Music: Auditory Perception and Organized Sound

  • Alexander Styhre


In this chapter, the concept of music will be examined as a social resource that affects perception in both organizations and contemporary and preceding societies. While literature and art has been widely used by social scientists and philosophers to denote abstract concepts and thoughts, music, embedded in the production, manipulation, structuring and organization of sounds, has been comparatively little explored and used in the social theory literature. However, there are examples of thinkers referencing music to render their thoughts intelligible. For instance, Nietzsche (1997: 232) — prior to his ardent critique in Der Fall Wagner — claimed that Richard Wagner ‘philosophized in sound’. Other scholars paying close attention to the social function of significance of music include well-known studies such as Theodore Adorno’s (2003) critical theory view of music — if nothing else, Adorno’s scornful rejection of jazz is a often brought to public attention by his critics — and little referenced and lesser-known projects such as Henri Lefebvre’s (2004) attempt to formulate what he called a rhythmanalysis of everyday life — a methodology emphasizing that day-to-day practices and undertakings follow a certain regularity and pattern similar to the components of music. Nevertheless, music is, as a series of scholars and thinkers have pointed out, both the most abstract and also the most concrete of the arts; music is possible to immediately perceive, yet its meaning and significance are not of necessity given as such.


Musical Instrument Auditory Perception Popular Music Interwar Period Concert Hall 
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© Alexander Styhre 2008

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  • Alexander Styhre

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