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The Prestige Economy of a London Orchestra

Carpos, Francesca; (2017) The Prestige Economy of a London Orchestra. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This study is an insider’s examination into an orchestral world, using the theoretical framework of a prestige economy as a way to understand perceptions of orchestral musicians within their orchestral context. I bridge the theoretical notion of a prestige economy to the empirical research, and examine some of the very complex ways that orchestral musicians strategize in order to gain work. Thus, the theoretical context for this study comprises the orchestra, orchestral musicians, and the theoretical framework of the prestige economy. The focus of the empirical research is a symphony orchestra involving one hundred and twelve musicians. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews in London during the period 2012–2015. The thematic analysis of the data evolved through an inductive series of interchanges between data and existing theory to ‘develop theoretical propositions or explanations out of the data’ (Mason, 1996: 137). In addition, the inductive process through the pilot study actuated triangulation in the main study, bringing into focus not only the views of orchestral musicians but also the orchestral fixers who employ them. Consequently, the building of prestige in this context can be viewed as a socially ordered practice, and therefore I review sociological literature concerned with the process of social construction, encompassing notions of capital and theories of social interaction. At the conclusion of this study the research identifies some arguably contentious aspects, including the notion that the more prestige that is granted, the more it grants. An explanation is that since reciprocity is self-perpetuating, prestige also self-perpetuates through reciprocal interactions through networks. It seems that when prestige is discussed the notion of inequality is generally omitted. Thus, an intended outcome is to draw attention to the vulnerabilities and tensions of a professional orchestral life, by offering a helpful theoretical focus in which to explore ways that musicians perceive their roles and positions in their orchestral community. I argue that the orchestra is a propitious research setting to effectuate the theoretical model of a prestige economy, and suggest that the notion of a prestige economy framework both answers and exposes questions of more than one theoretical gap in the literature. This study not only contributes to the literature regarding the sociology of musicians in the context of their orchestral world, but also to other sociological studies of work and occupations.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Prestige Economy of a London Orchestra
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Prestige, Orchestra, Reputation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10024679
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