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Title: Mapping the underground soundscape : fieldwork among the subway musicians of Toronto
Author: Wong, Christina Micky
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2012
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The term soundscape was developed by R. Murray Schafer to describe "the sonic environment" (Schafer, 1977, p. 274), which encompasses all the sounds that surround us; his studies of urban soundscapes are particularly noteworthy. One soundscape that has been rarely studied is one that is found in many urban centres - the subway. "Mapping the Underground Soundscape" is six-year musical ethnography exploring the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) Subway Musicians' Programme and how it provides a unique auditory environment in its stations, passageways, platforms, and thoroughfares. More broadly, this thesis examines the relationship between music and the urban environment. It considers the influence of music on an urban environment (the subway) and how that environment is imagined and represented, and then how that urban environment influences music-making practices. Just like landscapes, soundscapes have a figure-ground relationship. At what point does the music become the figure? If one listens closely, one can hear sounds emanating from a guitar, an erhu, a violin, or keyboards, sounds, perhaps on a first hearing, uncharacteristic of the subway. Through the continual shift of figure and ground of these subway musical performances, the transit system becomes a temporary performance space for those willing to listen. This figure-ground test prompts two questions: What can we experience in an urban space just by listening? And how do we navigate a route through that world of sound to reach a greater understanding of it whilst also, literally, negotiating our movements through that urban space? The evidence suggests that the TTC Subway Musicians' Programme offers a microcosm of Toronto society. Thus, this underground soundscape can be used to explore IV and identify facets of the city's musical identity and the lives of its inhabitants. Such a study can also offer a new perspectives on how civic environments become established through policy and management schemes which champion the installation of music into urban environments once devoid of music cultures, that is, organised, identifiable sounds, crafted sounds that carry meaning, that are able to lift commuters out of an otherwise auditory jungle (a world of noise with only coded information: the train is now arriving, the doors opening and then closing, I am now leaving the station and getting to my destination). Thus, it is clear that the TTC system is highly complex in terms of its community and cultural relations and its political economy. Moreover, the interweaving of strolls, sound maps, sound clips, sound exercises, and photos within the text, allows for greater opportunity to experience and explore the underground soundscape at specific points in time. Ultimately, this thesis, which one might regard as a sonic mapping of the underground through sound, brings popular music-making and urban geography into soundscape analysis, highlights the role of music in placemaking, and presents a new way of navigating the city.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available