Music as a technology of self
'I think everybody should listen to music. It helps you to be calm, relaxed, to see your life differently.' (Mireille, contract cleaner, London)
The self and its accompanying narrative of the 'unitary individual' is a linchpin of modern social organization. More recently, and in line with various deconstructions of biography and identity, focus has turned to the 'reflexive project' of the self, whose care and cultivation rests upon a somewhat fragile conglomerate of social, material and discourse practices (Harré 1998; Giddens 1991). It is curious, then, that music – arguably the cultural material par excellence of emotion and the personal – has not been explored in relation to the constitution of self. As Shepherd and Wicke have recently observed, even in the realm of sub-cultural theory as it is applied to musical life, 'there has been little conceptual space created for a theorization of the private, internal world of an individual's awareness of existence and self' (1997:40). Focus on intimate musical practice, on the private or one-to-one forms of human–music interaction, offers an ideal vantage point for viewing music 'in action', for observing music as it comes to be implicated in the construction of the self as an aesthetic agent.
Here, the music psychologists have taken the empirical lead in their turn to music's role in so-called 'naturalistic' settings and their increasingly qualitative investigations of 'the mechanisms mediating between music and social influence' (Crozier 1997:74). At the Keele University Centre for the Study of Musical Development and Skill, for example, researchers have recently taken up the matter of how music is used by individuals in their daily lives. In a report on recent work within the Centre, John Sloboda (forthcoming) has described a range of investigative strategies that employ an individual 'case study' approach. In one of these (Neilly 1995), twenty respondents were asked to keep a diary of when they 'exposed themselves to music by their own choice'. In another (De Las Heras 1997), eighty-four respondents were asked to address forty-five Likert-scale items about musical use. In an earlier study 46