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Musical culture and urban change in contemporary Marseille

Mackay, S. (2017). Musical culture and urban change in contemporary Marseille. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis considers how musical culture shapes, and is shaped by, the contested redevelopment of contemporary Marseille. Drawing on ethnographic research and documentary analysis, it investigates debates about cultural representation, struggles over the regulation of nightlife, the production of grassroots scenes, and other practices in and through which music is made meaningful. The thesis focuses primarily on the period from 2013 to 2016, when the research was carried out. A secondary frame, extending back to the early 1990s, provides the immediate historical background, and where relevant I also discuss processes and events from earlier periods. Unlike some ethnomusicological studies, the focus is not on a single genre, idiom, form or other normative category of music. Nor does the study aspire to reflect the totality of musical culture in Marseille. Instead, the prism of urban change serves to centre the thesis on moments and processes through which music informs and performs the changing city. In addition to this interest in urban change, my decisions about which aspects and locations of musical culture to focus on were, of course, linked partly to my own subject position, and I address the implications of this in the methodology section.

The thesis addresses three overarching research questions. To what extent has musical culture been restricted or marginalised in the context of urban redevelopment? How have musicians and audiences used music to narrate and negotiate the city in new ways? And finally, how are technological changes inflecting the ways in which musical culture inhabits the city? To address these questions I present four case studies. Chapter One investigates two controversies surrounding the musical programming of a major arts festival; Chapter Two examines a new initiative focused on the local circulation of post-war North African musical media; Chapter Three addresses Occitan-language music and its interface with the cosmopolitan city; and Chapter Four analyses the position of a neighbourhood’s DIY music scenes in relation to the advance of gentrification. Through these case studies, the thesis seeks to contribute to broader discussions about the relationship between music and the right to the city in late modernity.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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