Innovation and Selection: Symphony Orchestras and the Construction of the Musical Canon in the United States (1879-1959)


Social Forces

March 2010, vol. 88, n°3, pp.1051-1082

Departments: Strategy & Business Policy

This article analyzes the determinants of innovation and success of innovation in the field of U.S. symphony orchestras from 1879 through 1959: why did major orchestras (N = 27) innovate by introducing works of new composers to the repertoire instead of sticking to canonical pieces? Can organizational processes account for the selection and the popularization of new composers in the repertoire? By integrating field theory and organizational theory, this analysis shows that orchestra and musical director consecration and local elite cohesiveness favored innovative programming. Composers introduced by consecrated actors and entering the repertoire at a time of low competition with established composers and high field-level innovation were more likely to survive in the repertoire and have their works performed frequently. These effects became magnified throughout composers' careers. SYMPHONY orchestras, CONCERTS, CANON (Art), COMPOSERS, MUSIC -- 20th century, UNITED States -- Intellectual life -- 20th century