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Sociology of Culture and Music

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Item Code: NAL188
Author: Dr. Ishrat Jahan
Publisher: Kanishika Publishers
Language: English
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788184572902
Pages: 108
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 270 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

The book Sociology of Culture and Music try to grasp the complex world of 9¬¬culture. The book opens up an argument with a variety of approaches of western with a variety of approaches of western intellectuals to conceptualize culture.

The book provides special attention on musical culture of North India which has its own distinctive characteristics. The work approaches essential reasoning of higher culture and popular culture in the light of Cultural theories. Within the framework of cultural theories. Within the framework of culture theories the work of this book allows us to evaluate our existing cultural context.

The work raises a number of concerns about western popular culture and its unavoidable influence over tradition bound society as a whole. The discourse posits that creative activities locate in social structure and creation takes place under culturally conditioned ambiance. In case of popular culture underlying economic interest remain primary in the production of cultural goods while the creators and bearers of high culture primarily concerned with quality of cultural representation. The book brings issues related to culture Sociology and Musicology.

About the Author

Dr. Ishrat Jahan, is an intellectual and a musician par excellence of classical music (Hindustani vocal). Her longtime exposure in the field of music and sociology has given her an insight to work for cultural studies.

Currently she is engaged as an academic at Bangladesh University in the Department of Sociology.

As a high ranked musician she has produced a number of CDs and keeps herself involved in organizational activities around the world.


We live amid an era of cultural pluralism where mass audiences enjoy privilege of participation and the right to make judgments about works of art. Co-existence of plural cultural beliefs in the social world is one of the central reasons masses have achieved access to the field. Furthermore, the mass can afford whatever they want to purchase. Appreciation of Higher Art always involved a small audiences or viewers in pre-industrial societies. In Europe the consumers of high culture was confined to members of economic, political and religious institutions. In case of India the appreciation came from Raja, Maharaja and landed aristocracy. Over many decades we profoundly experience the dominance of the masses in the artistic process and influence of their taste in cultural products due to shift in socio-political ecology. Here I am trying to give a massage that popular culture strenuously influencing the artistic field due to technical reproduction and art trade which had its root in 1900s. Popular culture provides an easy access to those individuals whose musical ability, experience in music production is quite inadequate and who can guess public demand and whose activities are directed to populist mission. Interestingly nowadays we notice that heterogeneous songs are available to select hello tune, welcome tune, caller tune. dialers tune in telecommunication. It is obvious that human’s drive towards music is also mounting music production. Reproduction, distribution, consumption of music at a large. To speak bluntly it is not merely popular songs but a few symphonies of populist taste also include cell phone ringtone. Today music acts as a sign and a device of mass communication. As mentioned earlier popular music or amateur music widely dominate the field of music. Because a piece of classical music being phenomena requires a minimum of understanding grammar, musical events a performer creates. Human beings at different stages of life gradually understand, perceive and conceptualize the elements of classical music. The fact is masses are deprived of such potentials.

Now a question arises what really higher music articulates?

Higher music is an expression of creativity and intellectuality wherein a master musician upholds the norms inherent in the legitimate field and community of the artiste himself.

In higher music, musical expressions are abstract or symbolic by nature. Musical expressions are abstract in the sense that the composer or musician expresses feelings and emotions in a non-concrete manner. Musical pieces are bound with musical materials i.e. construction of musical sound, imagination, interpretation of style, belief about particular piece, ideatation and motivation of the creator. It denotes and makes a difference between a piece of music and reciting poetry. In other words, music is metaphor of abstract feeling. Classical music or higher music has its base in non-concrete feelings. The technique of master musician’s sound construction is related to aesthetic logic that may evoke or enhance emotions in listeners.

Personality researcher Sloboda remarked:

...Music is capable of arousing in us deep and significant emotions. The aesthetic delight in a sound contruction, through emotions like joy and sorrow which music something evokes or enhances, to the simple relief from monotony, boredom or depression which everyday musical experiences can provide (Sloboda, 1885: p.1).

In Sloboda’s remark we find that music acts as therapy. Thus making quality music is the manifestation of self-expression of culturally constructed belief system and individuality. Organization of musical materials has its own nature. Musical sound derives from regular frequency wherein noise or disturbin sound originates from irregular frequency. Musical sound comprises three distinct features, namely

(i) Pitch: Tones produced in vocal organ or in instrument may not be same. It is because of pitch. For example, ni is higher than dha. Each note contains certain frequency. If someone presses the keys of a harmonium from left to right than one will experience that each succeeding note is higher than the preceding one. Pitch depends upon the number of vibrations of frequency of the note. For instance, sa of Indian music has frequency 240,ga contains frequency of 300. Naturally ga has higher pitch than the sa. Some folk instruments for example, Ektara do not have different pitch other than only pitch sa.

(ii) Intensity of sound production: Intensity of notes implies to degree of force placed upon the notes. This degree of intensity causes louder or softer sound. Intensity depends on the amplitude of vibration. In case of louder sound amplitude remains greater.

(iii) Quality of sound: Human voice differs from one another due to quality of the tone produced. The quality of a musical note is determined by the existence of harmonics or overtones. The quality of instrumental playing or human voice seems different because of the different number or relative strength of the overtones or harmonics produced by each as a note is sounded.

There are seven notes both in western and Indian music system.

In Indian musical term these notes have been named Sadaja, Rishabha, Gandhara, Madhyama, Panchama, Dhaivata, Nishada, During singing the first letter of each note is used. Thus the performer of vocal music uses during singing sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni. These seven notes together constitude Saptaka.

The pre-requisite of making music entails creativity. Musical scholars conceive music as medium of expression. Now the quest comes what music has to do with expression.

What really music articulates, scholars of the West encounter differences by their divergent opinions.

The bottom line in music expresses feeling of creative social beings symbolically. The concept of symbolic feeling can be explained as an organization of sound implied either by vocal organ or instrumental devices wherein expression takes place by means of musical notes, concentration, sentiment, musical knowledge, imagination, ideatation of the music maker. More precisely music is a medium to express feelings in abstract manner. In case of vocal music composition of a raga or bandish may embody some literary value but feeling is basically manifested by highly abstract sound structure.

Now the quest is what listeners search from music? Listeners are not uniform in terms of attitude and knowledge. Cultivated listeners search for beauty and aesthetic delight, on the other hand mass consumption aims at entertainment because their ears are not trained to understand pure music.

Musicians as a distinct social class and occupational group significantly play a role in the production of cultural goods in relation to other agent’s active participation. His/her role in contemporary, socio-economic structure (Principles of capitalism and era of media) largely reveal an opposition as higher music was consumed by the elite of the society before the emergence of capitalist mode of production when its production aimed in keeping with creation for own, self, to the artiste community and for the cultivated audience to a lesser extent.

It is conspicuous to everyone that in contemporary cultural ambiance traditional music and musicians confront some unavoidable social forces i.e., the capitalist, enterainment industry, changing technology and consumer demand. All popular forms of music resulted from limited aesthetic value, far more than that popular music is harmonizing the external determinants (Market principles ) or making an adjustment with objective social relations of music, in other words, demand of the public. Most public are incapable of making aesthetic differentiation of works of art i.e. inability to perceive what is pure or good or poor music.

The focus and objective of my work is not directed to accuse popular music alone for wearing commercial principles at the same time it intends to view classical music not completely innocent in its social relations and aesthetic logic.

I have adopted an empirical approach to study Indian music to assert relationship among variables of social worlds and agents of creation. I presume that any cultural activity is not isolated from other social classes and social forces. Secondly, variables have been analyzed in relation to a given period of socio-cultural context.

Defining Concepts

Middle Class: Middle class is a distinct social class in highly stratified society. The indicators of middle class are education, profession and income.

The term dilemma has been used to denote confusion and contradiction in the world of music. Karnataka music system does not include in the discussion in this book.

Indian Classical Music is confined to the discourse of Hindustani Music of North India and Bangladesh.

Gharana: In musical sense gharana means distinctive singing or instrumental style created by its founder and the knowledge would be imparted to kinsmen to disciples outside the gharana through guru shishya tradition at least for three generations to establish the base of gharana.

Achievements refer to progress both qualitative and qualitative aspects in case of Indian music.

Raga: The soul of Indian music is Raga. Raga has resulted from an evolutionary process. It is a melodic pattern of consistent notes (Swaras). Presentation of raga may vary from artiste to artiste on account of individual talent, knowledge, quality of training and varying expression artistes follow according to their aesthetic consideration.

Tala: Tala is another part of Indian music. Tala is a movement based on beats. Tala (Time) harmonizes to create order and balance in music. Tempo (Laya) is another feature of Tala, which has three expressions i.e. Vilambita, Modhya, and Drul laya. Tala is the basic component of singing, instrumentation and dancing. Tala is the result of evolutionary process. In the Vedic period there was rhythm but not tala. Tala came into practice in post vedic period. In this period rhythm and tempo came to be known as laya. Movement is the base of laya. Laya is an equal interval of pauses. Vilambita laya indicates slaw tempo, modhya laya indicates medium tempo and druta laya indicates faster tempo. Tala measures kala or time of singing, playing of instrument.

Enormous literature on Indian music and its contents depict basically historical analysis or aesthetic logic of music. Although a few foreign writers e.g. Neuman, Hamilton has focused on sociological aspects of music but this approach among Indian scholars seems to be almost absent. Taking music beyond narrow realm of merely historical accounts in connection with theories of music, mu attempt is to analyze music critically in relation to social classes and culture. I have taken a deeper interest in cultural theories of Western Marxist in my work.

As stated earlier, my objective is to focus music from theoretical perspective of Marxist intellectuals, to mention a few of them W. Benjamin, T. Adorno, P. Bourdieu, A. Gramsci whose theories inaugurate academic research in the West. Classical social thinker Max Weber and many other also include in discussion ahead.

To come to point of relevance the coming of modernity and reaction of the intellectuals, the gulf between high/pop culture, why does stagnation in musical forms happen? How do musicians contribute in the education and production system of a society? How their role has changed in the market economy? Has technology benefited higher music? Chapters ahead will search for these answers through debate.


1.Modernity and Middle Class1
Theorizing Modernity;
Modernity in Intellectuals' Ideas;
Comparison between Indian and European Middle Class
2.Culture: A Comparative Discourse7
What is Taste?
Taste Culture;
Taste Structure;
High Culture Versus Popular Culture
3.Style in Relation to Forms21
Genesis of Khayal;
Delhi Gharana;
Gwalior Gharana;
Jaipur Gharana;
Agra Gharana;
Kirana Gharana;
Other Varieties of Light Classicla Form
4.The Dialectics of Mass Culture and the Case of Indian Music36
Cultural Theories;
Comparison between Theories;
Exploration of Music Industry;
Current Trends
5Class Struggle in the Field of Cultural Production47
Field as Force Field;
Structure of Cultural Field;
6.Mechanization and Culture58
7.Media and Cultural Representation71

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