Music and the Middle Class: The Social Structure of Concert Life in London, Paris and Vienna

By William Weber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
CONCLUSION

Fifty years hence the concept of modernization may seem as oversimple as the Enlightenment idea of unlimited progress does now, but for the moment it provides a useful analytical tool. Something has come about during the last three centuries deeper than what the political narratives have shown, and the long-range changes which Max Weber and Ferdinand Tönnies originally spelled out have put many of its dimensions into an interesting perspective. 1 We will therefore use the concept to look at the whole of what happened to concerts in London, Paris and Vienna between 1830 and 1848—indeed, since the very origin of concerts.

The thrust of the concept is that a thorough-going rationalization of social and economic relationships and institutions has taken place. Traditions and customs have given way to organizational norms which determine the roles individuals play and the manner in which they get them. Society now codifies what it formerly just did, and the nature of all social activities has changed in the process. As job relationships have become more functional than personal, much social interaction has lost its former polymorphous character and become highly segmented and specialized. Individualism and self-interest have emerged as guiding principles within the new corporate structure of human life. We must not think, however, that these changes were caused by dark, impersonal forces. The use of power and gain have been central to the process; some people have wanted new things, and many times they have gotten them. Indeed, it is astounding how smoothly the upper classes have either guided the transformation or prevented themselves from being hurt by it.

The evolution of concert life shows many of these tendencies. We can see them most explicitly in the development of the musical profession. By 1848 performing roles had taken on a high degree of rationalization: public concerts were now the undisputed province of professionals—the performance of professionals and amateurs together was now confined to the home, and participation by amateurs in public concerts took place only as a cost-cutting device or as a separate sphere designed for them and their families. Self-interest in terms of musical performance was thus expressed in two ways, the economic gain of the professional and the personal self-improvement of the amateur; but it was the former that now dominated public concerts. The roles of concert-goers demonstrated a similar new definition. Among the elite public the traditional patronal relationship had given way to an economic tie based on formal social gatherings controlled by musicians. Benefit concerts afforded virtually impersonal relationships; concert societies established

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