Regarding music as a total social phenomenon, not just as an audible result, this thesis analyzes from a sociological perspective the functions of music in those societies where mass communication is dominant. Musical material, musical work, and musical conscience are the core concepts in this thesis. The analysis applies them to explore the main dimension of musical life too.
Although it takes into account the musical life in premodern societies, the thesis focuses particularly on late modern societies. In this context, it explores the social processes that contributed to the unprecedented phenomena in the musical life of the developed urban society during the twentieth century. It analyzes also those conditions that advanced the construction of the modern mass (i.e., impersonal) musical culture and the specific relation between music as a particular form of art and the mass communication system.
The Introduction of the thesis discusses the main methodological issues of the analysis. The first chapter examines the concept of musical material from a sociological point of view and explores some of the social functions of music in preindustrial societies.
The second chapter interprets the musical material in its relation with the social action. In this context, it approaches the musical material as a conventional, symbolic system - the material object of the musical creative action and at the same time a medium for the communication through music to occur. The method applied is grounded on the basic assumption that communication is an intrinsic attribute of human activity in general.
The third chapter analyzes the notion musical work. This chapter discusses also the functions of the musical work in the context of the musical life. Analyzing the various forms of existence of this specific type of artwork and their development, this chapter explores the deeper social changes that advanced the specific structure of the musical life in the developed urban societies and ultimately their specific cultural features. Finally, a pluralistic notion about the term musical work is suggested, in accordance with the historical development of the cultural "polycentrism".
The fourth chapter examines the basic components of the modern musical life. It analyzes the segregation of the musical communication as an autonomous form of social action, as well as the structural changes of the musical life in modern societies that advanced the emergence of the mass musical culture and its peculiar relation with the mass communication.
The fifth chapter discusses certain unprecedented phenomena of the musical culture, observed by the end of the twentieth century. In this respect, it analyzes the historical and cultural nature of value systems and their relation with the social and cultural dynamics. This chapter gives emphasis to the social character of the aesthetic preferences, the codes, and the patterns specific to music as social action.
Finally, the conclusions summarize the main arguments of the analysis and describe the specific point of view from which music - both as a specific form of communication and social action - may be conceived of and explored as a form of expression and communication and at the same time as a constitutive, basic, and structural component of the modern society.