In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Geographies of Music, Sound, and Auditory Culture

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • History of Research into Geographies of Music and Sound
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Music, Place, and Region
  • Nations, Nationalism, and World Music
  • Musical Landscapes
  • Place, Landscape, and Sonic History
  • Music, Identity, and Everyday Life
  • Musical Economies
  • Music Politics, Sound, and Protest
  • Soundscape as Method
  • Sound Art and Sonic Environments
  • Environment and Ecologies of Sound
  • Noise, Unwanted Sound, and Sonic Environments
  • Performance as Spatial Practice
  • Listening as Practice
  • Listening as Method
  • Phenomenologies of Sound
  • Movement, Dance, and Rhythm
  • Voice and Embodiment
  • Technology, Broadcasting, Politics, and Culture

Geography Geographies of Music, Sound, and Auditory Culture
George Revill
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0130


Studies of music and sound within geography cover a broad range of subdisciplines; topics range from economic regeneration and globalization, cultural policy, tourism, and the representation of places, landscapes and regions, through questions of gender and identity, to studies of affect, emotion, performance and embodiment. Yet interest in music, sound, and auditory culture within geography has remained a decidedly niche interest until relatively recent phenomenon. The study of music only entered the mainstream of geographical study during the 1990s. While the study of sound, sonic environments, and auditory culture more generally is even more recent, stimulated and paralleled by the rise of “sonic studies” elsewhere in the social sciences and humanities from the early 2000s onward. However, it is possible to trace the history of geographies of music and sound much further back within the discipline. The first studies of sonic environments were made by the Finnish geographer J. G. Granö (1882–1956), while studies of music have formed an integral part of North American cultural geography since the 1960s inspired by work on cultural landscapes in the tradition of Carl Sauer (1889–1975). The development of geographies of music and sound since the 1990s has witnessed a move away from the study of “meaning” found in particular songs, works, or the output of specific artists. In recent years geographers concerned with music and sound have embraced both the emotional and more than representational qualities of listening and sonic experience. Studies of music have also helped pioneer some of the creative interdisciplinary collaborations with arts practice and public engagement characteristic of recent human geography. Yet as the following subheadings show, studies of music, sound, and auditory culture within geography continue to draw across a broad base of geographical subdisciplines while at the same time continuing to push the theoretical boundaries within human geography. To this extent, the fugitive qualities of sound as it exists only within the event of its making and the complexity of sonic spaces characterized by echoes, reverberations, and refractions, characterize relational materialities and topological spatialities that are of significant current interest for geographers. Geographies of music, sound, and auditory culture, therefore, currently provide exciting locations to trial novel ideas, concepts, and research topics.

General Overviews

Though there is no single overall guide to the broad field of geographies of music and sound for geographers, there are texts that undertake parts of this task. Leyshon, et al. 1998 sets out the field in terms of studies of music and cultural politics during the rise to prominence of “new cultural geography,” while Connell and Gibson 2002 provides an extremely useful overview of work across a broad range of topics including economies, technology, place, and identity though this is concerned only with popular music. Hudson 2006 adds an important broad ranging update to this, however there is nothing more recent specifically written by and for geographers. The chapters in Johansson and Bell 2009 explore the scope and range of geographies of popular music. Clayton, et al. 2012 is a collection of essays that sets out key issues and themes for cultural studies of music drawing on sociology, critical musicology, music history, media, and cultural studies. While the two collections, Pinch and Bijsterveld 2012 and Sterne 2012, provide an invaluable guide to the still developing interdisciplinary field of sound studies, these volumes embrace issues of, for example, environmental sound, sound art, scientific data, noise pollution, and the sociology of technology in addition to the making and experience of music in all its forms. Born 2013 is essential reading, bringing studies of sonic environments together with cultural studies of music in a way that opens up the exciting potential of this fusion in terms of geographical issues of space and place.

  • Born, G., ed. Music, Sound and the Reconfiguration of Public and Private Space. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

    This collection of essays represents some of the best of current thinking, bringing together research from musicology and sound studies. Chapters discuss music and sound within specific settings and locations. Born’s introduction is an important agenda-setting statement for the social-spatial study of music and sound.

  • Clayton, M., T. Herbert, and R. Middleton, eds. The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2012.

    A wide-ranging overview that addresses histories, locations, practices, social processes, identities, experience, and subjectivities. The book also provides wide geographical coverage and chapters that give a disciplinary perspective on the interdisciplinary cultural study of music.

  • Connell, J., and C. Gibson. Sound Tracks: Popular Music, Identity and Place. London: Routledge, 2002.

    The first cultural geography of popular music that reviewed and set out much relevant research. The book sets out a conceptual scope for geographical study of music that remains relevant. It addresses issues of music and place, communities and identity, globalization and world music, economies, flows, mobilities, and transnationalism.

  • Hudson, R. “Regions and Place: Music, Identity and Place.” Progress in Human Geography 30.5 (2006): 626–634.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132506070177

    A useful review of the history and current state of work in geography and music; the paper discusses music and place and identity in addition to the role of music in cultural strategies of regional and urban development.

  • Johansson, O., and T. Bell, eds. Sound, Society and the Geography of Popular Music. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2009.

    A wide-ranging collection of essays covering the United States, Canada, Caribbean, Australia and the United Kingdom. Developing understandings of popular music from a spatial perspective, the authors are concerned with broader social relations and trends and with issues including identity, attachment to place, cultural economies, social activism, and politics.

  • Leyshon, A., D. Matless, and G. Revill, eds. The Place of Music. New York: Guilford, 1998.

    A collection of essays from the perspective of the new cultural geography. There is a useful introduction and a collection of essays giving broad geographical coverage with an emphasis on issues of cultural politics.

  • Pinch, T., and K. Bijsterveld, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    An important introduction to the still emerging and expanding field of sound studies. The book considers sound as material form as well as culture, and the chapters examine music and sound in a range of specialist and everyday settings such as shop floors, laboratories, clinics, design studios, homes, and clubs. Essays are both historical and contemporary.

  • Sterne, J. The Sound Studies Reader. London: Routledge, 2012.

    Published in the same year as Pinch and Bijsterveld 2012 and should be read alongside it; this book provides an excellent way into the breadth and range of contemporary sound studies. It is contains pieces by many of the most important names in the field past and present.

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