The sound of social

Opening bridges between musical cultures, but also disciplines, an ambitious reflection from D.-C. Martin on the relationships between music and societies.

More than music is a voluminous collection of articles written between 1990 and 2020 by Denis-Constant Martin, anthropologist, research director at the National Political Science Foundation. After an unpublished introductory essay which presents itself as a form of manifesto for the study of popular music (that's the music! study “popular” music), a first collection of articles approaches and methods brings together theoretical texts devoted to the challenge of studying music by bringing together musicology and social sciences. The second part focuses on the notion of crolization and its policy from different areas. Finally, the third part brings together case studies of various cultures and musical genres and takes us on a journey from Jamaica to Cape Town via Trinidad and Tobago. Behind this empirical depth lies an enthusiastic plea for a multidisciplinary study of music.

Ethnomusicology as a method

One of the red threads of More than music is undoubtedly ethnomusicology to which the first part of the work is directly devoted. The way in which Martin envisions it goes far beyond the old clichés of the ethnomusicologist, recorder in hand and pith helmet on his head, traveling the world to preserve the musical culture of the others, unworthy or savage. On the contrary, Martin presents it less as a discipline than a methodological proposition serving a sociology of music.

The main challenge of this method is the modalities of the articulation of its two components: ethno And musicology. Martin returns to the numerous debates which have affected the discipline between proponents of ETHNOmusicology and those of ethnoMUSICOLOGY (p. 55): John Blacking for whom the situation took priority over musical analysis or Jean-Jacques Nattiez who, on the contrary, maintains that all aspects of music cannot be entirely explained by culture. How to develop a musicology relevant to the study of popular music? Or, conversely, think about the place of aesthetic forms in an anthropological or sociological approach? Martin pleads for dialogue. You have to know how to dance on both feet. In the same gesture, he positions the ethnomusicological method through its dual heritage as the horizon of this dialogue which he hopes will finally calm down between social sciences and musicology.

Martin's merit is to put to the test, where supported, his calls for disciplinary ecumism. Throughout the book, the variety of materials used demonstrates not only the richness of doing the sociology or anthropology of music, but perhaps above all the diversity of the means of carrying out this project. While touring the world, Martin successively draws on urban history, the study of migrations or political behavior and analyzes video clips, repertoires or even figures of musical culture (the Blackface Minstrels return, for example, in several chapters ). Amidst this, Martin pays particular attention to the materialities of musical cultures. I am thinking in particular of a wonderful passage on the emergence of the banjo, a Creole instrument almost par excellence whose origin is itself mysterious and controversial (p. 235 et seq.). We then understand how repertoires, sounds and playing techniques emerge from this instrument.

Ethnography, writes the author on p. 51, must result in showing music as a social process based on detailed observations for which anthropology provides the methods. In a certain way, Martin opens avenues for considering the way in which ethnography can itself be a form of musical analysis. Throughout the chapters, he tinkers and adjusts his tools to the questions that concern him. In this way, following a musical practice is not only analyzing a social process, but it is also having a claim to understanding the emergence, the tests, the hesitations, the practices of music in the process of being made.

Crolization (and globalization) as a laboratory for the study of popular music

The second striking point of the book is the diversity of its grounds. If we have to give a framework to Martin's remarks, it is certainly this one. Each chapter shows a stage in the journey of a researcher and, with him, his laboratories. Certain themes such as circulation, culture, encounter, but also appropriation, colonization and slavery are omnipresent. This is indeed one of these questions and major planetary system (p. 494) that Martin reflects. The dialogue between social sciences and musicologies then takes another turn. How can categories that are too rigid account for this world made of movements?? How to establish formal criteria for musical genres that are always reinventing themselves? How to follow these circulations without ignoring the multiple mediations which participate in transporting these musics and their hybridization? It is these aspects of the popular, Creole, ambiguous terrain that nourish the methodological reflection of the work.

this title, More than music think carefully about music through its circulation. In this, the work echoes different works which both in anthropology and sociology have reflected on all the limits and difficulties that exist in linking too closely the relationship between a territory, an identity and a musical form. However, Martin does not only have an optimistic vision of this circulation. He questions his policy and those of meanings and resignifications (p. 107) what product. Whether in the colonial heritage of Cape Town, the political landscape of Jamaica or the relations between the diasporas in Trinidad and Tobago, the book examines musical practices in the light of the heavy history of slavery, of its sometimes unexpected exchanges, but above all of his dominions. From this point of view, it can be read as an invitation to reconsider popular music through the prism of post-colonialism by articulating the relationship between crossbreeding and innovation (p. 220).

Redoing the sociology of music

Beyond these contributions on the concept of crolization, the work provides what could be the path to a sociology of music. From the first chapter, Martin seeks to redo a history of the discipline in order to outline the contours of what the project could be. From Max Weber Theodor Adorno passing more recently by Antoine Hennion, he proposes to replace the unequivocal determinism (p. 77), a more flexible relationship between music and society: There is no automatic equivalence between a musical symbol and an extramusical phenomenon (p. 59).

The sociology of music must be interested, on the one hand, in the means that a society uses to “make music” and in the functions it occupies there, placing it within the framework of all social activities (Lortat-Jacob, 1977: 93), on the other apart from what musical phenomena are likely to teach us about the organization and functioning of society, the place and the part that the members of the group considered take in it. (p.78)

The title of the book also takes into account a formula from Gilbert Rouget music is always much more than music… to defend his understanding as a total social fact (p. 78). In music, there would therefore be something else to find: social, political. Like others before him, Martin nevertheless highlights the difficulty of interpreting musical materials. The challenge of grasping this music-society dialectic justifies the definition he gives of ethnomusicology and the methodological means it gives it: a complementarity between the study of music and that of societies, sometimes at the risk of disappointing, as when after long pages browsing the music repertoire of the world, Martin concludes: the musicological analysis clarifies and confirms the diagnosis that the sociological approach had advanced (p. 493).

It is perhaps here that the music(s)-society(ies) dichotomy never really explained and at least always considered as a priori becomes cumbersome. Does it not create problems which, to be resolved, require many compromises to reconnect together what we have taken so much care to distinguish?? We can then wonder if ethnography, ethnomusicology, fieldwork and all the methods that Martin defends cannot precisely outline a sociology of music whose modalities would above all not prejudge what concerns the social or the musical, but on the contrary to account for ways of making music as so many practices that bring worlds into being with them. The music would be more, not because there is something else in it, but rather because it is more, and from it multiple associations unfold. The challenge would be to make even more room for the depth of what is happening. Moreover, if the book demonstrates an immense musical culture and a keen knowledge of the areas considered, we only rarely see music in action to borrow an expression from Tia DeNora. But here is the greatest merit of this book: opening a space for discussion for debates which, without being completely new, allow us to (re)do the sociology of music or, one could even say, from music.