Revisiting Symbolic Interaction in Music Studies and New Interpretive Works: Volume 42

Cover of Revisiting Symbolic Interaction in Music Studies and New Interpretive Works
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Table of contents

(17 chapters)
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Introduction

Pages ix-xiv
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Abstract

Howard Becker’s theory for the sociology of art (including music) revolves around the simple, and often overlooked fact, “All artistic work, like all human activity, involves the joint activity of a number, often a large number, of people.” Among Becker’s writing about music, he presents an idea that I find is still relevant today, namely, that sociological and ethnomusicological work seem to be two hands of a single body that have little idea of what each other are doing. Drawing on the work of scholars such as Becker and Kay Kaufman Shelemay, I propose a model for the construction of the music event that highlights the relationship among the many systems behind the musical experience. I provide a case study of Inuit throat singing to demonstrate the effectiveness of this model in trying to explore the relationships among music, culture, and society.

Abstract

This study of performances by three groups of musicians (of different genre) takes audiences into account and employs Couch’s (1986) formulation of cooperation as the analytical framework. Couch and others using his formulation restricted their focus to the core cooperating group without attending to their audiences. Data for this study, however, showed that a lot of the musicians’ behavior had no particular musical value but was directed toward the audiences instead. The authors examine these data and integrate audiences into Couch’s formulation for cooperation. The authors will discuss the issues surrounding our core question: “How do cooperating groups of musicians integrate audiences into their thinking about cooperation and group performance?”

Abstract

From the pioneering work of Howard Becker (1982) on jazz scenes as art worlds, to the influence of Erving Goffman (1967) on Ingrid Monson’s (1996) foundational framework for jazz ethnography, symbolic interactionist premises have already had a powerful impact on the study of jazz and popular music. Nonetheless, they still have much to contribute toward a richer and more nuanced understanding of how jazz musicians jointly improvise meaningful musical discourses. Building upon these earlier precedents, I propose that further critical elaboration of symbolic interactionist notions – including social worlds, generalized others, and facework – could hold the key to a hermeneutics of musical meaning premised upon improvisational interplay. Specifically, I propose that the internal structure of local jazz worlds or scenes, arising from distinctive modes of meaning production, gives rise to particular types of generalized other, which in turn structures the development of artists’ professional selves or personae through the dialogic internalization of durable aesthetic predispositions. From this perspective, the common stylistic commitments that make group improvisation possible and productive may begin with widely acclaimed paradigmatic performances, whose import is then encapsulated in the shared technical conceptions of artist peer circles, broadened through articulation with the consensus aesthetic principles of culture industries, and deepened by investment with the normative beliefs associated with audience identification and consumption. Ultimately, through improvisational interaction predicated on such shared paradigms, conceptions, principles, and beliefs, jazz musicians construct and project mutually compatible creative selves, whose onstage encounters with one another suggest dramaturgical processes of meaning production, which endow the interplay of their spontaneous aesthetic gestures with narrative significance.

Abstract

The concept of the music scene has served sociologists well in providing a template for studying the organization of various musical styles and the people who work together to create the musical experiences. Writers including Howard Becker, Richard Peterson, Andy Bennett, David Grazian, and Joseph Kotarba have explored music scenes ranging from jazz, blues and rock to country and Latino styles. Although there is no one consensual definition of music scene, the notion of place, in a physical, empirical, and geo-local sense, seems to be a universal concern in the literature. In this chapter, we will outline a more inclusive, interactionist-oriented, and updated concept of the music scene that is at once interactionist in tone and perspective, while sensitive to dramatic changes occurring both in the world of politics and in the world of digital media. Perhaps most importantly, the concept of music scene can provide insight into the historical fact that, in spite of technological advancements, the live music experience is still at the heart of musical experiences across communities and cultures.

Abstract

This is an interpretive study in the sociology of literature that explores Aeschylus’s trilogy of dramatic plays known as the Oresteia. The plays dramatize a normative argument that exemplifies the dialectical struggle between domination and democracy. Social relations are characterized by agon (struggle), domination, and contradictions brought about by learning through suffering. These social realities reflect the primary theoretical claim of radical interactionism (RI) that domination and conflict are profound, pervasive, and perennial. On the interpersonal level, the plays dramatize structure, agency, role-taking, and the Thomas Axiom. As the first drama to interrogate an inchoate polity as an object of the public’s gaze, the Oresteia anticipates the sociological importance of critical consciousness, collective decision-making, political institutions, moral and, ultimately, cultural transformation. Despite a social context of slavery, imperialism, xenophobia, ostracism, misogyny, exclusivity, and constant warfare, the Oresteia foreshadows Western civilization’s ideals of legal-rational domination, citizenship, human rights, persuasion, and justice that have been imperfectly institutionalized to reduce surplus domination. The West still struggles to realize those ideals.

Abstract

My father John Wilmer Johnson (1906–1995) died in 1995, but two years later a box of his personal effects was discovered in the attic. On the top of this 11″×6″×3″ box he had written “Everything in this box was, at one time, very important to me,” and he signed his name with the date June 14, 1983. Below this handwritten message was another; “Some of these things don’t seem so important now,” signed with his initials, and the date May 2, 1986. Below this another statement, “These seem even less important now,” dated 1995, the year of his death in November. What did this box contain? The contents are here remembered.

Abstract

This chapter provides both methodological and cultural insights from an empirical research in German trade unions. In my chapter, I explore to what extent organizational research profits from linking procedures of narrative analysis to Symbolic Interactionism (SI) and explain the analytical outcome connected with it. In order to understand the great empirical variety of “becoming a trade union worker,” its regularities and sense for trade unions as a culture, a theoretical approach was needed that would grasp social processes, especially educational and learning processes in social groups and organizations. Therefore, SI is a useful methodological soil. This chapter clarifies the relationships between social group socialization through life course and everyday member work in German trade unions. It points out what is specific for German trade unions, what kind of deviations are peculiar for them, and why we have to think of them as a cultural order of trade unions at least in Germany. This study introduces a theoretical model on German trade unions, which is quite different from usual organizational studies, because it grasps not only some of their aspects, which prevails in association research rather than the organization as a whole.

Abstract

This chapter explores the role of informal sport in the development of top-level Icelandic athletes. The approach is explorative and intended to develop an empirically grounded theory. We conducted semistructured interviews with 10 Icelandic elite athletes. Our analysis suggests that the development of free play may be of central importance to the development of elite athletes. Free play offers the opportunity to foster intrinsic motivation, mastery of skills, flow, craftsmanship, and aesthetic experience. We suggest that these qualities are important in the development of top athletes, especially in their early sport career. Our analysis also highlights the importance of unsupervised informal peer interaction. A pool of unsupervised peer networks can serve as a prerequisite for the development of informal sport that may promote qualities that are desirable for the development of top-level athletes. Our analysis further suggests that the contribution of informal sport depends on how it interacts with other elements in the social context and its relationship to formal sport.

Abstract

This chapter reports on the interaction dynamics of a workplace exercise group for beginners. Dramaturgical stress occurred here as individuals who already knew each other as competent colleagues felt embarrassed about encountering one another in this low ability exercise group. To resolve this role conflict, participants sought to define themselves as familiar strangers (which they were not) through minimal interaction in non-binding relationships. This was achieved through three types of facework strategy: not only the defensive and protective kinds that Goffman identified as saving individual faces, but also collective strategies, which sought to repair the face of the whole group. Paradoxically, therefore, in attempting to deny their “groupness,” these actors actually displayed and reinforced their solidarity as a performance team.

Abstract

Over the last 40 years or so, the concepts of terror and terrorism have permeated and infused political, social, and economic thought and lexicon. Given the symbolism and obvious ways in which the terms become socially constructed, terror and terrorism appear as ripened enough concepts for interactionist scrutiny. In general, interactionists have stressed that concepts applied to terrorism become useful to elites for promoting a master narrative along the lines that “free nations” must coordinate efforts and spend resources to defend against terrorist threats. We wish to extend this interactionist analysis in the following pages to provide a perspective on terrorist threats as evolving and emergent concepts, sensitive to historical and social changes. Drawing from a small number of Government and commercial print and online sources in order to identify patterns that emerge from the language, we reference terrorism handbooks starting from the 1970s to current, post “9/11” handbooks. We propose evolutionary timeframes demarcated by substantive events and changes in how we define, understand, and respond to an abstract threat made tangible and concrete. In effect, we suggest that such publications provide insight into how the dynamics of credibility associated with government, media, and “expert” assertions have framed public understandings of threat and danger. These handbooks serve as a heuristic model to draw general patterns and themes that demarcate significant time periods in our understanding of terrorism and responses to terrorism.

Author Biographies

Pages 211-214
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Cover of Revisiting Symbolic Interaction in Music Studies and New Interpretive Works
DOI
10.1108/S0163-2396201442
Publication date
2014-08-12
Book series
Studies in Symbolic Interaction
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78350-838-9
eISBN
978-1-78350-838-9
Book series ISSN
0163-2396