Adam Krims (keynote)


The Urban Ethos: Relating Identity, Space, and Bodily Motion in Contemporary Cities


Much recent work in musicology and literary studies has concerned itself with the representation of place (e.g., Whiteley, Bennett, and Hawkins, eds., Music, Place, and Space), and in particular, with the representation of cities (e.g., Alter's Imagined Cities); however, such work has normally hesitated to offer generalized theories, instead clinging to particulars and often (as Alter) explicitly eschewing the possibility of systematizing any relation between representations and lived urban space. I will venture such a generalization, in the form of what I call the urban ethos, which, rather than tracing any particular representation of urban life, measures the historical limits of their possibilities. Focusing on popular-music songs and videos from 1965 until 1997, though also taking cues from music and television, this exposition of the urban ethos posits that far from being sheerly imaginative, the urban ethos in such artistic forms proves deeply symptomatic of the anxieties and cathexes of cities (in the developed world) made possible by their economic, social, and cultural development. To show this, I will introduce both evidence from Anglophone popular music in this period and also concepts from urban geography, the latter describing the crucial urban changes that overtook many cities in the developed world during the same time. I hope to show that far from projecting a sanguine embrace of urban possibility, musical imaginings of cities are often fraught with anxiety, conflict, and attempts to embrace them in new ways. Entangling identity with spatial relations, the urban ethos makes possible analyses of popular culture that honor both creativity and the limits of space.


Adam Krims is Professor of Music Analysis at the University of Nottingham. He is author of Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity, editor of Music/Ideology, and author of the forthcoming Music and Urban Geography (Routledge). His research focuses on music, especially popular genres, urban geography, and the contemporary world.