Listening to the Street – Urban Sounds in Hamburg-Altona between the “Right to the City” and the “Creativity Dispositif”

Avant, Vol. XI, No. 3, doi: 10.26913/avant.2020.03.35
published under license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Lisa Gaupp*, Nikolas Bielefeldt, Joanna Dill, Rufus Giesel, Kathleen Göttsche, Zoe Hasse, Simon Laumayer, Leona Lenßen, Julia Mai, Anna Rüpcke and Louis Rummler
Leuphana University of Lueneburg, Germany
*corresponding author

Received 30 January 2020; accepted 20 September 2020; published Online First 22 December 2020.

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Abstract: This study examines the complex relationship between music and cities. More specifically, it explores how, when and why distinct urban atmospheres and unique urban spaces are created through music, specific sounds or creative social practices such as busking. As Andreas Reckwitz has shown, it has become a social regime in accordance to the creativity dispositif to act creatively and to strive for originality and uniqueness. Busking and other creative expressions in public sphere seem to satisfy this demand, but at the same time, they also tend to symbolise practices of resistance against neo-liberal discourses. According to Reckwitz, this social aestheticisation can be observed especially in cities, for example, in neo-liberal discourses such as city marketing. To examine this ambivalent if not contradictory divide, this empirical study focuses on STAMP, an international street arts festival in Hamburg, Germany, and especially, on related music practices. It considers macrostructures, such as city policies, organisational and spatial politics of gentrification and micro-practices of creativity expressed in symbolic interactions or practices of participation, following specific sociocultural conventions. Using a mixed method research design including ethnography, surveys, qualitative interviews and soundscape analysis, this study explores the many different facets of urban sounds in the streets of Hamburg-Altona from different sociological perspectives. By considering not only different perspectives, such as those of the organisers of the festival, the city, local residents, audiences or musicians as well as cultural policies but also the sound of the festival, this study aims to answer the question whether such urban musical practices are at odds with or contribute to what Reckwitz refers to as “creativity dispositif” and related processes of gentrification or whether they can be related to what Henri Lefebvre has described as the “right to the city”.

Keywords: creativity dispositif; sound; intrinsic logic of a city; right to the city; culturalization; gentrification; Hamburg; street arts; live performing arts; festival


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190615-192210 Hamonim (Saturday, ‎15.06.‎2019, ‏‎19:22:40)
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Interview with Enrico Lautner, the head of the Department of Social Space Management of the District of Altona by Anna Rüpcke, 24 July 2019.
Interview with Heike Gronholz, the managing director of the altonale GmbH by Julia Mai and Anna Rüpcke, 12 August 2019.


“Avant” journal – the task financed under the contract 711/P-DUN/2019 from the funds of the Minister of Science and Higher Education for the dissemination of science.
Czasopismo „Avant” – zadanie finansowane w ramach umowy 711/P-DUN/2019 ze środków Ministra Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego przeznaczonych na działalność upowszechniającą naukę.

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