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When music makes a difference – Gender and Genre Practice in Interplay

Research project

Short description

Dissertation by Carina Borgström-Källén, 2014.
The specific aim of the thesis is to highlight and problematise how gender in interplay with practice of genre is expressed and constructed in musical action. Carina Borgström-Källén discusses the interplay between gender and genre practice in conjunction with music education based on the empirical findings from eight ensemble groups in Swedish upper secondary arts programmes.

The study has a gender theoretical framework based on social constructionist and poststructuralist perspectives. The thesis deploys an ethnographic methodology and approach, and data from 71 participants, aged 16 to 19, was produced within a period of one year through participant observations and interviews. Deconstruction is used in parts of the field notes and interviews, the intention of which is to offer a second opinion and deepen the analysis.

The results show that construction of gender in musical actions is salient in almost every situation where the participants make music together, but that it is performed in different ways depending on genre practice. The results also indicate that the informants, who all had music as their main subject, put gender at stake when it comes to relations of production, power and symbols. Furthermore, the choices the pupils were enabled to make in terms of educational content in their musical learning appear to contribute to a restricted acting space, since their choices are strictly gendered.

The results also imply that norms of quality in genre discourses are closely tied to positions of gender, and that knowledge and cultural capital reduce the restricting effects of the heterosexual matrix. Findings suggest that teachers’ intentions towards informal learning settings seem to gender the conditions for musical learning, especially in popular music practice. Finally, the results show that genre practice that includes music unfamiliar to the pupils is least restricted by gender.

Carina Borgström-Källén publicly defended her thesis in Arts Education on 23 May 2014 at the Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg.