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Production, convention and power : Constructing the sound of an Early Music orchestra - P. François

Pierre François
CNRS, Centre de socilologie des organisations (CSO-FNSP/CNRS), 19, rue d’Amelie, 75007 Paris, France

Available online 24 October 2005 on ScienceDirect
doi:10.1016/j.soctra.2005.08.002

Abstract
By explaining how an Early Music orchestra produces its sound, we can review Howard Becker’s concept of a convention. An orchestra’s sound depends on principles incorporated in things (musical instruments, scores) and bodies (musicians’ techniques). A common set of principles about interpreting a piece of music — principles acquired well before any rehearsal — do not suffice for coordinating a group of musicians. As observations have shown, face-to-face interactions are decisive in this coordination. The conductor is not omniscient and does not impose his interpretation on musicians. Relations based on authority, being unstable, are redistributed among the conductor, soloist and first violin during rehearsals. Recognizing the importance of face-to-face interactions draws attention to the cogency of power relations, which, though omnipresent, are constantly reworked in the situation for producing an orchestra’s sound.

Keywords
Music ; Production ; Power ; Convention ; Orchestra ; Early Music ; France

Article Outline

  • 1. The convention : Prior to the production process
    • 1.1. Changing instruments, musicians’ tools
    • 1.2. New body techniques : Questions and controversies
    • 1.3. The written source and its realization in sound
  • 2. Producing a collective sound : Coordinating, negotiating and reinstituting the convention
    • 2.1. Coordinating individual actions
    • 2.2. Delegating authority and external coordination
    • 2.3. Internal coordination ?
    • 2.4. Bypassing the conductor
  • 3. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 47, Supplement 1, December 2005, Pages e57–e70
Translation by Noal Mellott