Multiple hierarchies as change-innovation strategy

Ambivalence as policy framing at the New World Symphony

Authored by: Patrick Schmidt

The Routledge Handbook to Sociology of Music Education

Print publication date:  March  2021
Online publication date:  March  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138586369
eBook ISBN: 9780429504631
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores sociological constructs as applied to the analysis of the social space of one orchestral institution in the United States. My work within the New World Symphony, a unique orchestral environment in the United States, makes the case for how ambivalence, as a representation ‘of a range of differences … informing discursive and political practices of cultural hierarchization’ (Bhabha 1994, p. 34), places institutional and individual actions as a process of subjectification in constant dispute, rather than a harmonious process of self-reinforcement and reification. The chapter articulates how this orchestral environ is hybrid, changing, and an unevenly structured social space, not averse to change but rather one allowing for internal flux. The chapter uses a contemporary take on sociological conflict theory to suggest that central questions informing research in higher music education and/or orchestral institutions might move away from why hierarchy remains, rather focussing on the ways in which multiple and contending hierarchical values can and do function within such communities; and if, by producing multiple 'repertoires of positions of power and resistance' hierarchies can play a role in democratizing the social space. In other words, are scholastic invectives aiming to flatten cultural/educational structures such as orchestras still productive? Might it be possible to critically consider the complex changes such spaces are undergoing, and place greater investigative care on how multiple and contending hierarchical environs are able to provide democratising opportunities?

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