Travis Stimeling on “Hearing Place in Music”

We’ve got another fabulous essay by Travis Stimeling at The Avid Listener this week. It’s all about the connections between place and music, the ways in which the particulars of our environment both influence how we make music and evoke musical memories. This essay has everything: from Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Messiaen, to conjunto band Little Joe y la Familia, folk singer Elizabeth Cotten, and beautiful musings about the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Here’s a teaser: “When we hear familiar popular songs from our childhoods, then, we might think of the people who filled our youthful spaces and feel a surge of (potentially inexplicable) emotions in response. The sounds of seagulls might take us back to a relaxing coastal vacation, perhaps even conjuring the faint smell of the ocean breeze or the taste of food from a favorite beachside bistro. If ‘the sounds of place,’ to borrow a term coined by musicologist Denise Van Glahn, are so important to the ways we understand the world, how, then, might musicians—people who are, to a great extent, significantly engaged with sound—respond to the particular places in which they make their lives? Or, even more generally, how might musicians encourage us to conjure the natural world through their compositional and performative choices?”

Read the full essay here. Do you have a favorite example of music that evokes a particular space / place? We invite you to leave a comment or question for Travis.

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