Amateur music-making as intersubjective discourse in folk clubs in the English Midlands.

Wilby, Peter James (2013) Amateur music-making as intersubjective discourse in folk clubs in the English Midlands. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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The purpose of my research is to investigate music-making as discursive practice, focusing on amateur musicians in English folk clubs. This is intended to support my thesis that music-making can be usefully characterised as intersubjective practice, whereby musicians and participants acquire and reaffirm a sense of social and communal identity through involvement and interaction within the symbolic world of the music event.

My objective is to contribute towards popular music scholarship by focusing on music-making at a grass-roots level and showing the value of analysing this seemingly peripheral domain in enhancing our understanding of popular music culture. By using Christopher Small’s (1998a, 1998b) concept of ‘musicking’ as a central reference point, my analysis is based on a methodological framework of symbolic interactionism, drawing on the works of Harold Garfinkel (1967) and Erving Goffman (1959, 1961b, 1963), to map out a series of object-signs as constituent elements of the intersubjective domain of the folk club. By applying this approach to case study analyses, interview responses and direct observation, this study reveals the internal relations and dynamics of signification and identification that gave shape to amateur musicmaking as discourse. This is complemented by recognition of external discursive frameworks – professionalism, popularism, regulation and the institutionalised English ‘folk scene’ – and their role in defining the cultural experience of sharing music in folk clubs. In this way, my thesis demonstrates the capacity of object-sign analysis to provide a more rigorous characterisation of amateur music discourse than one based solely on ethnographic description and interpretation.

The outcome of this research is a detailed perspective of ‘musicking’ as an experiential and cultural activity. It shows how amateur musicians and participants become subsumed within the discursive domain of folk clubs through sharing and recognising meanings invoked in musical (and social) performance. I conclude that the benefits of ‘musicking’ as a concept have not been sufficiently realised in popular music studies and that my research opens up possibilities for new and significant insights through its focus on intersubjective engagement with music as a focus for cultural practice and identity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Date: 4 July 2013
Uncontrolled Keywords: Folk music, England, History and criticism
Subjects: P300 Media studies
P900 Others in Mass Communications and Documentation
W300 Music
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Media and English > Birmingham School of Media > Centre for Media and Cultural Research
REF UoA Output Collections > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2017 09:10
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2017 09:10

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