You might be forgiven for thinking that the UK was unusually highbrow in its tastes during late 2010. At least that is what you might have discovered if you were to have conducted some research on musical taste during that period. The level of enthusiasm for Wagner would have no doubt come as something of a surprise.
This apparent highbrow interest would not though have been the product of a resurgent interest in one of Adorno’s least favourite composers; it would instead have been the result of a large-scale engagement with the television singing competition The X Factor.
Millions of viewers of this show tuned in to watch comedic performances by a Brazilian-born contestant named Wagner. Presenters on the national radio station BBC Radio 5 Live spotted an opportunity for a lay experiment in the cultural capital of people on the street. They asked simply what was thought of Wagner. The measure of cultural capital arose from which Wagner the interviewee interpreted this question to be referring to – the comedic singer or the serious composer.
This might appear to be a somewhat banal example of cultural capital in practice, but what it points towards are what we refer to in this article as the hidden dimensions of the musical field. These are the dimensions of field that sociological methods make it hard for us to see or, to put it another way, this is to accept that our existing methods ‘enact’ (Law 2004, 2009) or constitute field in a particular way.