Networks of philosophers, networks of composers

Randall Collins (University of Pennsylvania)

Networks are the actors on the stage of intellectual history– this was the program of The Sociology of Philosophies (Collins 1997).  SP found that intergenerational networks of masters and pupils, plus horizontal networks of young compatriots launching their careers, shaped the creativity of philosophers and scientists. Collins’ current project applies similar methods to musical composers in Europe from 1600 to 1930. Creative eminence clusters both across generations and in contemporary alliances and rivalries. Shifts in material and organizational bases re-organize the networks and generate new styles: for philosophers, these are the rise and fall of religions, schools and universities. For composers, shifts among church careers, elite patronage, commercial performances, and publishing music for amateurs; for the most modern developments, the rise of music academies. In the natural sciences, networks of laboratory equipment became cyborg genealogies (one research tool becoming modified or recombined with another), fostering the careers of the humans who interpreted their products. In music, genealogies of instruments became a cyborg network of instrument makers and composers that move the center of creativity and fame.