Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Playing to win: A cultural sociology of the international music competition
by McCormick, Lisa Lorraine Helen, Ph.D., Yale University, 2008, 241; 3342731
Abstract (Summary)

Performance is a key issue in cultural sociology. This concept has been central to theories of social action from Parsons' role theory to Goffman's dramaturgical metaphor. But it has remained under-developed in the study of cultural forms, even performing arts such as music. In this study, I develop a theory of music as a mode of social performance that builds on cultural pragmatics and the performative turn in musicology. This new theoretical framework is elaborated through the empirical study of international music competitions in the world of classical music. Despite their proliferation and the ongoing controversy over their function, music competitions have been neglected by sociologists. I investigate this institution from several angles using a combination of qualitative methods. Through the ethnographic observation of five case studies on three continents, in-depth interviews with participants, and discourse analysis of media coverage, publicity materials, and online forums, I analyze the representation and interpretation of competitions in the public sphere, the social construction of competitors, the presentation of musical self, the moral basis of aesthetic judgment, and the cultural contradictions of the musical public. I argue that music competitions are of great consequence not only because they control the distribution of symbolic capital in the music world, but also because they provide a public forum where competing meanings, ideals, and cultural commitments are negotiated. This study ultimately shows that theories of performance need to be attentive to the organizational and institutional settings that provide resources for their accomplishment.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Alexander, Jeffrey C.
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 70/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Music
Keywords: Competitions, Cultural sociology, International music competition, Music, Music competitions, Performance, Public sphere, Self-presentation
Publication Number: 3342731
ISBN: 978-0-549-97803-9
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