Spatiality, Sociality and Circulation: Popular Music Scenes in Reykjavík
Nick Prior [+]
University of Edinburgh
For a population of only 322,000 Iceland produces a surprising amount of music. In fact, it has garnered a reputation as one of the world's most influential and prolific music-making countries. At the centre of this success is the small, compact capital Reykjavík, home not just to Björk and Sigur Rós but to a dense network of local bands, independent record labels, festivals and venues. This poses something of a puzzle to the sociologist and musicologist. How has a city of such diminutive proportions come to host such a culturally effervescent music scene? What unique properties does the city possess, how exactly do musicians in various genres collaborate and what does this tell us about the relationship between urban scale, place and the creative process? If music scenes are ‘cultural space[s] in which a range of musical practices coexist’ (Straw, 1997: 494), then at a basic level these are practices based on interacting agents who form clusters oriented to music-related activities. By this reckoning Reykjavik demonstrates scene-like qualities with strong network properties. Most of this happens in the centre of the city, in downtown Reykjavik, known by its infamous postal district 101. Reykjavík’s compact centre, its densely packed and bustling downtown area and music venues are intrinsic to the unfolding of inter-subjective musical affiliations and mutually-supportive clusters. The co-constitutive relations of music and its locale are therefore heavily dependent on the configuration of the centre of the city in that Reykjavík is more than an inert backdrop to musical practices and affiliations but actually helps to shape socio-musical connections and collectives. The chapter will draw on a mix of interviews, fieldsite visits, statistical and documentary analysis in order to explore these questions. It will attempt to ‘map’ the city’s musical networks while exploring how such networks are formed around everyday material practices and relations.