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Sociomusicology (from Latin: socius, "companion"; from Old French musique; and the suffix -ology, "the study of", from Old Greek λόγος, lógos : "discourse"), also called music sociology or the sociology of music, refers to both an academic subfield of sociology that is concerned with music (often in combination with other arts), as well as a subfield of musicology that focuses on social aspects of musical behavior and the role of music in society.

Sociomusicological issues

The work of scholars in sociomusicology is often similar to ethnomusicology in terms of its exploration of the sociocultural context of music; however, sociomusicology maintains less of an emphasis on ethnic and national identity, and is not limited to ethnographic methods. Rather, sociomusicologists use a wide range of research methods and take a strong interest in observable behavior and musical interactions within the constraints of social structure. Sociomusicologists are more likely than ethnomusicologists to make use of surveys and economic data, for example, and tend to focus on musical practices in contemporary industrialized societies. For instance, Ko (2011) proposed the hypothesis of "Biliterate and Trimusical" in Hong Kong sociomusicology (cf. Ko, C. K. S. (2011). An analysis of sociomusicology, its issues; and the music and society in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Ko Ka Shing. This book [ISBN 9789881580214] has been selected for inclusion in the Association for Chinese Music Research Bibliography in 2012, see

Since the field of musicology has tended to emphasize historiographic and analytical/critical rather than sociological approaches to research, sociomusicology is still regarded as somewhat outside the mainstream of musicology. Yet, with the increased popularity of ethnomusicology in recent decades (with which the field shares many similarities), as well as the development and mainstreaming of "New Musicology" (coinciding with the emergence of interdisciplinary Cultural Studies in academia), sociomusicology is increasingly coming into its own as a fully established field.

Among the most notable classical sociologists to examine the social aspects and effects of music were Georg Simmel (1858–1918), Alfred Schutz (1899–1959), Max Weber (1864–1920) and Theodor Adorno (1903–1969). Others have included Alphons Silbermann, Charles Seeger (1886–1979), Howard Saul Becker, Norbert Elias, Maurice Halbwachs, Jacques Attali, John Mueller (1895–1965), and Christopher Small. Contemporary sociomusicologists include Tia DeNora, Georgina Born, David Hebert, Peter Martin, and Joseph Schloss.

See also



  • Ko, Charles Ka Shing (2011). An analysis of sociomusicology, its issues; and the music and society in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Ko Ka Shing. ISBN 978-9-881-58021-4.

Further reading

  • Adler, Guido (1885). Umfang, Methode und Ziel der Musikwissenschaft. Vierteljahresschrift für Musikwissenschaft, 1, 5-20.
  • Beaud, Paul, and Alfred Willener (1973). Musique et vie quotidienne, essai de sociologie d'une nouvelle culture: electro-acoustique et musique pop; improvisation, in series, Repères. [S.l.]: Éditions Mame. 272 p. ISBN 2-250-00512-5
  • Becker, Howard S. (1963). "The Culture of ... [and] Careers in ... a Deviant Group: the Dance Musician", in his Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviants (New York: Free Press, 1966, cop. 1963), p. [79]-119. N.B.: The results are of a study undertaken in 1948-1949.
  • Clercq, Jocelyne de (1970). La profession de musician: une enquête, in series, Études de sociologie de la musique. Bruxelles: Éditions de l'Institut de Sociologie, Université libre de Bruxelles. Variant title on half-title page: Le Musicien professional: une enquête. 165, [1] p. Without ISBN or SBN
  • Hill, Dave (1986). Designer Boys and Material Girls: Manufacturing the [19]80s Pop Dream. Poole, Eng.: Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1857-9
  • Honing, Henkjan (2006). "On the growing role of observation, formalization and experimental method in musicology." Empirical Musicology Review, 1/1, 2-5
  • Kerman, Joseph (1985). Musicology. London: Fontana. ISBN 0-00-197170-0.
  • Ko, C. K. S. (2011). An analysis of sociomusicology, its issues; and the music and society in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Ko Ka Shing. ISBN 978-9-881-58021-4.
  • McClary, Susan, and Robert Walser (1988). "Start Making Sense! Musicology Wrestles with Rock" in On Record ed. by Frith and Goodwin (1990), pp. 277–292. ISBN 0-394-56475-8.
  • Middleton, Richard (1990/2002). Studying Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-15275-9.
  • Sorce Keller, Marcello (1996). Musica e sociologia, Milan: Ricordi.
  • Pruett, James W., and Thomas P. Slavens (1985). Research guide to musicology. Chicago: American Library Association. ISBN 0-8389-0331-2.
  • Voyer, Pierre (1981). Le Rock et le rôle [sic]. [Montréal, Qué.]: Leméac. ISBN 2-7609-9429-5

External links