Conference Review:

Spaces of Musical Cultures: From Bedrooms to Cities


Due to Covid-19 regulations the International Conference: Spaces of Musical Cultures: From Bedrooms to Cities took place online via Zoom on March 19th and 20th. The conference was organized by Andrea Glauser and Rosa Reitsamer, representatives of the ikm - Department for Cultural Management and ims - Department for Music Sociology at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. Speakers came from different areas of sociology, musicology and various other scientific disciplines, all uniting a focus on the interplay between music, space, place and social interaction.

Recent research makes clear, that more dynamic concepts of space than a static Euclidian concept are needed to analyze the various dimensions of the interplay between music, space and interaction. Such a dynamic concept was seized in the constitution of Georgina Born by giving an insight into her research on artistic sound art practices, that abandon typical music performance practices and spaces, and by scrutinizing their underlying politics. She suggested that today’s sound art practices demonstrate a logic of ontology that offers new research subjects by challenging existing epistemological assumptions.

From modern sound art Fritz Trümpi shifted to the focus on a historical perspective, examining music productions in the 1880s to the 1930s in Ironworks in Europe. Music was not only used as entertainment for the workforces but fulfilled various social functions. From this musical sphere Trümpi linked his research on music in Ironworks to music about Ironworks, that emerged in the early 20th century and discussed the occurring dichotomies.

In the subsequent talk of Emilia Barna the boundaries between domestic and public space and their social hierarchy were challenged. She observed the interrelationship between working practices of Hungarian musicians, their social, romantic and family relationships and domestic and digital space.

As final speaker of the first conference day Freya Jarman shifted attention to the creation of space through music and sounds, intermingled with questions of power and gender relations. She presented her analysis together with Emily Baker on the underscoring of BBC radio drama The Archers, focusing on the scene when Helen stabbed her abusive husband Rob nearly fatal. The researchers analyzed the music and sounds that make the listeners create imagined physical and virtual occurring places, not only by the scripted performances and the lyrics, but also intertextual.

Sarah Chaker discussed findings of her research on street music in Austria and the formation of sonic spaces on public places. She especially examined the regulations by authorities in public spaces and their effect on street musicians’ work and production conditions, as well as focusing in general on public places as spaces of critical negotiation and how pre-organized places may contest this.

Concerning the relationship between digital and other spaces Alice Aterianus-Owanga introduced her research on translocal art practices, particularly on Senegalese Sabar dance in Europe, following the question of what it constitutes, considering online social media and concomitant interrelations.

To close the conference Xuefei Ren offered insight into social limitations that entail current urban developments in northern rustbelt China, especially the city of Harbin. There (re)vitalization is tried to be implemented by art devoted buildings such as impressive concert halls and opera houses. Until now, however, these attempts for revitalization show little positive effects, as the newly constructed places are not accessible to average Chinese families due to social distinction and monetary reasons.

As visible above common threads of the conference included the discussion of venues of musical performance, artistic practices, private and public spaces and the creation of sonic spaces. Regarding domestic and public spaces an occurring dichotomy was challenged. Whenever domestic places become creative work spaces, social media opens public insight into domestic places, and public places are privatized, public and domestic spaces intertwine. Considering current developments, especially in consequence of the Covid-19 pandemics I suggest a refusal of the discussed dichotomy. Relating to the creation of sonic spaces questions on how sounds and music can open multi-layered spaces were discussed. A question that might offer space for further scrutiny, is about the interrelationship of sonically constructed space and the listeners’ physical location.

All inputs of the conference enabled in-depth insight into the interplay of music and spatial and socio-cultural settings in different subjects and offered a lot of space for discussion. I want to thank the organizers of the conference and all speakers for the inspiring discourses and all participants for their interest and lively exchanges of ideas. I am looking forward to prospective conferences at the mdw, hopefully being able to meet in person.


Author: Mona Torinek