Isobel Gibbin (UCL) - 2016-17 Students

A value-chain ethnography of classical music performance in London

The central question of this study is: ‘How is value conceived and modulated through the classical music performance industry?’ Here I wish to highlight the pivotal, and hitherto neglected, role that anthropology has to play in enlivening and expanding the debates surrounding musical value. I propose an ethnographic study which follows the value-status of music in its various iterations through the production and consumption chain of London’s classical performance industry, taking prominent concert halls as the primary locus of meaningful production. In so doing I hope to illuminate both the commensurabilities and the tensions between various disciplinary conceptions of value. The classical music genre proves a particularly fruitful point of analysis in this respect because its performance value is derived, in great part, from its alleged primordiality, its deep roots in that which we hold to be traditional, authentic, and hence priceless. Indeed, the lively paradox between economic value and that which we consider invaluable is what continues to fuel this debate, and sustain its relevance to a world in which the march of commodification seems limitless.

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