Musicking to Music Worlds: On Christopher Small’s Important Innovation
Abstract: In this article, I discuss Christopher Small’s concept of “musicking.” Music is not an object or “thing,” according to Small, but rather an activity. I outline his argument, consider some of its applications and developments, and suggest further developments of my own. Conceptualizing music as an activity in which people participate affords a new and interesting perspective on its effects; this has been explored in a number of fields of study, including music therapy and research on its uses in both religion and social movements. In addition, as these examples suggest, it renders visible the connections between music and other domains of activity (e.g., economics and politics), enabling analysis of this intersection and thereby attracting the interest of writers from a variety of social sciences. My own developments focus chiefly on the phenomena of embodiment and networks. Small discusses embodiment but suggests no means of empirically capturing its involvement and importance. I suggest that Marcel Mauss’s concept of “body techniques” fills this gap. Likewise, Small emphasizes the importance of “relations” within musicking. I suggest that this idea might be developed through a consideration of social networks and the techniques of social network analysis, and I combine this with a discussion of my own conception of “music worlds.” This concept, building upon the work of Howard Becker, provides a way of capturing the differentiation of musicking along such lines as style and location.
How to cite this article: Crossley, Nick. 2022. “Musicking to Music Worlds: On Christopher Small’s Important Innovation.” Music Research Annual 3: 1–24. https://doi.org/10.48336/zz8d-hj52
About the author: Nick Crossley is a professor of sociology and co-founder and co-director of the Mitchell Centre for Social Network Analysis at the University of Manchester, UK. He has published widely in music sociology, including two books—Networks of Sound, Style and Subversion: The Punk and Post-Punk Worlds of Manchester, London, Liverpool and Sheffield, 1975–80 (2015), which seeks to explain how and why UK punk first emerged when and where it did and how it quickly morphed into post-punk in some places, and Connecting Sounds: The Social Life of Music (2020), a theoretically focused book that argues for and outlines a relational approach to music sociology. Both of these books build on his earlier work, particularly his book Towards Relational Sociology (2011). He is currently exploring the possibility of representing and analyzing music worlds as networks of events (including but not exclusively gigs and festivals) linked by the flow of participants (artists, audiences, and support personnel) and the resources transferred among them. He and Paul Widdop are editing a collection of papers on “cultural networks” and the use of social network analysis to investigate cultural life.