This page contains further analyses of the case study discussed in Chapter III

One of the major points of this chapter, as indicated in its title "The voice of the choir, the voices in the choir," is that the choir as choir, that is as successful instance of "choir" is not directly dependent on the ability of any of its participants to sing particularly well, or even, as in the case analyzed to sing at all.

This is an old analytic scandal first developed theoretically by Emile Durkheim when he wrote about "social fact" and "collective conscience."

It is a powerful distinction that is essential to the construction of analysis of social scenes that

  1. theoretically: preserves the agency of persons within the scene, that is their demonstratable ability to perform something that is part of the canonical repertory of moves within the scenes whether intentionally or not, whether they are ready to pay the price such unconventional moves may require.
  2. pragmatically in the context of educational controversies in the United States: allows for a systematic distinction of measurable knowledge (talent, drive, etc.) attributable to an individual from functioning in a social scene where (lack of) knowledge may not be consequential.

It is our contention that performance in school can be "successful" (in that it does not break the routine of the school) even if it is "not successful" as routinely identified by the school. Indeed a successful school (i.e. a school that is not noticeable within the world of American schools) might require that some individuals "fail" (indeed on can argue that "50%" of all individuals must fail by falling "below the average"). In this sense (individual) "failure" is part of (a school's) "success."

On the same vain, choirs may appear to require that all participants (know how to) sing. In fact this is not the case. Participants who "cannot sing" may be asked to "mouth" the songs but not actually sing.

In other cases, as in the one we studied, the ignorance of some members is handled routinely. The evidence consists

  1. in the fact that the song was performed without interruption. On listening to the singing only, one cannot hear any variation in the behavior of the participants, except those related to the singing (listen to the sound clip)
  2. one person can be seen repeatedly to stop singing as she looses her place on the music sheets.
  3. another person provides necessary information, again without breaking the flow of the song.
The process of loosing place and being shown where to go is repeated four times:
3.4 Asking for information (first occurence) 138
3.5 Asking for information (second occurence) 139
3.6 Giving information (first occurence) 139
3.7 Giving information (second occurence) 139