Keynote: Anna Bull

Class, control, and classical music: Reckoning with the socio-cultural legacies of classical music education

This talk draws on my book Class, Control, and Classical Music to theorise the link between classical music as a genre and the social groups that produce and consume it. This link is theorised using Stuart Hall’s idea of an ‘articulation’ or a contingent connection between music and the social. This theorisation allows the ‘social aesthetic’ of classical music to become visible, i.e. the role of aesthetic ideals in shaping social practices. Focusing on classical music education in the UK to exemplify these ideas, the talk outlines some of the ways in which the valued identities associated with classical music – in particular whiteness and class privilege – are shored up as part of its ‘hidden curriculum’. In this way, the legacies of classical music education institutions in Britain – in particular the socio-cultural norms and practices of authority, control, and gendered power that they reproduce – are made visible, and can in turn become more open to contestation and reform.