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Title: Music, people and place : entering and negotiating listening communities
Author: Dearn, Lucy K.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6347 8087
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2017
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Within the field of audience studies it has been acknowledged that audience experience is altered by the presence of other listeners (Pitts 2005) and this can form audience communities (Pitts & Spencer 2008; Benzecry 2009, 2011). However, the notion of audience community is not fully accepted, with Phillip Auslander suggesting live audiences partake in no more than ‘common consumption’ (2008: 64). Previous authors have called for more understanding of classical music communities and how effectively a newcomer may integrate with them (Pitts & Spencer 2008: 237). Currently, there has been little research investigating the nature of listening communities formed around a concert series and particularly from its origins in a new venue. Through the findings of two case studies, this thesis explores the formation of a community within a concert audience at new venue in Doncaster and investigates the experiences of attenders under the age of 25, underrepresented in the regular makeup of classical music audiences in Sheffield. These two case studies build up an understanding of the different perspectives and needs of regular and new audiences for live chamber music. Also investigated through both case studies are the relationships between audience member and performance space. Moreover, the thesis considers how cultural buildings, in this case concert halls, may influence the way in which people feel about the place they live. Central to all the research questions in this thesis is an interrogation of the current methodological toolkit used to understand audience experience, and the research includes a trial of new visual methodologies that aim to increase understanding of both regular and new audiences’ experiences. The core audience for classical music concert series show their support by being loyal to the arts organisation that provides the series, to the resident musicians and by showing knowledge of the art form and of the concert culture at a particular venue (Pitts & Spencer 2008). In my first case study, I am interested in placing the ‘aficionados’ of such an audience community into a populist sphere by analysing their behaviours in line with popular culture and viewing them as ‘fans’. By understanding classical music audiences in this way, comparisons can be made with other musical communities in popular culture, which becomes particularly interesting when considering people that are choosing not to associate with this community. The critical lens of popular fan culture is used in this thesis to explore the inner workings of a classical music listening community and the fan-like behaviours the aficionados often perform. Conversely, by understanding a classical music audience as a working ‘listening community’, I question what impact their ‘fan’ behaviours may have for those demographic groups that are underrepresented in the regular audience. For my second case study, the particular group chosen is younger people under the age of 25 (referred to as U25s), who are typically far away from this culture in their musical tastes and experiences but who often have a strong musical identity themselves. Through arts-informed research methods, this case study investigates the views of U25s who have differing levels of musical and cultural knowledge but do not regularly attend classical concerts. I am interested in the perceptions these U25s have about classical music concert culture and the pre-existing community of listeners and when exposed to the culture of classical concert going, how well they can integrate. With increasing cuts to funding in the arts it is possible that arts organisations will become more reliant upon private donations and the financial security of its core ‘fan’ base, so a greater understanding of these people and their relationship with concert culture is important. In contrast, with a large demographic group currently absent from regular audiences, it is also necessary to consider how the relevance of classical music may be grown for younger people and the live presentation of this art form preserved. In order to most accurately answer both of these audience development questions, the best possible understanding of audience experience is necessary through the application of new methods to this enquiry.
Supervisor: Pitts, Stephanie E. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available