A team of sociologists has completed a study based on the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives that provides a new understanding of the cultural dynamics of Gilded Age society.
Headed by Fabien Accominotti of the London School of Economics and Shamus Khan of Columbia University, the study shows that in the late 19th century, Philharmonic audiences became more socioeconomically diverse than was previously thought. However, they remained segregated, with the elite sitting apart from middle class audience members. This reveals how in American society “elite cultural behaviors became a source of status by remaining distinctive while also acquiring currency with other social groups,” says Accominotti.
The team came to this conclusion by developing an online Philharmonic subscriber database — containing the names, addresses, and seat locations of Philharmonic subscribers dating back to the 19th century — using the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives.
The article, “How Cultural Capital Emerged in Gilded Age America: Musical Purification and Cross-Class Inclusion at the New York Philharmonic,” was published in the American Journal of Sociology 123, no. 6 (May 2018): 1743–1783. The study was funded in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Hear more about this fascinating project on the podcast Especially Big Data.