Songs in the key of life : the Musical habitus and young people's community music participation
Community arts initiatives have risen quickly up the agendas of policymakers and local authorities alike in recent years. In particular, low-cost and flexible community arts projects have increasingly been framed as an effective means of combating social exclusion and contributing to neighbourhood renewal. Yet at a time when the community arts movement is benefiting from unprecedented levels of funding and rhetorical backing, the need to resolve complex questions surrounding eYaluation, outcomes and conflicting agendas persists. Focussing upon the community music participation of 'young people living in areas of social and economic need who might otherwise lack opportunity' (Youth Music 2006), this thesis seeks to make a key contribution in the developing academic study of community arts activities. The study draws upon and adapts the work of Pierre Bourdieu in proposing a theory of musical habitus. This theory recognises the significantly socially structured and structuring elements of actors' habitus and the implications of their correspondingly varied valuations at the level of musical meaning. On the basis of an appreciation of actors' musical habitus, the degree to which specific forms of community music participation initially appeal to and sustain the interest of young people is portrayed as responding to patterns of a quasipredictable yet at the same time indeterminate nature. The theory of musical habitus seeks to be of heuristic value to those hoping to comprehend the outcomes of community music participation and respond to calls for the community arts to 'identify best practice [and] understand processes and the type of provision best suited to achieve particular outcomes' (Coalter 1991). The study was undertaken in collaboration with the Learning and Participation Department of The Sage Gateshead. Taking four cases studies, the methodological approach was participatory and ethnographic and the data collection methods employed included participant observation, informal group discussion and semistructured interviews.