A longstanding theme in the sociology of the arts is the sacralization of art in modern society, but an underexplored aspect of this process is how death shapes artistic creation and appreciation. This paper approaches this issue through an examination of the cult of the dead composer in classical music. After considering the cultural logic and effect of musical sainthood, I discuss how composers are venerated; commemorative rites, such as anniversary programming, provide a phenomenological connection between the living and the dead, while physical remains and relic-like objects carry messages from beyond the grave that can be usurped or amplified by political projects. By comparing the fetishization of the dead diva with the composer cult, I explain why performers who continue to be admired posthumously still do not achieve the same exalted status as composers.
- sociology of music