Mapping sound: musical routes in fin-de-siecle Paris
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Paris emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as a newly restructured city, after Baron Haussmann’s massive architectural project redrew the urban map to favor a bourgeois lifestyle. Wide boulevards, new parks and squares, improved sanitation, and a thriving consumer culture made Paris the cosmopolitan center of Europe. Against this backdrop a multitude of musical milieus flourished, ranging from institutions such as the Conservatoire or the Opéra to the Montmartre cabarets at the fringe of the city, while technological developments gave rise to new modes of sound reproduction and cultures of listening. This rich musical scene has long fascinated scholars, who have approached it through multiple lenses. While the lens of cultural geography would seem a natural fit for a city made newly self-conscious of its spatial properties, however, musicologists have only recently begun to appreciate the insights into rituals of music consumption afforded by a spatial approach. My dissertation engages with the theory of Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau, as well as that of more recent cultural geographers. I draw from their claim that space is not neutral, but is dynamic and created through social habit. I posit that sound in ¬fin-de-siècle Paris, when performed and consumed through rituals particular to a set of socially generated spatial conditions, assumed a navigational function, charting routes from the socially static interiors to the socially mobile exteriors of the city. In this way, the contingent, moment-to-moment quality of live music fostered a resistance to the mechanistic reproduction that was at times regarded as a threat in the fin de siècle. I focus particularly on mapping, and I argue that, in a landscape dominated by Haussmann’s map, these sounds expressed their own “musical routes.” I focus on four diverse spaces of music consumption as case studies: the Mirliton cabaret in Montmartre, the Bon Marché department store employee concerts, the spaces of nature depicted in Debussy’s music, and the transportable spaces of music technology. My research revises a gap in cultural geography, which has long excluded sound, and I provide a methodological intervention in the use of mapping as a tool. In claiming that it is possible for sound to engage in the act of mapping, I pose ontological questions about what constitutes a map, and what social function music can have beyond aesthetic value.