A couple of days ago after class, I was sitting in my office talking with a student about potential career opportunities. As we finished our talk, the student looked around the office, and noted, “You must really like music a lot.” I confirmed the student’s interpretation, and we chatted for a moment about the records on my office wall and the guitar sitting between the file cabinet and bookshelves on another wall. After the student left, I began thinking about the observation, and the ways that I surround myself with musical symbols.
I originally stumbled into Interactionism due to my interest in symbols, and the dramaturgical efforts people engage in to signify who they believe themselves to be and what they feel is important in their lives. As I looked around my office that day, I realized I had (consciously or otherwise, I’m not sure) done a rather nice job of signifying my musical interests while decorating the space. Whether I looked at the framed 7 inch records on one wall I’ve picked up in various cities I visited for academic conferences, the artist certification plaques on another wall that celebrate achievements of artists I enjoy, the guitar I wrote about in the last post, or the album artwork and concert memorabilia adorning other walls in the office, my office feels like a kind of shrine to music at times.
My office, however, has nothing on my home. Visitors have often noted that my home kind of looks like a record store on the inside. There are framed vinyl album covers on every wall (different artists on each wall, situated together and formed into shapes I like) spanning genres including but not limited to hip hop, country, Americana, rock n roll, heavy metal, bluegrass, grunge, experimental, and piano pop. There are guitars in each room (a bass, an electric, and an acoustic) as well as drumsticks, capos, and slides littered about. There are books about music alongside vinyl and compact disc box sets on the bookshelves and in other nooks throughout the place. There are also countless band t-shirts in the closet if one takes a moment to look for some reason, and even a couple of different stereos so I can blast music throughout the space. While I picked these decorations (some that I found and others that were meaningful gifts from important people in my life) because they make me feel comfortable at home and in my office, they also signify the role of music in my overall life as well as my taste in different types of music.
Interactionists have long discussed the ways people use objects to signify selfhood, and some scholars have even investigated the meanings people attach to specific objects and styles associated with various music subcultures (see this piece by William Ryan Force for an example of such an analysis in relation to punk music). Like me, many people surround themselves with symbols that speak to musical tastes, inclinations, passions, and interests, which bring them comfort or other positive feelings while also (intentionally or otherwise) sending messages to others about who they are. This observation leads me to wonder about the myriad of ways people do such dramaturgical work in relation to music. How do you adorn your body and space with musical symbols, and what do these symbols say about who you wish to be? What do you think others gather from these symbols?