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Class, control and classical music: the production of inequalities among young people playing classical music in England

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

This paper draws on data from an ethnographic study of young people playing in classical music groups in the south of England to explore similarities between white middle-class British identities and practices of classical music production. Against earlier approaches in the sociology of music this paper not only explores the social relations around the music, but asks how these social relations can be heard in the music itself. It therefore contributes to post-Bourdieusian debates on culture and inequality by theorising a way of understanding the aesthetic through the practices that it requires, and examining how these contribute to creating the high levels of class, gender and racial inequality that characterise the classical music industry. In order to do this, I examine four commonalities between classical music and white middle-class British identities. Firstly, classical music has particular modes of sociality which are characterised by a relatively high degree of formality and organisation as well as clear boundaries around participation, in contrast to studies of working-class music-making which describe a more dialogic, informal mode of participation. Secondly, classical music requires modes of embodiment that can be linked, historically and today, with the white middle-classes. Thirdly, an imaginative dimension of bourgeois self-hood can be read through examining this classical music scene which encompasses the imagined futures of the young people in the study, the socially valued identity associated with classical music, as well as fantasies of order and control. Finally, linking these three strands together, the aesthetic of 'getting it right' provides the rationale for these processes of sociality, embodiment and imagination.
11 Jan 2018

Event (Conference)

TitleWorking in Music
Period11/01/1813/01/18
LocationUniversité de Lausanne
CityLausanne
CountrySwitzerland
Degree of recognitionInternational event

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