Musis and Geography: The Connection

What has been quite interesting about popular music over the last century is how particular styles, genres, and artists have emerged from different places, be it rural or urban, city or country. Many cities and regions have lent themselves to particular music scenes to the point where historically the city has become synonymous with the music itself. There are many examples of places that have become distinctly linked to certain styles of music; this includes some places where whole styles of music were born. The U.S. is probably the place where this link is most strongly evident, with there being many examples. A handful includes the blues and the Mississippi Delta in the 1930s, 1950s rock and roll in places like Memphis and New Orleans, Detroit and Motown a connection which is unique in itself in that this was a studio as well as a sound, New York and 1970s punk that also included the famous club CBGB, Los Angeles and 1970s singer-songwriters, San Francisco and the psychedelic rock sound, and Seattle and Grunge. The connection between geography and music also extends to the U.K. with many bands and styles having a deep seated connection with particular cities. Liverpool helped spawn the British beat movement in the 1960s, Madchester in Manchester during the 1980s, and English 2 Tone in Coventry. All of these places were uniquely different musically and produced specific styles of music during certain time periods that were largely distinct from other places.

Now there could be a number of reasons why there exists a strong link between where you are from/based and what music you play. It could be the people involved and their backgrounds, examples of which include the youth of San Francisco in the 1960s psychedelic scene, working class drop outs in London and punk, and art students in New York many of which formed bands. It could also be contributed to the social and economic aspects of cities and towns at that particular time, whether it was burgeoning capitalism in L.A. in the 1970s, urbanisation in New York during the 1980s, or the arrival of Jamaican immigrants into the Midlands of England in the 1960s. What is historically clear from these examples is that geography has a significant influence on music and the development of certain sounds and scenes. Music relies heavily on time and place both in terms of playing music and writing music, with musicians constantly looking at what is going on around them so they can feed it into their work. Music scenes act as a way of bringing people together, often as a way of relieving the pressures of daily life on people and allowing an opportunity to escape reality. Therefore it should be no surprise that such a strong physical connection exists between music and geography, and maybe we should not underestimate the importance of geography in contributing significantly to the emergence and development of music throughout history.

– Sam


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