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Article in the peer-reviewed journal:
Musicology, 10-11/1998, pp. 148-157
Athens: Nissos Publications
ISSN 1012-0203



Kurt Blaukopf provides a methodological synthesis in his book Musical Life In A Changing Society: Aspects Of Musical Sociology (Musik im Wandel der Gesellschaft), in order to approach music and its changes from a sociological point of view. Max Weber's method, as well as the method founded by K. Marx and F. Engels and elaborated by Antonio Labriola in his theory of factors, are basic elements of Blaukopf's synthesis. A fundamental methodological thesis of Blaukopf is that starting-point for an approach of music should be musical action itself and not any preformulated concepts.

Blaukopf defines musical action in a Weberian sense. Nevertheless, he restricts the specific sociological nominalism and the elements of neokantianism that reside in Weber's method. This restriction results from the thesis that determinations of musical behaviour are possible to be found and therefore causal relations may be searched for in this section of social reality. Besides, studying musical action itself ensures a severe restriction of any arbitrariness implicit in an approach based on ideal types.

There are two main reasons for which the concept of mutation, used by Blaukopf to underline discontinuity in the evolution of musical behaviour, seems rather inappropriate. First, the contents that is seeked to be defined is already designated by the term "qualitative leap" that seems more appropriate to use in social sciences. Second, the term "mutation" is loaded with connotations of early positivism and may be misinterpreted.

A couple of very important elements may be pointed out in Blaukopf's synthesis:

  1. First, any reductionism (economic, technological, etc.) is excluded by applying a dialectical approach of social reality using the theory of factors.
  2. Second, Blaukopf does not pursue the construction of a total teleological concept on music and its changes that would neglect the particularities of different musical cultures.

Especially the latter element seems to be of utmost importance in terms of the contemporary cultural condition.