Sound Tracks: Popular Music, Identity, and Place

Sound Tracks: Popular Music, Identity, and Place

Sound Tracks: Popular Music, Identity, and Place

Sound Tracks: Popular Music, Identity, and Place


'Sound Tracks' traces the relationships between music, space and identity, from inner city scenes to the music of nations, to give a wide-ranging perspective on popular music which also examines the influences of culture, economics and technology.


In some respects this book emerged from an article in an Australian newspaper, the Sun Herald, which covered the arrival of a Canadian band Junkhouse (who were never to be heard of again in Australia) and stated:

In the Canadian steel town of Hamilton there are limited choices for teenage boys in their final years at high school—unemployment, a life in the steel mills or a career as a rock ‘n’ roller, bluesman or jazz performer…. They knew that if they were going to work in Hamilton the music had to be rootsy. ‘That sort of music has always been what the town is about’…[the lead singer] said. ‘A blue collar town, and most of the people from Hamilton who decide to play wind up with a pretty direct human type of music. When you’re learning how to play music…you have to be able to relate to your audience, to communicate. We learn to communicate in the simplest terms in my home town, because it is an industrial town.’

(28 August 1994)

In the popular music world similar statements enshrining environmental determinism are legion. Indeed, a week or so later, the same newspaper, in an article about a rock group from the small Victorian country town of Ballarat, stated simply ‘rock bands don’t come from Ballarat’; out there presumably was country and western land. Here were two fundamental themes: that music is somehow linked to place—the idea of a ‘Hamilton sound’—and that music is also about mobility, diffusing sounds to the world while enabling the social mobility of musicians (in the same way that jazz, boxing and basketball were supposed to provide a route out of the ghetto for African Americans). In that single short paragraph there were basic geographical suppositions about place, identity and movement. By contrast, Steve Kilbey, lead singer of Australian group the Church, once claimed that ‘music is magic. It’s got nothing to do with geography. It’s got nothing to do with industry or standard; it’s magic’ (quoted in Howlett 1990:

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