The composer as aesthetic agent: Paul Hindemith in Germany
School of Music Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John's, Canada
Recent scholarship within the sociology of art and the sociology of music specifically, has focused on reflexive projects of the self. This paper seeks to extend this inquiry through a consideration of music creation (composing) as integral to such projects - how composers are aesthetic agents. Bull, in his article "No Dead Air! The iPod and the Culture of Mobile Listening" explores how music consumers use "privatized and mediated sound reproduction" to mediate the self and the world through individually created soundworlds (2005, p. 347). Denora in Music in everyday life (2000) argues the - ostensibly "private" sphere of music use is part and parcel of the cultural constitution of subjectivity, part of how individuals are involved in constituting themselves as social agents' and how "private music consumption" informs debates around aesthetic reflexivity (pp. 47-48). This paper explores the use of music in reflexive projects of the self but redresses an imbalance inherent in the literature placed on music consumption. Here I consider the centrality of composing, traditionally defined, in aesthetic reflexivity as individuals engage in self reflexive projects not just through musical consumption and appropriation but through musical creation.
Drawing upon recent literature in the sociology of music as well as theoretical work on the self and aesthetic reflexivity (Beck et al.1994 - Reflexive modernization; Giddens 1991 - Modernity and self-identity; Lash and Urry 1994 - Economies of signs and spaces) this paper contextualises the work of composer Paul Hindemith from the early Weimar Republic through to his emigration from Nazi Germany in 1938. Using Hindemith's letters, artifacts of his contemporaneous reception and his aesthetic products - both what he composed and what he chose not to compose - the creation of music is seen as the active ingredient in his reflexive project of self. Hindemith's musical activity is that of an individual framing his past, living his present and constructing his future through the creation of aesthetic products; an aesthetic agent living through music.