Sociology 3563 (STU)
Sociology of Music

(Peter Weeks, Spring, 2005)

Course Description:
This course will explore music in its various social contexts, combining a number of macro- and micro-sociological perspectives on music. We shall be considering (as well as listening to) a variety of music ranging from Western ‘classical’ or ‘art music’ to jazz and popular forms — in terms of the social settings in which they are produced and enjoyed.

Macro-sociological perspectives are concerned with the wider socio-cultural context in which music is produced, distributed and listened to. It includes the social functions and uses of music ranging from rituals and ceremonies to private listening which is so prominent today. Forms of music, such as the functional harmony tradition (underling ‘classical’ music) as well as the Afro-American traditions (underlying jazz and rock music etc.) have been related by some analysts to forms of society and specific groups within any one society. Recent Feminist perspectives on underlying themes of gender & sexuality are an example of this approach. Another particular interest is the relation between technology & music — in terms of the effects of musical notation, changes in musical instruments, and recording technology upon the composition, production and distribution of music. Closely related to this is the political-economic organization of the recording industry and its control over what we hear. In this connection, we can consider the effects of global music corporations, the Internet, in terms to the extent to which they lead to standardization vs. making a greater diversity of ‘world music’ available.

Micro-sociological perspectives analyze how performers create and make music together in terms of the interaction among musicians, audience, and conductor (where present). We are reminded that musicians work within what Howard Becker calls “art worlds” — a network of various groups ranging from audiences, promoters, educators, instrument makers, and recording technicians. In addition, there are numerous taken-for-granted musical conventions to which both musicians and listeners are oriented. At the most detailed level, the practices of improvisation and maintaining synchrony will be examined in both classical and jazz contexts.

In addition to lectures, numerous recordings will be used, video as well as audio — and maybe some live performances. Although a formal musical background is not required, a basic outline of musical essentials will be available so that we can detect and analyze some detailed features of the music we are considering — through listening as well as reading musical notation.

Required Text:
Peter Weeks (ed.) Sociology of Music: Selected Readings, third edition, 2006.

Course Requirements
Marks are allocated as follows:

A. Learning Journals 25%

The purpose of the learning journal is to accumulate a series of observations and critical commentaries on such things as the assigned readings, class presentations, and directed musical listenings or outside musical events. This provides an opportunity to apply and make connections among the ideas and concepts that you are learning. It is anticipated that the learning journal will be turned into the instructor twice during the term..

B. Report 20%

Essay-style questions provide an occasion to synthesize the ideas in the readings and class sessions.

C. Midterm 20%

Essay-style questions provide an occasion to synthesize one’s knowledge and display the cumulative connections among central concepts.

D. Formal essay or project demonstration/presentation 35%

This is a more in-depth essay on one of a set of topics to be handed out later. An alternative is a class presentation. There will NOT be a final examination.

Topics (which are also headings for the sections of the Reader)

  1. Introduction & general perspectives.
  2. Music in changing social contexts.
  3. “Art worlds” interactional perspective.
  4. Music & technology.
  5. Making music together: angles on performing.
  6. Jazz: culture & styles.
  7. Perspectives on popular music.,


1006 Introduction to Sociology
2313 Deviance
2513 Sociology of Communication
2613 Sociology of Gender
3013 Classical Sociological Theory
3023 Modern Sociological Theory
3513 Sociology of Education
3523 Sociology of Knowledge
3563 Sociology of Music
3573 Sociology of Art & Culture
4013 Senior Seminar
4033 Advanced Sociological Theory


Dr. Peter Weeks / Sociology / Faculty / STU Homepage