7-2 | Table of Contents | DOI 10.17742/IMAGE.VOS.7-2.7 | RochowStahlPDF Coming Soon!

Abstract | The idea of rhythm has figured as a key conceptual and empirical motif in current research on urban space, place, and everyday life. This article offers a way of capturing, understanding, and interpreting the multifaceted rhythmical layout of urban spaces. It implements a rhythmanalytical methodology that draws on participant-generated photographs and mental maps as analytical tools in order to provoke compelling depictions of musical activity in the city. Based on current ethnographic fieldwork in the urban spaces of Wellington (Aotearoa/New Zealand) and Copenhagen (Denmark), this article proposes a fruitful technique of experience and experiment that seeks to recognise the interwovenness of socialities, atmospheres, object, texts, and images in people’s everyday lives and in this way affords opportunities for attending to the multiple rhythms underlying music-making in the city.

Résumé | L’idée du rythme a été utilisée comme concept clé et motif empirique en recherche récente sur les espaces urbains et dans la vie quotidienne. Cet article apporte une méthode pour capturer, comprendre et interpréter les structures rythmiques complexes des espaces urbains. En introduisant une méthodologie rythmanalitique, cette méthode s’appuie sur des photographies et des cartes cognitives fournies par des participants comme outil analytique pour dépeindre l’activité musicale d’une ville. À partir d’une étude ethnographique sur les espaces urbains de Wellington (Aotearoa/Nouvelle Zélande) et de Copenhague (Danemark), cet article propose une technique expérimentale riche qui cherche à reconnaître les interconnections des milieux sociaux, des ambiances, des objets, des mots et des images dans la vie courante de chacun et offre ainsi une chance de suivre les rythmes multiples sous-jacent à la création musicale dans une ville.

Katie Rochow | Victoria University of Wellington
Geoff Stahl | Victoria University of Wellington

Mapping the (Affective) Rhythms of Wellington and Copenhagen

For those studying the musical life of cities, the scene as a distinctive social form has taken on a more definitive and sometimes contentious shape following Will Straw’s definition of the term nearly 25 years ago (see Straw, “Systems of Articulation, Logics of Change”; Straw, “Cultural Scenes”; Bennett and Peterson; Hesmondhalgh). Since then, the term has gained much of its traction courtesy of popular music studies, where it has been taken up as a way to approach music-making as intimately bound up in the various arrays of social, temporal, and spatial relationships found in the city. The result has been a number of engaging studies that explore the significance of the scene as a vital cultural hub, an important incubator and insulator for creative activity in the city (Stahl 11). Much of this research has adopted a narrative approach, drawing on interviews, oral histories, and personal accounts to outline the significance of the music scene in a given city. However, as these various narrative-based accounts of music scenes in cities around the world have proliferated and accumulated over time, they have also helped to formulate a kind of de facto orthodoxy in terms of methodological approaches to music-making, one which privileges the ethnographic as the preferred, and ostensibly more accurate, means to document socio-musical experience. While acknowledging the value of this approach, this article proposes an alternative set of methodologies—photographic and cartographic—that, while complementing the ethnographic study of scenes, also allow us to apprehend other less tangible or readily apparent, but no less significant, aspects of the temporal, spatial, and, importantly, affective dimensions associated with musical scenes in the city. Visual techniques such as mapmaking and photo elicitation provide different vantage points from which to apprehend the scene. The focus here is on how music-making simultaneously facilitates and frames particular experiences of place through a consideration of some of the activities that occur behind-the-scene (and seen). This approach allows us to explore the seemingly mundane but still quite central aspects of the everyday lives of music-makers.

Some terms offer useful provocations to think differently about how to approach the scene and its affective dimensions. Key among these concepts is Henri Lefebvre’s notion of rhythmanalysis, which has been applied to a number of different urban phenomena (see Simonsen; Simpson). Tempo and tenor, as borne out by the interplay of different types of movement in and across scenic spaces—evoking what David Seamon has elsewhere called “place ballets”—allow us to consider aspects of music-making that are often overlooked in part because they are often deemed unrepresentable. However, these spatio-temporal qualities are crucial to the way in which attachment or detachment to a place gains its affective charge.

The following discussion makes use of music-makers’ maps and photographs in order to give shape to some of the affective dimensions associated with the everyday life of music-makers in two cities: Copenhagen, Denmark and Wellington, New Zealand. Approaching music-making through a rhythmanalysis in each city provides opportunities to capture what Kathleen Stewart has called “atmospheric attunements” in the form of “descriptive detours”—a way to account for some of the more elusive aspects of the socio-musical experience of music-makers in each city (Stewart 445). Getting at these “detours” using a visually based methodology allows us to bring into view some of the more ineffable and unseen aspects of the scene, particularly what goes on behind the scene/seen. If, as Will Straw has recently suggested (“Some Things a Scene Might Be”), scenes can function as spaces of mediation, where the degrees and kinds of cultural life found in a place are bound up in those ratios of visibility to invisibility by which scenes make themselves known or unknown. This methodology allows music-makers to reveal and reflect upon their own mediated experiences of the scene and a sense of place. The interest here, then, is not in revisiting the centrality of the musical performance as the preferred locus of the scene, the apex musical event, or even the privileged instantiation and expression of the social and semiotic power of the collective life of the city. Instead, we suggest that making visible the everyday lives of music-makers in these cities, through their own documentation and reflection, offers a thicker description of those movements and moments and the fixity and flow of the scene. This approach parses out aspects of cultural productivity that are often otherwise absorbed by the daily life of the city, “‘hiding’… behind seemingly meaningless (or indistinguishable) forms of social life” (Straw, “Some Things a Scene Might Be” 483). As we suggest, these routes and routines make up a concatenation of rhythms, which in their varied ratios serve to further bind the scene and its participants to the city as well as lending the city its ambience, textures, atmospheres, and, more importantly, its distinctive affective charge.

Rhythms of the City

Music-making can be described as made up of an interrelated set of actors, affects, materialities, and social relations that come together in the complex unfolding of the city’s urban life. Urban spaces are in an ongoing process of becoming, (re)constituting their connections through “multiple networked mobilities of capital, persons, objects, signs and information” that are intertwined and connected, creating a “particular, but ever-changing, complicated mix of heterogeneous social interactions, materialities, mobilities, imaginaries and social effects” (Edensor 3). This compound of temporal matter and events includes the regular comings and goings of people, the movement of bodies, objects, ideas and materialities, the sounds, smells, and atmospheres, as well as the cosmic time of day and night, seasonal, and annual cycles. Those regular patterns of flow are the concrete forms of city rhythms that shape, influence, and characterise everyday life in the city.

City rhythms drive human activity and affect the formation of urban environments. They interact and mingle with each other, shaping the “diurnal, weekly and annual experience of place and influence the ongoing formation of its materiality” (Edensor 3). Those rhythmic mixes create what David Seamon calls “place ballets,” the accumulation of repetitive events expressed through everyday life regularities that involve interactions between people and between people and their urban environment—any kind of movement that evolves from physical space, people, nature, and time. As Stewart Elden suggests, rhythm “is found in the workings of our towns and cities, in urban life and move­ment through space. Equally in the collision of natural biological and social tim­escales, the rhythms of our bodies and society” (Elden viii).

In this sense, urban spaces are polyrhythmic fields, “compound[s] of varied everyday life and spatial rhythms” (Wunderlich 91). As with polyrhythms in music, a combination of individually simple rhythms is woven together into a complex whole that might harmonise (eurhythmia) or form tensions (arrhythmia). The city thus provides an “everyday stage for conflicts and relations” between social, spatial, and natural rhythms forming complex polyrhythmic ensembles which create a sense of time and influence the sense of place (Aboutorabi and Wesener 62).

As such, music-making in the city constitutes and is constituted by a plurality of urban rhythms. Movement between different locations as well as regular temporal patterns of events, activities, experiences, and practices which are always in interaction with natural and biological cycles. These habitual procedures and schedules are what Finnegan refers to as (musical) ‘pathways’, linking routes to routines and as such providing “important – if often unstated – frameworks for people’s participation in urban life” (323). Local music-making is therefore bound up in a dense array of everyday life rhythms including the music-maker’s quotidian routines, habits, and schedules, rhythms of mobility and immobility, as well as non-human rhythms such as energies, intensities, objects, flora, and fauna.

As a way of capturing, understanding and analysing the polyrhythmic environments, affective affinities, and atmospheres surrounding the musicians in their everyday life in Wellington and Copenhagen we suggest a categorization of city rhythms which consists of social, spatial and affective rhythms. These three primary categories can be further divided into sub-groups in order to unravel their manifold spatial expressions in urban space. Social rhythms are divided into socio-cultural and political rhythms; spatial rhythms into urban materiality and nature; and affective rhythms into ordinary affects and atmospheres (see figure 1). These divisions allow us to identify and clarify the complex rhythmical layout of the city.

Social Rhythms



Spatial Rhythms

Urban Materiality


Affective Rhythms

Ordinary Affects


Categories of City Rhythms Based on Spatial Characteristics

As much as this categorization distinguishes certain rhythms from each other, it also points towards the interconnection, synergy, and fusion of social, spatial and affective aspects. Consequently, the categories of city rhythms are by no means mutually exclusive; rather, different city rhythms interact and mingle in space, creating a particular urban texture, energy, and ambience that in turn shape the city’s socio-musical experience.

The analysis of the rhythmic layout in which Wellington and Copenhagen each enunciate their uniqueness through music-making requires a flexible array of methodologies in order to apprehend its manifold articulations. The conventional methods used within social science research, such as ethnography, focus groups, in-depth interviews, have been criticized for their failure to capture “the more expressive, non-verbal, expressive and emotive, non-cognitive aspects of social practice and performance” (Morton 663). For this reason, Morton advocates a “creative revision” of qualitative research methods in order to allow for “thinking through the multisensory nature of experience of urban aesthetics” (Latham and McCormack, “Moving Cities” 261).

This paper proposes a variety of visual research methods that explore the idiosyncratic nature of musical life in Wellington and Copenhagen and highlight music-making’s spatial properties as they are lived, felt, and imagined. As a way of capturing, understanding, and interpreting the social, spatial, and affective rhythms in Wellington and Copenhagen, we have developed a mode of visual research that focuses on the ethnographic use of photo-elicitation and mental mapping as creative tools for the study of music-making in the city.

Two Cities

Copenhagen and Wellington are dissimilar urban spaces, geographically speaking. While Copenhagen is in close proximity to a number of other major urban centres, Wellington is situated on the remote North Island of New Zealand. Yet despite their disparate geographical locations, the rhythmical layout of those two urban spaces shows some clear similarities. They are both coastal cities with a moderate oceanic climate and similar number of inhabitants. Both are surrounded by water and graced with numerous parks and green spaces. They are global capital cities with vibrant music scenes and thriving cultural industries. Yet it is not the “robust sense of similarity” that motivates the selection of those two urban spaces, but rather the way “a city can be said to show in practice a reflexive relation to similarity and difference regardless of how similar or different it is to another city” (Blum 18). This perspective allows for a conception of the city as a dynamic place, continually (re)constituted through a multiplicity of flows that emanate from, pass through, and centre upon it, “bringing together ephemeral, contingent and relatively stable arrangements of people, energy and matter” (Cresswell and Merriman 190). In this sense, Wellington’s and Copenhagen’s respective polyrhythmic ensembles include energies, affective affinities, and atmospheres, which provide exciting and promising “rhythmic fields” of experience and experiment. Using a comparative approach to the rhythmanalytical examination of Wellington and Copenhagen allows for the elicitation and analysis of the complex web of social, spatial and affective rhythms, including the rhythmical patterns of sociability, interaction and belonging, materiality, mobility and circulation that constitute music-making in those two urban spaces. It will shed light on the music-maker’s mundane rhythmical pathways and in this way facilitate the identification of essential rhythmical dimensions underlying the individual’s sense of place in Wellington and in Copenhagen. A relational comparison will not only illuminate the peculiarities of each case in particular, but it will provide a holistic insight into the interconnected trajectories of music-making in the city on a global scale. 


In order to get some sense of how music-making is conceived of spatially, in non-narrative form, we asked 20 musicians from each city to draw a map of “their personal Wellington/Copenhagen.”. The pool of respondents was restricted to independent musicians who were active in the local music scene at that time. The sample was not limited by musical tradition and considered the wide variety of musical genres to be found in both localities. Consequently, this survey included jazz, folk, pop, rock, punk, brass and experimental music-makers, as well as singer-songwriters from both cities.

The instructions for the mapping exercise were kept as broad as possible in order to give the respondents the utmost freedom of choice and expression. The possibility for informants to express themselves creatively is one of the greatest strength of mental mapping and “allows for more creativity and freedom to express oneself with less influence from the researcher” (Trell and van Hoven 95). This creative freedom on the side of the music-makers allowed for the collection of a variety of rhythmical patterns and perspectives, which provided insight into the musician’s unique socio-spatial relation to music-making in Wellington and Copenhagen. The variety of visual expressions provided by those individual drawings resonates with the complex array of city rhythms, including the movement of people, objects, ideas, and materialities, as well as ordinary affects and atmospheres—all part of the polyrhythmic ensembles underlying music-making in the city.

In the course of analysing these rhythmical drawings, we have followed D.C.D. Pocock’s idea that mental maps should be considered as “suggestions” rather than “statements,” as they are “the creation of artists rather than the construction of scientists” (284). The graphic representations of the musician’s urban surroundings are therefore necessarily incomplete renderings. As Greg Halseth and Joanne Doddridge remind us, “just as the ‘real world’ cannot possibly be reproduced on the map sheet, so too the complexity of images and senses stored in our memories cannot possibly all be rendered onto paper for the external observer to ‘read’” (568). Although there are limitations to such renderings, the activity of drawing allows the participants to reflect upon the issue being explored and provides access to different kinds of knowledge, including the multisensory and embodied experience of place. Mental maps are therefore not only orientation techniques for the music-makers through which they organize their image of the city both spatially and temporally, but they are also indicators highlighting subjective experiences, affects, and sensations, “uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined, even across seemingly exhausted grounds” (Corner 213). In this way, mental maps permit the exploration of individual experiences that might otherwise have not been consciously noticed. This uncovering of the unconscious adds another dimension to the research process and identifies mapping as a powerful mode of visual research. As Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari note: “The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious. It fosters connections between fields, the removal of blockages on bodies without organs, the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency” (12).

In order to grasp the conscious and unconscious dimension of mental mapping it is vital for the visual analyst to be attentive to the participant’s different responses both during the mapping process as well as in a detailed post-mapping review discussion. In particular, if a participant felt self-conscious about their drawing abilities or insecure in the way they should approach the mapping task, it was essential to take time to guide them through the process, reassuring them that their drawing skills would not affect the result and that there is no correct way of drawing the map. This pre-mapping conversation was vital in order for the musicians to express themselves freely and engage in the process of visualizing their personal Wellington or Copenhagen. The crafting of maps as well as the analysis of the music-maker’s individual drawings should therefore not be allowed to rest solely upon the process of mental mapping—the accompanying verbal exchange is perhaps their most telling feature.

As part of an interactive conversation, the musician’s mental maps provide idiosyncratic outlines of the city’s socio-musical experiences, illuminating both its soft infrastructure—which comprises personal rhythms, social relations, and atmospheres—and hard infrastructure, including such sites as domestic, rehearsal, and performance spaces. The selective content and the information about the meaning of those details on the map are entirely based upon the musician’s view of the relative importance of those elements in their everyday life. In this way, mental mapping “can trigger spontaneous discussions about daily places, activities, and people with whom the respondents spend time” (Trell and van Hoven 95).

The use of mental mapping for the purpose of this study was motivated by the desire to make apparent the multiple rhythms, valences, moods, and affects constituting the music-maker’s everyday life in the city. Mapping mediates the awkwardness of talking to strangers about personal opinions, feelings, and experiences and elicits responses that cannot easily be put into words. The map was, more substantially, a means to access the multiple narratives of place including the conscious and subconscious aspects, materialities, sensorialities, intensities, imaginaries, and atmospheres that underpin the musicmakers’ sense of place in Wellington and Copenhagen.


Numerous social scientists have used photo-elicitation since anthropologist John Collier introduced the method in 1967. Douglas Harper describes photo elicitation as a useful and largely unrecognized visual research method that is “based on the simple idea of inserting a photograph into a research interview” (13). In this process, respondents are asked to take photographs of their everyday life, the results of which are later discussed with the researcher in order to explore the subjective meanings behind those images (Croghan et al. 346). As the participants elaborate on the content and meaning of the photographs, “a dialogue is created in which the typical research roles are reversed. The researcher becomes a listener and one who encourages the dialogue to continue” (Harper and Prosser 35). In this way, the polysemic quality of the image is acknowledged, allowing for “different observers to interpret their contents according to their identity of views, native knowledge and ethos, and to actively discuss and exchange the personal values and meanings that these subjects might have for them” (Collier and Collier 103–108). Harper argues that photographs allow the individual to access different parts of their consciousness than those reached through words (13). They can “reveal what is hidden in the inner mechanisms of the ordinary and the taken for granted” (Knowles and Sweetman 7). Taking photographs of their everyday life prompts the participants therefore to reflect on their daily activities in an unusual way: “it gives them a distance from what they are usually immersed in and allows them to articulate thoughts and feelings that usually remain implicit” (Rose, “On the Relation Between ‘Visual Research Methods’ and Contemporary Visual Culture” 28). As those participant-generated photographs are discussed during the elicitation interview, respondents are “jolt[ed] into a new awareness of their social existence,” which is particularly helpful in re-framing their taken-for-granted experiences (Harper 21). In this way, interviews with images might lead the conversation in a rather different direction: “more emotional, more affective, more ‘ineffable’” (Bagnoli 548).

It is this ability of photographs to elicit and evoke the emotive, embodied, and affective intensities beyond talk that is particularly valuable for the purpose of this research. Here it is useful to draw on Henri Bergson’s (1988) claim that an image is a “certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing” (9).  In this way, images are not only matter but are also perceptions. Yet they are never just a “representational snapshot” nor are they a “material thing reducible to brute object-ness” (Latham and McCormack, “Thinking with Images in Non-Representational Cities” 253). Rather, images can be understood as “resonant blocks of space-time: they have duration, even if they appear still […]. They are blocks of sensation with an affective intensity and make sense not just because we take time to figure out what they signify, but also because their pre-signifying affective materiality is felt in bodies” (ibid).

By the same token, Latham and McCormack argue that if an image is a certain existence somewhere between a representation and a thing, then so is a rhythm (260). The relation between image and rhythm is therefore not one involving a relation between object and representation. Consequently, those participant-generated photographs may be useful in displaying valences, moods, sensations, and tempos of the “affective force fields” surrounding the musicians in their urban space (Stewart 2010). Instead of providing quantitative content for tables, charts, or diagrams, such images can capture or expose the dynamism of embodied movement and the affective tonalities present in certain moments and places. Thus, photographs not only convey the feel of urban places, spaces, and landscapes, but also capture “something of the sensory richness and human inhabitation of urban environments” (Rose, Visual Methodologies 298). Although the use of images as part of the present rhythmanalytical methodology might not “necessarily fully capture or evoke such rhythms and their qualities” (Simpson 425), they will certainly provide techniques for thinking through the complex and multifaceted array of everyday life rhythms and atmospheres in the two urban spaces of Wellington and Copenhagen. Participant-generated photographs therefore facilitate the development of another way of looking, a means of “unfixing and altering the perspective,” and thus provide insight into the musician’s sense of place (Simpson 431).

The original motivation for the use of photo-elicitation as a visual research methodology in the course of this project arose from preliminary interviews with music-makers in Wellington. During the conversation, participants were asked about inspiring places around town and their feelings towards these locations. However, the question appeared to be too complex or overwhelming, as the musicians struggled with their responses. Asking about certain “places of inspiration” triggered the musician’s non-cognitive, emotive, and affective relation to place, which is difficult to articulate, especially in the process of a face-to-face interview. As Anderson reminds us: “The development of an explicit vocabulary of affect and emotion begins from the assertion that the more-than or less-than rational cannot be reduced to a range of discreet, internally coherent, emotions which are self-identical with the mind of an individual” (735).

For this reason, the musicians were given a disposable camera, which facilitated the capturing, in a snapshot, of any moment, atmosphere, or ambience without the need to fully comprehend and articulate the particular affects at play. In this way, the photographs allowed the musicians to record the complex rhythmical pattern constituting music-making in Wellington and Copenhagen. The resulting images show different people, places, objects, events, interactions, atmospheres, fluxes, and flows around the city. Moreover, the participant-generated photographs rendered more explicit the non-verbal, non-cognitive, emotive, embodied, and affective rhythms of the musician’s everyday life that usually remain implicit. In this way, photo-elicitation facilitated the uncovering of key atmospheres and rhythms, indicating their quality, intensity, and combination in a way that might not have been possible in a talk-only interview. Consequently, photo-elicitation proves to be a fruitful technique allowing the musicians to get attuned to their rhythmical environment and encouraging them to reflect on their individual relationships to music-making in the city.

The combination of mental mapping and photo-elicitation allowed for a more holistic understanding of the rhythms, atmospheres, and affects surrounding the music-makers in their urban environment, as the two visual methods are complementary and mutually reinforcing. Sometimes certain photographs depicted specific places, objects, or moments, which were also outlined on the maps, clarifying visual details and emphasizing the affective intensities and atmospheres underlying a certain situation or moment. On the other hand, the maps could frequently add important spatial information, which the photographs themselves were lacking (e.g. the image of someone’s bedroom was complemented by the map illustrating the geographic location of that person’s home). This layering of different image types allows therefore for a “purposeful and constant process of steering towards validity, and negotiating the reefs of misinterpretation” (Spencer 140). Using photography and mapping generates different forms of data, providing visual evidence as a complement to other forms of knowledge about places that, when taken together, can contribute to a thicker description of the complex interwoven rhythmical dimensions that affect music-making in urban spaces. This methodological mix aims at capturing the polyrhythmic environments and atmospheres surrounding the musicians in their everyday life and consequently avoids some of the shortcomings and dilemmas of both traditional ethnography and Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis. 


Below is a brief account of how the data for this project were obtained, providing context for the discussion of Wellington and Copenhagen’s urban rhythms of music-making.

The project took place over the course of three years between 2013 and 2016 with a limited period of data collection from April 2013 to October 2014. A total of 40 participants took part in the research, 20 in each city. Prior to the first interview each musician was asked to draw a map of their “personal Wellington” or “personal Copenhagen.” This task was unexpected for most respondents, as it was not mentioned before the first meeting in order to avoid any cognitive engagement with their urban environment prior to the mapping exercise. Instead, the aim was to stimulate what Stewart terms an “atmospheric attunement” (445) (#) that brings attention to the charged atmospheres of everyday life, allowing the musicians to sense out the multiple rhythms, valences, moods, and affects constituting the musical environment in their city. Following the mapping, semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant. After the interviews, the musicians were given a disposable camera and the task to take photos of their musical environments. Again, the instructions were purposely left open in order to avoid setting up the everyday as an object of analysis that then had to be represented. In the three to five weeks after the first meeting, the disposable cameras were collected and the films developed before a second interview with each musician was arranged in order to discuss together the content and meaning of the photographs.


When the musicians were asked to draw their musical environment they were hesitant at first, declaring their limited drawing skills before getting immersed in the mapping exercise. Eventually, everyone engaged seriously in the task, considering how best to visualize their everyday urban environment in their own pace and style.

The majority of the musicians drew colourful maps which included their natural surroundings, such as the ocean, lakes, trees, parks, and bush, their material environment consisting of buildings, objects, and sometimes other human beings or animals. Many of the maps were made using an aerial or semi-aerial perspective, yet most drawings were out of scale as distances were erased and multiple locations, buildings, and places compressed into a relatively small visual space. Some of the musicians chose to label streets and buildings or use symbols such as arrows, notes, instruments, and hearts to express or intensify a certain meaning. The variety of expressions, symbols, and details on the maps varied greatly. There were complex drawings loaded with meaning and message and simple ones featuring little detail or information.

Even though the maps shared many similarities, there were concrete differences between the drawings from Wellington and Copenhagen that could be easily identified during a first analysis. There were fewer buildings on the Wellington maps; in fact, several maps did not show any architecture or street patterns at all. The Copenhagen drawings, on the contrary, featured various buildings, including churches, detached houses, and apartment buildings, which were mostly drawn in a rather complex, sometimes three-dimensional style. Apart from the buildings, there were various other objects on the Copenhagen maps, such as bottles, bikes, boats, coffee cups, airplanes, trains, or music instruments. The most frequently drawn object, however, was the musician’s home. From there, various streets, tracks, or lanes reached out toward the urban environment connecting different buildings and places, highlighting the musician’s mundane pathways through Copenhagen. Some of those routes cross the local border, indicating the “bridge to Sweden” or a “highway out of the city,” thus expanding beyond the cityscape towards global rhythms and atmospheres. The Wellington maps showed fewer objects, streets, and buildings but more prominent natural elements such as the ocean and the natural bush surrounding the city. The most frequently drawn object was Wellington’s natural harbour, which often took up half of the entire map.

Figure 1 Maps illustrating the dominance of natural rhythms in Wellington

Even though the city of Copenhagen has plenty of natural spaces as well—including three lakes, various parks, and the ocean—those details took up a rather small part of the maps. A striking detail on the Copenhagen drawings was the frequent use of symbols such as hearts, flowers, instruments, notes, bikes, planes, theatre masks, coffee mugs, and bottles. Some of those symbols appeared on the Wellington maps as well, but far more infrequently. Instead, the musicians in Wellington used written text to explain certain details or express their feelings towards a particular place or situation: for example, “beautiful sunset,” “pretty hills,” “stroll, escape, admire,” and “awesome place.” In Copenhagen the musicians drew little love hearts to emphasize their affection towards a place, object, or person.

Figure 2 Maps illustrating the use of symbols on the Copenhagen drawings

In Wellington, the musicians’ drawings revealed the dominance of natural rhythms, as most maps depicted the natural harbour surrounded by hills and native bush—a kind of natural amphitheatre in which the socio-musical experience of the city unfolds. Those rhythms are therefore not only depictions of the city’s urban features but suggest a certain “atmospheric fill” which “resonates the edge between the material and the potential” (Stewart 8). As such, the drawings reveal a certain atmosphere in which the local music scene unfolds. As one of the respondent’s comments illustrates: “In that map I drew, we are at the end. It is this island that falls into the sea and you get the feeling that you’re right on the edge of something rather than on the middle. You’re on the edge and you’re surrounded by this hugeness of the ocean” (Gerard).The musicians’ mental maps provided insightful outlines of diverse spatial rhythms, including the built urban environment as well as natural elements and related cycles. The elements highlighted above suggest individual pathways and local movement throughout the city while also detailing how music-makers’ horizons expand beyond these local markers, indicating the force of global circuits, rhythms, and dynamics. Moreover, those drawings featured diverse social and cultural rhythms, as the musicians drew different symbols in order to illustrate certain rituals, habits, and traditions. In addition to the material, natural and socio-cultural rhythms however, the maps also exposed the more abstract, affective rhythms that contribute to the city’s socio-musical distinctiveness. Through the use of colours, words, and symbols, the musicians expressed their affective relationship towards the city, alluding visually to a certain urban atmosphere. As Stewart suggests, these sorts of (urban) atmospheres are affective force-fields comprised of rhythms, valences, moods, sensations, tempos, and lifespans (Stewart 445). How one aligns with the charged atmospheres of the everyday city is what Stewart refers to as “atmospheric attunements”:an activity of sensual world-making that approach everyday life not as the “dead or reeling effects of distant systems” but as an “affective force field” comprising “lived affects with tempos, sensory knowledges, orientations […] and habits” (Stewart 2011, 446). They are forms of “attending to what’s happening, sensing out, accreting attachments and detachments, differences and indifferences, losses and proliferating possibilities” (Stewart 2010, 4). The maps are therefore not only illustrations of the musician’s musical environments but also an attunement of the senses to the charged atmospheres of everyday urban life (ibid). Mapping outlines affective rhythms, intimacies, and intensities that accumulate in ordinary moments of living. They yield the creation of different worlds, flows, experiences, conditions, dreams, and imaginaries and create a link between the material, social, natural, and the affective: “here, things matter not because of how they are represented but because they have qualities, rhythms, forces, relations and movements” (ibid).

In addition to the city’s dominant natural rhythms, the maps also highlight specific urban spaces and locales, routes, and pathways that allow the local music scene to spread and flourish. As mentioned earlier, the musicians’ maps of Copenhagen are permeated with roads, streets, bridges, and cycle lanes, connecting different buildings and places to create a dynamic, energetic atmosphere. Moreover, those maps frequently feature bicycles, trains, or planes as common means of transportation, which reinforces the dynamic feel and emphasizes the importance of local and global connectedness in Copenhagen’s music scene.

In this way, the musicians’ maps are tools for attending to the charged atmospheres of the everyday. They provide a haptic description (Stewart 445) that allows for the attunement of the senses to the multiple rhythms that shape the music-maker’s experience and interaction within their urban environment.

During the description of her personal map of Copenhagen, Maria referred to the Danish concept of hygge/hyggelig, which is commonly used in order to express a certain atmospheric perception of space, approximated through English words such as cosiness, relaxedness, or down-to-earth-ness (Linnet 3):

I was thinking about the streets, especially in the city centre—the cobbled streets. There is also a lot of water around the city. I love the water. Copenhagen has both, nature and old culture old houses with small, fine details. It’s all about the things that are between the houses also. There are just so many things in the city. There are the green parks where people hang out and stuff and there’s the little streets in-between the houses and then there is a lot of water, the canals, and the ocean. There have always been a lot of people coming to the city from outside by boats and stuff. All that is kind of a part of that hyggeligness—of that word (Maria).

For Maria, Copenhagen’s hyggeligness is therefore expressed through certain symbols and elements on her mental map such as the cobbled streets, the canals, the ocean, people from outside the city, and things between the houses—referring to particular social, spatial, and affective rhythms that shape Maria’s everyday life in the city. Those visual details could either refer to the more intimate and private forms of socialization or different materialities “pressing into the expressivity of something coming into existence” (Stewart 446). The mapping exercise allows the musicians therefore to reflect upon their relation to the city and express those thoughts, intensities, and feelings freely and creatively. In this way, mental maps are not only orientation techniques for the music-makers—through which they organize their image of the city both spatially and temporally—but also provide access to different forms of knowledge including the multisensory, embodied, and affective experience of place. As such, the musician’s mental maps provide indicators of subjective experiences, affects, and sensations, “uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined, even across seemingly exhausted grounds” (Corner 213). This uncovering of the unconscious adds another dimension to the research process and identifies mapping as a powerful mode of visual research.

However, a salient feature of the mapping exercise is the fact that it took place indoors, meaning there was no direct contact between the musicians and the city spaces they were drawing. The information revealed on the maps is therefore only based on the respondent’s memories and imaginations of the places without audible, visual, olfactory, or tactile stimuli. For this reason, we added photo-elicitation to the methodological mix as an additional way of seeing behind-the-scene. As a participatory research method conducted in the field, photography allowed the participants to capture specific rhythmic moments, atmospheres, and places that could later be recollected and discussed. Sometimes a photograph depicted certain details that were outlined on the maps as well. At other times, the maps would frequently add important spatial information that the photographs themselves were lacking.

The music-makers photographed aspects of their daily lives that captured not only moments of movement and stasis but also images that evoked feelings of comfort and familiarity. The results give us a glimpse into what Clive Scott, in a longer discussion of street photography, suggests is the power of the photograph to render a rich “temporal complexity”:

[T]he time of the indexical (the instant, instantaneousness), the time of the iconic (iterative, durative); time of the symbolic (atemporal), time of the looking (gaze, glance), the time of the viewer (intertext, involuntary memory, the imaginary), the interactions of clock-time and Bergsonian duration, the times of the eye-frame and the support-frame, the ways in which the instant can reach into past and future (201).

The participants’ snapshots exemplify many of these temporal relationships, most evident in relation to routes and routines connected to domestic spaces and the different ways in which they were represented in each city. Most musicians in Copenhagen, for example, started their drawings by visualizing their home on the map. They drew little houses, hearts, or some kind of symbolic representation of their domestic environment from where they continued illustrating their musical pathways through the city. The home appears to take centre stage in Copenhagen’s music scene, providing a base from which to explore the pulsating rhythms of city life. In Wellington, on the other hand, the music-makers rarely drew their private homes. Instead, Wellington’s urban materiality as visualized on the maps is dominated by natural rhythms, leaving little space for buildings of any kind. However, apart from a few important bars and venues that enliven the local music scene, some musicians drew specific private spaces that are well known locally as community centres and creative hubs. These community spaces are shared flats, mostly occupied by local musicians who regularly host lo-fi concerts and public events. Hence, instead of visualizing their private homes, musicians in Wellington tended to capture community spaces that contribute to the local scene’s development, vitality, and atmosphere. Following the visual expressions of the mapping exercise, Wellington’s musicians seem rather disconnected from their private homes, focussing on cultural and community spaces instead. By contrast, In Copenhagen, domestic space seem to provide a starting point from where the individual’s musical environment evolves.

The photographs provided some important details concerning the prevalent social, spatial, and affective rhythms including the (affective) materiality of domestic space, which maps alone could not have captured. As the photographs show, musicians in Wellington live mostly in shared flats—many of which are detached or semi-detached houses with a patio or garden area. During the elicitation interview, some musicians described their homes as “creative households,” “social spaces where a lot of people gather,” and where “a lot of music happens.” Frequently private homes are open to the public, providing meeting points and artist hubs for the musical community to gather and socialize.

Figure 3 Photographs illustrating the use of domestic space in Wellington

By contrast, in Copenhagen the home appears to have a rather different meaning. It is a space of relaxation, recreation, and privacy that allows the musicians to unwind and gather new energy and inspiration. This aspect of the home became apparent on examination of the musician’s photographs, which portray a rather secluded space away from people and urban turmoil. Various images show the view from inside the music-maker’s apartment onto their direct urban surroundings. This inside-outward perspective emphasizes the significance of the home as a safe haven that allows the musicians to withdraw and observe the hectic city life from behind the scene/seen.While the appearance of musicians’ homes on their personal maps was rare in Wellington, domestic space was a common motif of the photographs. Various images depict the musician’s home in its multiple modes of use—as space for rehearsing, socializing, mingling, relaxing, and entertaining. Hence, most images include a diverse range of people, movement, and non-domestic activities. The main quality of the home seems to be its communal character, providing a space for collaboration and inspiration that draws the musical community together.

Figure 4 Photographs depicting the view from the musicians’ apartments in Copenhagen

That’s the view from my kitchen window. It’s just a very, very personal place for me, and a very important place for me. I’ve been living in my apartment for nine years. It’s a nice place because in the daytime, sun is shining and in the night time people are partying. I like that. So I open the window and I hear laughter and cars and just the city somehow in the background (Louise).In the elicitation-interview Louise comments on the image she took from inside her kitchen:

For Louise, the home is less of an artist hub than a private, safe environment and shelter from the buzz of city life. Similarly, Nanna describes how her home is a place for relaxation and rehabilitation:

I use a lot of energy when I am out playing music, so when I’m coming home, it’s not that I’m dead, but it’s almost nothing in me. Let me be and let me relax. I use so much energy in my job that I have to use just as much time to recharge at home, shutting everybody out so I can recharge at home (Nanna).

The relative absence of the home on the musicians’ maps in Wellington creates the impression of a detached relationship to their domestic environment, which is contrasted by the frequent appearance of the music-maker’s home in the photographs. The images reveal the meaning and importance of the home as a community and artist hub that lends the local scene a certain feel and rhythmic structure. In contrast to the communal, public nature of domestic space in Wellington’s music scene, the home, for Copenhagen’s musicians, is considered to be a safe haven and space of relaxation, withdrawal, privacy, and tranquillity.

As the analysis of the visual material illustrates, the use of both photography and mapping generates different forms of data and documentary evidence that move away from straightforward oral ethnography. This combination provides insight into the complex interwoven rhythmical dimensions that affect music-making in urban spaces. These methodologies allows for a holistic understanding of the multiple rhythms, atmospheres, and affects surrounding the music-makers in the city. 

Seeing the Unseen Scene

This study considers urban spaces as polyrhythmic fields, composites of variegated spatialized rhythms. Like polyrhythms within music, a combination of individually simple rhythms is woven together to a complex whole that drives human activity and affects the formation of urban environments. In this way, cities are often known and negotiated through their unique rhythmical layout. They provide an “everyday stage for conflicts and relations” between social, spatial, and natural rhythms, creating a sense of time and affecting the individual’s sense of place (Aboutorabi and Wesener 62).

The analysis of photographs and maps reveal different people, places, objects, events, interactions, atmospheres, fluxes, and flows—a complex range of multi-scalar temporalities of social, spatial, and affective rhythms that in their varied ratios serve to bind the music-makers to their urban space.

The use of cartographic and photographic means of representing these rhythmical dimensions of music scenes in Wellington and Copenhagen allows a careful attention to an affective register that is often overlooked in studies of music-making. A comparison between these cities suggests some of the ways in which places–from the home to the studio to the performance venue and points in-between–serve as affective anchors for the meaning that the maps associated with the scenes in each city. As such, mood, feeling, and a “sense of place,” as evoked through the visual representation of music-makers’ everyday life, suggest how the scenic aspects of the city work simultaneously to frame, mediate, and facilitate meaningful experiences of place. In going behind the scene/seen in this way, the combination of mapping and photo-elicitations makes visible the affective charge of certain places and captures some of the diverse spatial, social, and affective rhythms shaping music-making in the city. As a set of experimental methodologies, using maps and photographs makes possible a thicker description of the polyrhythmic environments, energies, affective affinities, and atmospheres surrounding the musicians in their everyday life in the city. These particular approaches allow us to account for some of the ways in which the personal is articulated to the social, spatial, material, and symbolic as part of a matrix of forces and feelings that shape a meaningful sort of urban choreography. 

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Image Notes

Fig. 1. Maps illustrating Wellington’s dominant natural rhythms.

Fig. 2. Maps illustrating the use of symbols on the Copenhagen drawings.

Fig. 3. Photographs illustrating the use of domestic space in Wellington.

Fig. 4. Photographs capturing the view from the musicians’ apartments in Copenhagen.

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