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volume 2
july 1999

Music industry and music lovers, beyond Benjamin


  The return of the amateur
  by Antoine Hennion
  In September 1996 the European Music Office published its report on "Music in Europe". The second part of this study was titled "Music, Culture and Society in Europe" and edited by Paul Rutten. It contains six critical essays and five case studies on the cultural value of music in the European Union. This critical contribution on the role of the amateur in the world of music was written for the occasion by Antoine Hennion.
  One of the main ideas expressed by Walter Benjamin is that "that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art." One's sense of the "aura" of a work of art is essentially associated with being in the presence of the "original" work. Nowadays the record industry has made the aura of music performance into a distanced one. This seems to have made the active music amateur into a survivor of the past. From his study of amateurs Antoine Hennion draws another conclusion.

1 Summary. The music "boom" has affected every area of music, from the record industry to music teaching, attracting interest in the love of music as a rich, inventive practice, re-composing music in real life according to need, using every available medium, method and ritual. The paper presents the aims, methods and rewards of ethnographic research on music lovers today. Special attention is paid to the objects, gestures, and contacts brought into play in listening or playing, which are not simply the actualization of a taste "already in existence", but are constantly redefined, producing a result which is always, in part, uncertain and open.
2 Musical activities in leisure time. "The number of adolescents today to have done music has almost doubled by comparison with those born before 1960" — 22% of amateur instrumentalists are in the 35-44 age bracket, 40% in the 15-19 age bracket (cf. Développement culturel, 1995, 107). The "boom" in music, especially amongst adolescents, is not simply translated by massive sales of CD's and an almost exclusive preference on the part of this generation for rock music in the broad sense of the term. It has been accompanied by an unprecedented expansion in music schools, which started in the sixties — 15% of the French population born after 1960 have been to a school of music, compared with 8% of the over 35's.
  A survey of "artistic activities practised during leisure time" — carried out by the Department of studies and forecasting of the Ministry of Culture, directed by O. Donnat — has made it possible to assess this phenomenon: one French person in ten has practised a musical activity in his leisure time — instrument, singing, choir, etc. — during the past twelve months. This shows that, contrary to the impression given by the argument which sets the passivity of the consumer against the active character of the amateur making his own music, the exponential development in the record market and in media audiences since the sixties has been matched by an intensification of amateur practices. The activities of choirs and vocal groups survived in new forms, at the same time throwing off their over-exclusive links with religion and associations, particularly under the influence of the revival in baroque music, to become "musicalized".
  Qualitative conclusions must be drawn from this "return of the amateur": this essential opposite side of musical performance is also its poor relation, driven away on all sides. The history of music buries him under an account entirely based on composers. Writings highlight works, at the expense of ignoring the listener. The sociology of taste only takes an interest in him in order to reflect an illusion of personal taste, which in reality is a reflection of the social mechanisms which determine it, unbeknown to him (e.g. Bourdieu, 1979). Finally, the amateur is also driven away by the pessimistic stand discussed in "canned music", the technical facilities and commercial appetites of the record industry being ready to convert him permanently into a manipulated consumer, pressing on a button to receive a uniform programme.
  In a less sophisticated version, we find in the treatment reserved for the amateur, partly idealized, partly looked upon with condescension as a survivor of the past, the ambivalence of the famous paper by Walter Benjamin (1936) on "the work of art in the age of its mechanical reproduction". Recourse to aura meant he was always right. Standardized modern copies of art have lost the authenticity of their real presence — but the real presence itself is only an old religious artefact, that of aura. On the one hand, a denunciation of modernity, whose mechanical reproduction techniques and subjection to economic rules have transformed art into merchandise — and the love of music into record consumerism. On the other hand, a symmetrical criticism of the reactionary nostalgia which mourns the passing of this aura, even though it was only ever a lure placed on works by class domination.
  From this pessimistic view, a doubly negative concept of taste is revealed: firstly, it is but the reverse side of the work, and moreover it is only the reverse side of a work which itself has been converted into merchandise, which is to say a reified work. It is this negative concept, which is very widely shared, which I in my turn wish to criticize, using the study of amateurs as a basis. On observation, the amateur has never been in such good shape. There are no passive amateurs: it is we who have too few categories to understand the variety and ingenuity of the love of music. This is "doing", not merely a question of taste: the amateur, using all the means at his disposal to re-compose his music for himself, pays little attention to academic divisions and orthodoxy of taste. The return of the amateur, in the sense in which we speak of the return of someone driven away, must permit a new look at music, period. The history of music must be rewritten, based not on works but on the amateur, seeing him gradually developing in the face of efforts to liberate music from its ritual, religious and political tasks. This is the aim of the survey I am in the process of making, some elements of which I will present here.
3 Amateur: the return. A strange figure in the musical world, that of the amateur. I first had the idea of shadowing this slightly anachronistic character without being too much on my guard, no doubt due to the perverse desire of the sociologist to remain in the wings, always wanting to direct the spotlight where it is not invited. But, as the characteristics of the amateur gradually became clearer, he acquired an importance which I had not suspected. He quickly threw off the mould I had cast around him: a priori the amateur is presented as a contrast with the professional, by practising freely, in every sense of the word. He plays "for pleasure" or "for himself", during his leisure time. In a more insidious fashion, this image of the amateur also implies a residual practice, like an insistence on practising music using forms which are in the process of disappearing; it is, for example, the doctor playing the violin — excellent, for an amateur ... — and finding other doctors to play quartets on Sundays; it's the group of friends, proud of their instruments, impressing each other by imitating their rock idols; it's the collectors of old wax and black vinyl discs, meticulously arranged in order, hostile to CD's and other processed recordings; it's the young girl from a good family, who plays the piano, achieves the highest levels, wins a few amateur contests, gives it all up when she gets married, and spends the rest of her life grieving for the world she has lost; it's the opera freak, happily and ascetically practising the precise rituals of a small, demanding and spectacular environment; it's the joyful bell ringer, whose enthusiasm for playing surprising scores matches that with which he downs tankards of beer; it is the slightly gawky adolescent who can't decide whether he goes to a choir to sing, or sings to go to the choir ...
  However, with some adjustment to the definition, the amateur could easily be reinstated at the centre of the world of music. Far from being the slightly ridiculous provincial cousin who insists on blowing his tuba, he is every bit as modern as the musical environment dominated by professionals, techniques and market forces. It should be recognized that he too has changed, and needs to be defined as a user of music, to understand that, on the contrary, neither the professional environment, nor techniques, nor market forces have any sense without him. Thus, not only is there nothing anachronistic about the amateur, but we perceive that he has become, for the first time in history, the sole target of a musical environment completely reconstructed around him. It is not the professional who is a modern, modified variation of the authentic musical practices of our ancestors, it is the amateur. As far as we can look back through time, it is groups of specialist musicians who are given the responsibility, after a long apprenticeship, of playing for the community (cf. Rouget, 1980). But the existence of the position of amateur soon confines us within the narrow limits of the Western world, as much in space as in time.
  For an amateur to be able to "love music" it must exist as such. The amateur is not the original mythical figure of a love of music, led astray by our universe of specialists. He is the end point of a very long story, who has, little by little, given music its autonomy, after having turned it into an art, and having extracted it with difficulty from its magical functions, its role of sending crowds into transports or as a catalyst of faith. Following this long period of labour, the professional is no longer in the service of a community in a trance, in prayer or in transports of joy, but finds himself, like it or not, in the service of a market composed of an immense majority of amateurs, not in the sense of amateur instrumentalists, but in the sense of music lovers who are also music users — here I refer you to my own works (Hennion, 1993, 297-350).
4 Listening spaces ... Thus, music may suggest the terms of another sociology of taste, by showing us its active character, the local, uncertain producer of all mediation. Taste is sensitive struggle in real life, with ambiguous aims. From the love of music of the discophile to the hesitant playing of the Sunday pianist, from the weekly gathering of the local brass band to a passion for opera, from the shelves of specialist shops to large rock gatherings, these are all packaged facilities which, putting amateur and music together, constantly redefine the one and the other by means of a particular experience. Enter the concert: you are not in a state of grace, you are mistrustful, sceptical, calculating, you compare and judge according to other versions you know, you cruelly lie in wait for the weaknesses of the interpretation.
  That is the modern music space, a gigantic discotheque, a FNAC or a Virgin Megastore in every head. This is where we start. Come out of the concert, you are still hesitant, you watch the expressions on the faces of those around, you seesaw between the moments when you looked at your watch and those when you felt that, perhaps, this was it. Only a discussion in the cafe with friends whose judgement you respect can quieten these hesitations and stabilize your memory of the event, causing you to forget your uncertainty of moments earlier.
  Why then is music so favourable to the expression of new identities, when the rest collapses? If music has invaded the world, and is becoming the leading register of existence for a generation, it is perhaps because, without pre-determining the issue of its task of self-definition, it gives an idea to those who seize upon it and those it takes hold of, of the ways to make a world — to paraphrase N. Goodman (1990). Listening and taste, whether they involve rockers' re-recordings or the record collections of classical music lovers, are not passive: the rehearsals of rockers, who cannot see how a score or a teacher could make their guitar sound like that of Hendrix, show that there is no continuity between listening to a record, practice in a group and the mastery of an instrument.
  Another example, that of the baroque wave: it reveals the same movement. Although we cannot go as far as saying that lovers of baroque are rockers, it is clear that the renewal of interpretation that they have imposed, to oppose the establishment, is based on the taste of amateurs. Along the same lines, the movement conquered the market by means of radio, accompanied the spectacular rise of a new technical medium, the compact disc — opposing the professionals of classical music. This is, therefore, the same story all over again, in part unbeknown to the participants — that of the parallel development of music as certainly autonomous, its media as increasingly faithful supports, and its market at the demand of a public of amateurs: every step made towards the amateur is a step towards music as saleable goods and as a technical product.
  Far from being opposed to our modern musical "artifices" — discs, radio and stars — the amateur is a direct product of them, and their exclusive consumer. He is the child of the recent marriage of music to the market, whose union could only be consummated once techniques made it possible to turn music into goods and services.
5 An extensive practice ... The DEP survey establishes that amateur practice, loosely defined as playing or singing, in any form or at any frequency, is very widespread. It concerns a third of the French population aged 15 years and over, who have been involved at some point in their lives — 26% have played an instrument, 13% have been in a choir; the total is greater than 33%, 7% having done both. A reality, both extensive, due to the population reached, and diffuse, due to the wide variety of practices, from rapid abandonment to an intense, lifetime involvement — this is a characteristic specific to music, compared with other artistic activities: if the temptation to give up is resisted in adolescence, many stay faithful for a long time (a third of musicians have been practising for over 25 years) — and in between the two extremes, others practise more or less sporadically.
  It also gives base variables, already found by surveys of cultural practices and on music teaching (see Cogneau and Donnat, 1990; Hennion et al., 1983) which determine the practice of music (social origins, gender, musical beginnings, presence of music in the family: music is a mimetic art), and intermediate key variables in the achievement of a musical career (amateur or professional), which is to say both strongly defined and highly decisive — instrument, institution, repertoire, ambitions. Finally, it reveals certain paradoxes in practice, especially concerning taste, little influenced by it — at least when measuring taste using a grading of preferences — and cultural practices, which appear to have more of a connection with an environment which is itself favourable to amateur practice than to the practice itself: over half of active amateur musicians did not attend a concert at all in the past twelve months. The two are independent of each other.
  One of the main characteristics of amateur practice is that it has strong links with age: there are three times as many active amateurs aged 15-19 as there are over 35s — 21% compared with 8%. The mimetic nature of the practice of music can be seen in the second marked phase of access to music. After the childhood phase, during which parents exercise benevolent but firm pressure, comes the adolescent phase, where the reverse situation arises: the adolescent tends to play in opposition to adults' wishes, on instruments linked to rock — guitar and percussion — mainly practised outside institutions — amongst guitarists, for example, the largest group to have learnt to play "without any help" or from friends, 61% know musical notation, compared with 85% for players of other instruments — and 51% of singers.
  It remains to say that this massive adhesion of one age group to music should not be allowed to conceal the wide variety of practices. Choirs, for example, are attracting increasing numbers of adult beginners: vocal groups are offering opportunities to practise music for those who regret not having done so in their youth. On the other hand, we should remember that, beyond the pleasant image of brass bands, rock groups and all types of choirs, for over half of amateurs playing means sitting at home alone playing favourite pieces on the piano. And it remains difficult to quantify a practice which varies enormously according to the instrument concerned, and is governed to a varying degree by lessons, group practice, choir and orchestra meetings — whilst 45% of guitarists "play whenever they feel like it."
6 Amateur profiles. The intention of my ethnographic survey of amateurs is to return to the meaning of their love of music, firstly through their own accounts, but also, and mainly, through the ethnological analysis of their practices. A study of this love seems to me to differ greatly from classification using, for example, a list of composers as a gauge, an exercise at which amateurs show very little difference from others.
  To observe and analyse amateurs is to return to the meaning of the practice of music, to restore the balance of history, too centred on the works, on one hand, and social attitudes, on the other. As amateurs are well able to tell you, there are many inventive and varied ways of playing, listening to and loving music, and a wide variety of ways and means of doing so — concerts, media, groups, individual playing, etc. — which go together and redefine each other.
  This assumes that we are not centred on the music listened to (the work, the style, the composer), which always runs the risk of complicity, or even complacency, in celebration, the temptation to go through (and repeat under the pretext of analysis) the liturgy of the fan who is happy to display his own feelings to other fans, but above all uses what he likes to congratulate himself on how wonderful he is; but rather that we focus on listening itself as a practice, with its moments, its tools, its arrangements and emotional effects, its highs and lows. To do this there is no need to study psychology: on the contrary, the aim is not to leave the object for the subject, but to discover, by actually listening to a work in real life, musical properties which focusing exclusively on the music "itself" (and, conversely, self-introspection on the subject of taste) tend to mask or leave in the shadows, due to the little, insignificant, daily events which everyone thinks exclusive to him, though they could not be more common; not so much starting from the receptive subject to contrast it with the perceived object, then, but starting with the ordinary relationship of listening to bring balance back into musical analysis and make the connection between them.
  This leads to a shift to a wider definition of the amateur as "music user": this does not pre-judge the more or less truly "amateur" character of this or that connection to music, and leaves the way open for multiple combinations which amateurs can produce for their own pleasure — here, a passion for records must be included along with one for playing in a group or alone, and the use made of the media, scores, discs and concerts must be linked to playing an instrument and singing, not set in opposition to them. The one is supported by the other: above all, one cannot be understood without the other, as shown in these extracts from interviews.
  [Female, age 28, classical piano; living in respectable area and apartment, hi-fi system, records and CD's — nothing special; very reserved; everything goes without saying, doesn't see the point of my survey; several classical scores]
  "I started playing the piano at the age of seven, or even a little earlier; I played with my mother and older brother. My brother took violin lessons with the husband of my piano teacher. I still take lessons, though no longer regularly. I played at his end-of-year recitals, years after finishing at X (Polytechnic); last time, I even played the Sonata in C minor (Liszt, of course), it was a bit ambitious.
  I like Fauré, Chopin, Schumann, the grand piano. I've also played a lot of Ravel. And chamber music, with friends, my teacher, brothers and sisters of piano students, etc. We played Mozart's piano quartet, and I remember that we worked on the Brahms quartet at X. Yes, I've played some modern music, a Stockhausen, it wasn't bad ..."
  [Male, age 37, jovial, band leader, clarinet; has a collection of wind instruments and an enormous quantity of records of all kinds and all styles]
  "It always ends up in a mess, with groups: there are some who want to do jazz, or work more, but we do it for a laugh. We get to a very good level, we do loads of things, but if we have to rehearse for hours, there's no point. It doesn't really depend on the composers, there are some pieces no-one wants to play, even if they are very good. If when you miss a note you can't get back into it, it's no good. Apart from that, everything goes, from Bach to a habanera. But with a bossa-nova we get stuck.
  I do the transcription: you have to keep changing depending on who turns up. We've got two clarinets, bugles, a trombone, three saxes, but there's always someone missing. We do Schubert, slow movements (well, I'm exaggerating, we do allegros too!), we've done a Poulenc thing, great fun. What else? Whatever the guys bring along: we do the Art of the fugue — well, extracts — a Brazilian thing, we do a lot of sardane and paso, South American pieces, etc. But we do all sorts of other things too; Brahms chorales, once an Enesco, things nobody's heard of!
  People come and go, but not that much, in fact. We're friends, we've known each other for years: sometimes one of us goes off, or a guy's girl comes along (I say that, but there aren't many girls — even fewer who turn up alone!) and so it goes on. We used to do more jazz before, I remember — Ellington — we made our own transcription of "Take the A train", and Monk, but usually classical jazz. We're a bit limited on improvisation, that limits the jazz. No, we don't do rock, not with our instruments, anyway, and no-one would want us to — that's not what a fanfare band is for. I say fanfare band jokingly, in fact it's a small brass band.
  Yes, of course, we go to the pub afterwards, often, but especially on outings, spring concerts on the bandstand, accompaniments for celebrations, where we have the impression of doing something together, and afterwards we usually fool around together. That's important: it's a third interval, for ourselves."
  [Male, age 36, university degree, enlightened music lover, enormous collection of records and CD's, listens a lot, goes to quite a few concerts ("but that's all")]
  "I did a lot of music — the piano, then a bit of all instruments, to sight read, especially baroque. And I also did clarinet and sax - but I'm not good technically, it isn't playing for its own sake that interests me, it's the music, it's a way of getting to know it better. Yes, I sang in choirs, large Catholic choirs with 100 singers (including 5 tenors): we sight read a whole repertoire which the record appears to have rediscovered — de la Rue, Van Guizeghem — we didn't just sing Palestrina!
  I listen to lots of records, and then France Musique, or Radio Classique when there's nothing interesting on France Musique, which is often. I often work at home, so it just depends — some days I can't stand listening to music at the same time, other days I play all the Bach cantatas, one after another."
  [Female, age 47, piano, sings, intellectual circle, lots of records]
  "I play very badly, above all I sight read. The singing is recent. I had a great teacher, I don't know if I'll continue, I change teachers every two years. No, it's for Fauré and Brahms as much as baroque, the teacher didn't like much else, though she made me do some Rameau. Above all, I devoured as much music as I could — we played all of Bach with friends.
  For me, it's a need, a drug: I'm very nervous. I stop everything and listen to a record, or play, or sing, I lie down and close my eyes — it helps me to survive. Music is so beautiful, too. I also go to lots of concerts, sometimes with my husband, but often alone or with friends who play with me — it's a small world, I get free tickets."
  [Male, age 39, rock, employee]
  "I'm a bit of a deviant, in fact, I would say I have a classical taste for rock! So I'm rejected by both sides! I like rock music a lot, but for me quality is essential. There's a lot of bad rock, it must be said (without counting rap) and it isn't just a question of indies / not indies: there are useless independents, and the Versailles school. On the other hand, I like what is good in all styles: perhaps that is what I mean when I describe myself as classical, I'm not interested in being hard or progressive, having this or that look, you can see I'm dressed like anyone else — I'm 39, but still. Apart from the Stones, who are the tops for me, I used to like intellectual groups like Mothers of Invention, but I wouldn't say that now; there's also some Floyd and Supertramp stuff which is just as good as some small trendy German groups: you have to look for it. I think I've got all the good records that came out between 1950 and 1980, less since then.
  But I hardly go to concerts any more. The old ones are like old soldiers, and never as good as they used to be (that's an old soldier sort of thing to say, I know, but that's what I am too, a bit!) and the young ones, I don't follow well enough any more, and the guys in the audience bore me."
  [Male, age 54, opera lover, senior executive, human relations; has a superb collection of black records, style Pathe and Decca wax, from the great era, and lots of CD's too, in fact]
  "I've got absolutely everything, all Callas, but I'm thinking of la Callas because everyone knows her, I've got lots of other idols too! I liked the voices from "Entre-deux-guerres" (Between the wars), you know, the Goraeb broadcast. I've never sung myself, no, I did two or three years of piano, a lot more than that in fact, but it doesn't interest me, it has nothing to do with it. I'd do anything to hear a good Werther, but I can't any more, I find the Bastille too expensive and snobbish, that's not Opera! Though it's coming back, Massenet and all that, real opera. I like Italian opera a lot, of course, but Lucia rather than Verdi, you see. I travel specially to hear it, mainly to England, where there are real music lovers, sometimes to Vienna. Mozart's good, too."
  [Male, 42, jazz, sax; he has a vast collection of records, almost entirely jazz, he goes to concerts, not very often ("I used to go more"), has books and magazines on jazz; middle class origins, employee]
  "I've built myself a padded studio in the cellar. I hate disturbing other people when I'm working. I started late, very late, at the age of 35, but we always listened to jazz in my family, my dad plays a bit (guitar, NdT, etc.), he had lots of records. But I'm amazed at classical players who know all the notes at once. Me, I have to work at it, I have problems with the harmonies, even my ear (to be taken with a pinch of salt: he's very good, but idealizes the things he can't do, in the same way that classicists admire a facility for improvisation).
  I play in several formations, including a group of five friends, but there's a lot of tension, a lot of demands. Generally speaking, I'm a very demanding person."
7 Ceremonies of pleasure. It seems to me that with the appearance of these amateur profiles, beside the two "orthodox" relations with music (music as a work of art to be admired, music as a collective activity giving a group identity) there is a third aspect which emerges, both more local and personal, and more closely linked to the practical use we make of the various musical facilities available: it is music as a ceremony of pleasure, a series of little habits and ways of doing things in real life, each to his own taste, a group of routines, arrangements and surprises. It is the amateur, whether cook or gourmet, reveller or high society, sybarite or rigid moralist, who, to a certain extent, composes his music as others would a menu every time he plays.
  Divisions are not as expected: there is a wide variety of amateurism, depending on environment, type, age and involvement with music. On the other hand, far from acting against each other, the practice of an instrument or singing, listing to records and radio, attendance at concerts, all work together in various ways, depending on the type of amateurism in question. It is this diversity which should make it possible to produce a typology of the forms of love of music today, which have been little studied to date. A typology based less on repertoire than on the practices, supports and devices brought into play by these "music users", from the person who only plays an instrument to he who only listens to the radio (two non-existent extremes), passing through all sorts of unexpected, fertile combinations. This is the aspect I want to emphasize, using the extracts from interviews to give an idea, still very intuitive, of the richness of these differences in taste and practice: the approach of the amateur unconfined by discipline, the unorthodoxy of his methods, the curious mixture of precision and invention which gradually defines the ensemble of practices through which he gets pleasure from music.
  Finally, music itself has a too rigid frontier: it is clear that in certain cases it describes the exact contours of a practice which is isolated from others, whilst on the contrary it is essential to "re-configure" it at the heart of a much vaster ensemble, ranging from outings of friends, parties and shared listening to the same music, to a group of highly integrated cultural elements: typically, for the "young" (a category obviously not simply defined by age), this continuum goes from dress and shoes to comic strips, basketball and black American idols, and includes language and "strange" appearance, as well as eating habits and intensive video-watching and playing of video games. But it also applies, in varying degrees, to more classic or more mature types, like contemporary music, jazz and opera — not only in the sense of the sociological marking of common traits amongst members of a particular group from outside it, but in the sense in which the "members" themselves build up both their identity and their taste by means of a series of common practices.
  These practices should not be called rites: this "socializes" them too quickly. Nor is it simply a question of the supports used, which "materializes" them too quickly, but of the continuum which goes from bodies and taste in the most physical sense of the term, right through to repertoires and the most materialized supports, encompassing linguistic forms, methods of appreciation, and the forms in which the practice takes place — times and places are essential. Going beyond the interview, in which the amateur, under the constraint of the interviewer's request for justification, speaks of his practices, it is a question of reconstructing action sequences, measuring gestures and the use of instruments and objects, forms of individual and collective behaviour involved in the practice which satisfies the amateur.
8 Another sociology of taste? One of the hypotheses made is that it is possible, and necessary, to partially "liberate" the discussion on the amateur's taste, pleasure and love of music from the weight under which sociology of taste has crushed it, denouncing these emotions as illusory, the dressing up of a social game unbeknown to its participants. We are not trying here to criticize this form of sociology, which offers some part of the truth, but the devastating effects of its vulgarization, which affects the way the sociologist is received: the amateur immediately feels guilty, under suspicion: he is ashamed of his pleasure, he decodes and anticipates the sense of what he says, he apologizes for being too elitist in his practices, he cloaks himself in the ritual character of his rock outings or love of opera. Worse, he does not speak of objects, gestures, the sentiments he feels, the uncertainties which make up the charm of his difficult career as an aficionado, he puts himself into the pigeon-holes which he thinks are being offered to him.
  Through this survey, my bet is that we can find amongst amateurs collective forms of listening (by this I do not mean physically shared, but identical between classes of subjects) which are fairly stable and can be defined, very different from what happened in earlier eras, enabling us to discern what is covered by modern spaces of musical listening. When people say that we no longer hear the music of the old days with the ear of the old days, it always seems either too psycho-physiological or too social: no, in between the two — the difference is neither in the interior modification of the psychology of depths, nor in that of the great social structures of musical signification: it is in the series of new ways and times of listening. It is the radical transformation of all those material intermediaries which have genuinely created the musical space for our current listening — what I call the production of the amateur.
  But it must then be understood that these musical spaces for listening are not just physical spaces, external to the listener (even if we start from the material elements of music, such as concert halls, media networks, record catalogues, radio programmes, store display units, etc.), but as internal spaces, reconstructed by the amateur, in which he moves around mentally when he selects a title, buys a recording, wants this or that interpretation, switches the radio on and off, bangs out a tune on the piano, etc. His very judgement of works and music belongs to the space in question, and is highly dependent on its reference points: socially determined "taste" seems to be so, in fact, far less directly by belonging to a social class than indirectly through all the differential means of access to music which I do or don't have, and with which I create my little musical domain.
  Before remarking that The Well-Tempered Clavier is listened to by executives and The Blue Danube by the lower middle classes and teachers, as though these works were "already there", available from the shelves of some vast imaginary musical supermarket, faced with a difference in tastes which was itself "already there", entirely over-determined by social standing, it is necessary to reconstitute the path which leads one to encounter and integrate musical pieces into one's musical space, to lend them an ear, to make them naturally one's own. And going beyond music, which is a good but not exclusive example, the objective of my research, whose rewards are only suggested here, is to give back to the sociology of taste, the chance not to bury its object before it has even seen it.
  • Benjamin, W. (1936), "The work of art in the age of its mechanical reproduction." Reprinted in Ecrits français. Paris: Gallimard, 1991, 140-171.
  • Cogneau, D., and O. Donnat (1990), Les pratiques culturelles des Français, 1973-1989. Paris: La Découverte / La Documentation française, 1990.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1979), la Distinction. Paris: Minuit, 1979.
  • Développement culturel, June 1995.
  • Goodman, N. (1990), Manières de faire des mondes. Nîmes: Éd. J. Chambon, 1990 (trad. M.-D. Popelard).
  • Hennion, A., et al. (1983), Les conservatoires et leurs élèves. Paris: La Documentation française, 1983.
  • Hennion, A., et al. (1993), La passion musicale. Paris: Métallié, 1993, 297-350.
  • Rouget, G. (1980), la musique et la transe. Paris, Gallimard, 1980.
  This essay originally appeared in: Rutten, Paul (ed.), Music, culture and society in Europe. Part II of: European Music Office, Music in Europe. Brussels, 1996, 116-125.
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