Music, Space and Place – A brief description

Music, Space and Place: Popular Music and Cultural Identity

Rating: 3 out of 5

Editor: Sheila Whiteley, Andy Bennett, Stan Hawkins

Year: 2004

Category: Music, Anthropology, Culture

Publisher: Ashgate Publishing

The book collects an assortment of articles under three broad heads: (1) music, space and place (2) rap and hip hop – community and cultural identity and (3) musical production and the politics of desire. The introductory chapter is fairly detailed and gives and good outline of all the chapters in the book. It also includes a quick theoretical outline.

The first section, which is oriented mostly about issues of place, talks of the relationship between music and construction of places. There is a spread of articles to represent different notions of place: nation, diaspora & the origins, landscapes (mountains and music by shepherds) and regions (the authentic sounds of Bristol). Of these I found the article by Levy most interesting. It talks of a particular folk music in Bulgaria and how discussions of nationality, Balkanisation, etc. were woven around it. Though it does talk a little about how the production of music responds to some of these nationalistic concerns, a good part of the article is about how discourses can be fashioned around music – even if the production of music is not directly oriented towards these concerns [this is my interpretation]. The article takes the notion of construction of place through music a well beyond lyrics.

Kevin Dawe’s article ‘Power-geometry’ in motion: space, place and gender in the lyra music of Crete uses ethnomusicographic methods and places importance on various aspects of music – specially performance. In the process it discusses how gender is reproduced in a variety of ways through performance, not all of which is by the musicians.

Needless to say, a discussion of community and identity cannot be divorced of spatial aspects. Emergence of rap Cubano: an historical perspective is interesting for its discussion on how geo-politics shapes music. It discusses the evolution of Cuban rap, which was initially disfavoured by the State and later accepted without active support. The article talks of the social spaces that Cuban rap had to use in both contexts and includes an interesting comparison with US rap that has influenced Cuban rap.

The final section discusses the role of producers. All examples across the chapters related to American women singers and their relationship to the producers. The discourse in these chapters are all oriented towards gender issues. Production is theorised in these chapters as a male space and the chapters have different takes on gender issues therein. Stan Hawkins’ On performativity and production in Madonna’s ‘Music’ talks about the Madonna’s creativity within the technologically mediated space that was fully controlled by men. Emma Mayhew on the contrary looks at critical discussions of music as a discourse and evaluates how women’s creativity is devalued by associating women artists with male song-writers, producers, et al.

On the whole the book represents a variety of views and approaches on the relationship between music, space, place and gender. Arguments are simple and generally readable. But this simplicity may come by imposing theoretical perspectives on music and performance, which for me is rather disconcerting. Otherwise, it’s a down-to-earth book covering a range of perspectives.


Sarah Daynes: The musical construction of the diaspora : the case of reggae and Rastafari

Claire Levy: Who is the ‘other’ in the Balkans? local ethnic music as a different source of identities in Bulgaria

Kevin Dawe: ‘Power-geometry’ in motion : space, place and gender in the lyra music of Crete

Peter Webb: Interrogating the production of sound and place : the Bristol phenomenon, from Lunatic Fringe to worldwide Massive

Deborah Pacini Hernandez and Reebee Garofalo: The emergence of rap Cubano : an historical perspective

Tony Mitchell: Doin’ damage in my native language : the use of ‘resistance vernaculars’ in hip hop in Europe and Aotearoa/New Zealand

Lee Watkins: Rapp’in’ the Cape : style and memory, power in community

Emma Mayhew: Positioning the producer : gender divisions in creative labour and value

Kay Dickinson: ‘Believe’ : vocorders, digital female identity and camp

Stan Hawkins: On performativity and production in Madonna’s ‘Music’

Jacqueline Warwick: ‘He’s got the power : the politics of production in girl group music

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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