On Our Taste in Music and Sociological Explanations with Michael Walsh

Dr Michael Walsh, Sociologist at the University of Canberra

Dr Michael Walsh is a sociologist at the University of Canberra. I asked Michael how sociology explains our musical preferences, what our preferences say about us, and about the future of music in a market-driven, high-tech world.

Michael mentions two sociological greats who have waded in on the discussion of music in society, Max Weber and Theodor Adorno

When it comes to sociological explanations of music in society, I was curious about the following:
  • What is sociology? What does it mean to be a sociologist? How does music fit in with sociology? Is there such a thing as “Sociomusicology” and what is it?
  • What did Max Weber have to do with the "Sociology of Music"?
  • Pierre Bourdieu argued, “nothing more clearly affirms ones ‘class,’ nothing more infallibly classifies, than tastes in music”. Bourdieu was like an individual publishing machine. Can we trust his judgement or is it true? I like Rose Tattoo and AC/DC, but I love John Adams, Mahler, and Brahms, not to mention Woody Allen soundtracks and Bob Dylan. Does that all mean I am a cashed-up booner?
  • Why did you get into the sociology of music, and what music do you like and why? Do you see yourself enjoying the music you like on the basis of the European critical theory, or is it based on rational choice theory? And if someone listens to Katy Perry, are they an economist’s persona waiting to buy the next contrived musician? Or is that just my new-found class status speaking?
The curly questions about European critical theory and rational choice theory and how these relate to music were ring-ins. In my Google searching (not research) about the sociology of music, I found these two terms and just threw them into the interview. Michael took this in his stride.