As urban geographer and life-long (semi-professional) musician I am intrigued by the role that musicians can play in creating an environment in which the users of that place can experience subjective well-being.

This interest coincides with an ever-increasing number of cities presenting themselves as “music cities”, reflecting a growing neo-liberal attention for sound and music in activities of city-marketing.

With my PhD research I hope to contribute to a further development of neo-phenomenological thinking in geography by researching the effects of the musical interaction between performing musicians and the material and social artefacts of a place. A second objective of my project is to contribute to a greater appreciation for performing musicians in placemaking. It is not unusual that musicians are asked to perform without being paid, as happened for example in 2021 at the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort.

Many studies on music in an (urban) environment, on music and atmospheres, and on music and placemaking focus on the act of listening. The problem is that the role and activities of the musicians not only seem to have been forgotten but are also undervalued. My curiosity concerns  what comes before the listening experience: the musicmaking. How does the interaction, during a performance,  between musicians and the social and material artefacts in an (already existing) environment (be it an urban square or street, a concert hall, a recording studio or a living room) generate an affective atmosphere. How does this atmosphere influence a musical performance and in the end have an effect on the quality of that environment and the subjective well-being of the users of that place?

Central  in my exploration are relational theories and neo-phenomenological ideas that an (affective/ sonic) atmosphere  “understood as produced in the interspace between humans [musicians and audiences] and [social and material elements of performance] environments”  (Hasse 2012: 13), “plays an important role in how we humans experience our surroundings [and thus impacts our subjective well-being]” (Böhme 2013: 16). Böhme (2013: 78) also asserts that “music is the basic atmospheric art”. Indeed Griffero (2019a: 50) claims, that subjective well-being, is a “very special atmospheric feeling, a deep mood that is both personal and collectively shared”.

Böhme, G. (2013). Architektur und Atmosphäre. [Architecture and Atmosphere] München, Deutschland: Wilhelm Fink Verlag.

Griffero, T. (2019a). Well-being as a collective atmosphere. Lebenswelt, 15, 46-77.

Hasse, J. (2012). Atmosphären der Stadt: Aufgespürte Räume [Atmospheres of the city: tracked down spaces]. Berlin, Deutschland: Jovis Verlag.