Sociology of Music and Musicology


  • Ivo Supičić



There are many obstacles to the complete acceptance of the sociology of music as an independent academic discipline within contemporary musicology. One such 121 obstacle is to be found in the remnants of the Romantic outlook which is on the whole opposed to sociological explanations of certain aspects of music, considering music as a private artistic world approachable only in the music itself. Although such an asociological conception is unjustified, in other cases opposition to the intrusion of sociology into the musical field is justifiable: when this, starting from sociological conceptions, reduces artistic facts to sociological phenomena, ignoring their intrinsic value. From the very outset, musical science has had to defend itself from the intrusion of other disciplines and the explanation of music by extra-musical factors. However a proper idea of musical sociology excludes all distortion of the true nature and essential qualities of the art; on the contrary we must emphasize the value of the sociology of music as revealing not only the sociological conditioning of music, but also the ability of music, through its artistic value, to outline the historical-social conditions which influence its creation and diffusion. There can be no doubt that sociological analysis reveals that many musical works have successfully survived the place and time of their composition precisely through artistic and human quality. The second basic obstacle to a fuller inclusion of musical sociology in musicology arises from the fact that the very conception of the sociology of music, of its subject, aim and method, is not yet sufficiently worked out. Justifiable reproaches which may be made to certain sociological approaches to music are abstractness, verbalism and philosophising, whereas the sociology of music is essentially a positive science and as such must be theoretically and methodically worked out so that it may as completely as possible concern itself with the positive analysis of concrete material. The third obstacle is seen in the fact that many musicologists neither in principle nor in theory include musical sociology in the field of musicological research (L. Hibberd, J. Chailley) or, if they admit the importance of the sociological approach, do not accept it as the subject of a special discipline. The problems of sociology of music were first stated by K. Bücher, J. Combarieu, M. Weber, and Ch. Lalo. By being included within musicology and especially within musical history the problems of sociology were gradually differentiated and ripened as a result of musicological discoveries and as a result of the development of sociology itself. Sociological elements can be traced in a number of works (notes 9 to 17) either in general terms for longer or shorter periods, mostly limited to individual countries or in particulars from a limited area. Very few works attempt, either theoretically or through positive research on the material, any initial synthesis or broader approach. Their common aim is mostly to justify the sociology of music as an independent theoretical and practical science. The special characteristic of the sociology of music in comparison with other branches of the sociology of art lies in the problems of the musicaL work of art as an expression of the milieu in which it was created and in which it is reproduced through performance. Its special quality lies in the fact that it must investigate an art which makes use of abstract means of expression. From thence emerges the difficulty of finding the connection between sound and social structures, especially on a deeper level from that which considers only the influence of the social status of the composer and of the immediate social commissioning of a work of art on its character and form. This obstacle must not however influence the establishing of the basic problems of the sociology of music which can be summarised as a programme of research, as follows: the social position of a musician in all its aspects; the effects of this position on the production, performance and diffusion of music; the social role of the musician 122 and his relations with other professions and other social groups; musical professionalism and amateurism; the influence of social life on music and vice-versa in different civilizations, social systems, nations, social classes and layers; the social functions of music and their variations according to social milieux; the musical public : its social formation, degree of cohesion, possible organization, needs, demands and reactions; forms, means, frequency and duration of performance and diffusion of a work in society; relations between folk music and serious music as the expression of different social milieux; musical tendencies, groups and schools in different civilizations, social milieux and nations; on the same level: musical education of amateurs and professionals; asthetic conceptions of music with musicians, aesthetes and philosophers as well as musical taste and evaluation by the public in different civilizations, social systems, nations, social classes and layers. The field of research and the positively scientific character of the problems of musical sociology justify its inclusion within the framework of musicology.


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1. 12. 1966




How to Cite

Supičić, I. (1966). Sociology of Music and Musicology. Musicological Annual, 2(1), 116-123.