I recently posted a brief introduction to my new book, Class, control, and classical music. The book draws on research with young people aged 16-21 in youth classical music ensembles in the south of England. In this post, I want to look at another aspect of my argument: how musical standards of ability contribute to retaining classical music in the UK as a middle-class space.
Previous research on middle-class identities in the UK has argued that the middle classes, while far from being a homogeneous group, tend to share ‘a strong commitment to education as key to middle-class cultural reproduction’ (Reay, Crozier, and James 2011, 19), and ‘an ability to erect boundaries, both geographically and symbolically’ (12). It is through these means, and others such as setting up institutions to pass on value through generations, that the middle classes preserve their status over time. One example of how the middle classes erect boundaries is suburbanisation – setting up/colonising areas where they can be with other people like them. Another is private schooling. Studying the middle classes is therefore the study of struggles over boundaries, of inclusions and exclusions to protected spaces, and of the formation of collective identities within these spaces.
So, in what ways (if at all) does musical ‘standard’ work as a middle-class practice of boundary-drawing, and storing value in a protected space? Continue reading “Musical standards and middle-class affinities”
I’m delighted to announce that my book, Class, Control, and Classical Music, is now out with Oxford University Press. Please contact Alyssa Russell at OUP on Alyssa.email@example.com if you would like to obtain a review copy.
I recently gave a very short introduction to the book at the Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association. The talk is below, in case you want to get a brief idea of what the book is about. This introduction was aimed at a sociological audience so it focuses on some of the ideas that I thought sociologists would be interested in. I’ll try and blog something about the book for a general audience and a musicology/music education audience as well as soon as I get a minute.
I’ll start by outlining the problem this book seeks to address. In the UK, as with many other countries across Europe as well as the Global North, cultural production and consumption is heavily stratified by class position – and yet despite this, the vast majority of public funding for culture goes towards those forms of culture consumed by the middle and upper classes. Music is, in the UK, the most divided form of cultural consumption across class and classical music is much more to be played and listened to by the middle classes – for example, Mike Savage (2006) found that those with a bachelor’s degree were six times more likely to listen to classical music than those without. Despite these patterns, sociology has, until recently, neglected classical music as an object of study. However, as I have argued in my book, it is a fascinating lens through which to examine the institutions and subjectivities of modernity. The question the book seeks to answer is why these patterns persist – why does classical music remain the preserve of the white middle classes? Continue reading “Class, Control, and Classical Music”