Music as a technology of the self

Published on Oct 1, 1999in Poetics
· DOI :10.1016/S0304-422X(99)00017-0
Tia DeNora20
Estimated H-index: 20
(University of Exeter)
Abstract The question of music's social effects has a venerable tradition within social theory but has rarely been explored through empirical and ethnographic work. Drawing on 52 depth interviews with women between the ages of 18 and 78 in small towns and urban metropolitan areas in the USA and UK, this study shows how music ‘gets into’ or provides a medium for forms of social agency. Focus is directed to respondents' mundane music consumption, in particular to musical reflexive practices they employ to constitute and reconstitute themselves as specific types of agents. Respondents use music as a resource for the conduct of emotional ‘work’, and for heightening or changing energy levels. They also turn to music as a device for on-going identity work and for spinning a biographical thread of self-remembrance. Music provides respondents with a scaffolding for self-constitution. Focus on specific uses of music and individuals' experiences of musical culture illuminates some of the mechanisms through which music provides organizing materials of subjectivity.
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