performance occupy key functions in the nexus of social contexts for music.6

We need to be aware of the organization's controlling power over what is and has been heard and performed. And with few exceptions, there has been a general scholarly neglect of historical musical organizations from the viewpoint of organization theory.7

Before proceeding to a closer examination of organization theory, however, it should be noted that the organization is only one of many factors influencing the transmission of musical works. Also, organization theory itself is by no means the sole means of interpreting that transmission. However, as illustrated through the case studies later in this article, organization theory does bring to light and help to explain aspects of the production and reception of music that might elude more traditional musicological inquiry, and furthemore, it provides a general theoretical basis for the understanding of that which takes place within and around musical organizations.

As a field of inquiry, organization theory is rather difficult to position, for it spreads across such diverse disciplines as sociology, anthropology, economics, and management.8 Furthermore, organization theory (like musicology) is currently in the midst of a paradigm crisis:9 one may regard it from a traditional "modernist" or "formalist" perspective, or from the position of "postmodernism."10 The following discussion explicates both approaches to organization theory, and subsequently applies each of them to case studies. The organization theory of Goran Ahrne is typical of the literature, and yet appropriate for this study: it is informed by social theory and it defines organization so broadly as to readily allow inclusion of the musical organizations under consideration here. …

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