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What Is Sociology of Music?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 23, 2024
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The sociology of music is the study of how both people and music impact one another. It includes a range of ideas about how changing societal values and circumstances can reflect in the popular music of a given culture or sub-culture. These sociology studies often examine how and why certain cultural groups identify strongly with a specific genre of music. Studying the field of sociology often involves tracing the causes of common human behavior, and the sociology of music is one such specialty area. Scholars who focus on this area attempt to find definite answers about why people have positive reactions to music and why they continue to listen to their favorite types of it.

Qualifications for a sociology career include abilities to research different topics in depth and to look for answers beyond obvious surface appearances. Studying the sociology of music usually involves studying the established institutions that use music for specific purposes. Religious organizations often use music as part of their worship practices. National governments sometimes use music to stir feelings of patriotism in citizens. Scholars who investigate these varied uses of music frequently try to pinpoint a common thread in music that allows it to capture listeners' interest for these different purposes.

Studying the sociology of music may be a requirement for a sociology degree with an emphasis on cultural studies. A common belief among sociologists is that people who favor a certain kind of music can not be examined separately from the society in which they live. That society's values, beliefs, and practices all have an influence on whether its denizens place a high degree of value on one type of music over another. Despite varying cultural values, many sociologists agree that music serves as a common means of communication on a certain level. Music also has a definitive place in entertainment among several different cultures.

The sociology of music can also highlight the effects that certain sound patterns have on the mental and emotional states of people from various cultural backgrounds. Sociologists who are able to draw conclusions from these case studies usually have a working knowledge of how rhythms, melodies, and harmonies are arranged. They may also research how certain pieces of music take on their own meanings. A frequent debate in the field is whether music has inherent meaning or if it needs captive listeners to assign that meaning to it.

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