Tom Begbie


This thesis examines the usefulness of the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Raymond Williams for discussions of material mediation in musicology. In part I, I focus on Bourdieu's discussions of cultural production as set out in The Rules of Art and "The Field of Cultural Production", and reconstruct the terms of Williams's late theoretical project. In establishing the terms of these projects, I draw a parallel between their attempts to materialize the categories of Marx's superstructure - noting in Williams's subsequent use of a revised Marxist production paradigm a proximity to the work of Adorno - before noting the differences imposed by the pressures and limits of their respective intellectual cultures. The tensions between these two models are therefore identified as the opportunity for dialogue between theoretical traditions. In part 2, these reflections are tested through a discussion of Arvo Pärt's music and the record label Edition of Contemporary Music (ECM). Using data from musical scores, CDs, reviews, critical essays, magazine articles, interviews, and so on, Part's emergent field position in the late 1970s and early 1980s is reconstructed and ECM's function as both institution and artistic formation is argued. These instances of musical practice remain rhetorically committed to the ideals of autonomy while spanning the opposition of autonomy and heteronomy. This ambiguity puts strain on Williams's and Bourdieu's readings of cultural production, allowing for a critical approach to this range of debate. In this sense, the method becomes part of the subject matter, and the discussions combine both theoretical and musical reflection.

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