Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Music of Organisations: an Aesthetic Ethnography

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posted on 2021-11-03, 21:23 authored by Bathurst, Ralph James

Arts-based expressions are becoming an increasingly important for understanding and improving business practice. More specifically, drama, painting and music are all artistic tools being used as ways of helping leaders gain insights into organisational life. However, there is a gap between art as a consulting practice, and its theoretical underpinning. Organisational aesthetics is a relatively new theory of organisations that endeavours to close the gap between the theoretical underpinnings of art and its application as a consulting practice. This thesis contributes to the theory-building efforts of this rapidly expanding field by exploring and developing a novel research methodology: Aesthetic Ethnography. This method is a means whereby researchers work at the arts-business nexus to investigate the ever-changing landscape of organisational life. In order to show how this occurs, the Auckland Philharmonia is offered as an exemplar. Its developments are observed during a time of governance restructure. As an aesthetic ethnography, the case study positions the orchestra as a work of art and describes how it is intentionally presenced as an artistic piece. Its concretisation is described as a construct by both the researcher and the stakeholders within the enterprise, occurring in three ethnographic movements: Emotional Attachment, Cognitive Detachment and Integrated Synthesis. The thesis concludes that the aesthetic lens can be turned on other artistic enterprises, and indeed beyond these, to the wider organisational world. To do this, further research is proposed into the music of organisations. Specifically, it is suggested that the nature of ensemble be explored and that the artistry of composition be used as a way of further teasing out the musicality of organisational life. Furthermore, music's temporality and its reliance on both fixed structure and sensitivity to the moment make it an apt tool to reflect on management practice.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Victoria Management School


Barry, David; Jackson, Brad