Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Music of the Eye, Music of the Ear

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Music of the Eye, Music of the Ear

Article excerpt


Sociology takes an interest in music essentially for its social function, i.e. for its capacity, as every other product of human cultures and society, to interpret and support the main social processes under way in the society that surrounds it and which produces it. This reflection and this integrative synergy basically take place in two ways.

Both through the contents, especially in music with lyrics, with the diffusion and reiterations, through the music itself, of social stereotypes, of the models of reference, of the social representations that can convey and socialize the patterns of functioning and the world view of that specific society or that specific social group. And through the very rhythmic and melodic structure of the music, as is obvious, through the ways and rituals with which it is produced, transmitted and shared in that specific social group.

We will dwell in particular on this second level of interaction between music and society, leaving the analysis of the contents to other disciplines which, with greater competence, can deal with them, with the conviction that the analysis of the structural synergies and homologies which, at the level of relational forms, are contained in various cultural products, and the "golden" level of analysis in which the sociology of culture can give its best and in which it embraces with greatest vigour its object of research.

The analogy of our intention with the epistemological turning-point, already many years ago by McLuhan (1964) cannot be missed, in shifting the focus of the sociological analysis of communication and the media from the content delivered by the medium, to its communicative structure, to the "communicative territory" and to the networks of relations that, in its functioning and in its nature, it implemented. We believe that the close relationship with the society that uses and has produced that medium, as well as the greater impact that this has on it, its greater disciplinary and integrative force, lies precisely in this level.

From the point of view of music, our proposal, exactly in line with McLuhan's thought, is a division between music of the ear and music of the eye as synergetic forces and structural mirrors of the society in which they are produced and enjoyed. It is a division which is similar in many aspects that that proposed by Fiedler (2006) in his writings at the end of the 19th century between intuitive and artistic knowledge of reality and logical consequences.

We will structure our reasoning according to two "ideal types" which also fit into an ideal historical sequence, although continuing to coexist in our world as well. The evolutionary and distinctive common thread that we will propose runs from the thought of Durkheim and the concept of solidarity to then be linked to the overall evolution of society, in particular in the passage to the modern era and industrial capitalism, trying to find the connections between senses (eye and ear, à la McLuhan), technological evolution and the relationship between man and technology (again à la McLuhan), interfacing culture with social stratification ("high" and "popular" culture); all with special consideration for the structures of authority homologically expressed by the organization of the musical event in the two ideal-typical versions we will be proposing on the following pages.

The essay we are presenting here is an expanded and updated version of the lecture published in 2008 in the book "Mozart Day", edited by Antonio Caroccia and Marta Picchio, published by Edizioni Thyrus of Terni.

2.Music of the Ear

In this dimension, the social function of music addresses the community and empathic adhesion, supports and helps the expansion of the mechanical solidarity founded on equality and in the inter-changeability of the subjects. This is obtained thanks to the music of the ear, which works by stimulating the synchronous participation in movements of collective and repetitive bodies. …

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