Thought I would share this for teachers and academics: a guest lecture section that I just gave in an undergraduate Introduction to Urban Studies course taught by Lisa Brawley at Vassar College. Readers are welcome to incorporate or adapt this material into their own teachings.


Day 1: Theorizing the post-industrial city


Richard Lloyd and Terry Nichols Clark, “The City as an Entertainment Machine,” Critical Perspectives on Urban Development 6(2001): 357-378.

Richard Florida, “Quality of Place,” chap. 14 in The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited (Basic Books, 2011).

Leonard Nevarez, “Musical Urbanism: Statement of a Scholarly Project,” Musical Urbanism [blog], July 21, 2011.

Questions to guide reading:

  1. How do post-industrial cities differ from their industrial-era predecessors in the ways that urban economies compete for external capital investment?
  2. What are creative people and cultural tourists’ interests in cities, their amenities, and their sense of place?

Powerpoint presentation for day 1.

Day 2: Building Music City, USA: Nashville


Richard Lloyd, “Differentiating Music City: Legacy Industry Scene in Nashville,” pp. 139-166 in Music City: Musical Approaches to the Creative City (Bielefeld, 2014).

Jonathan R. Wynn, “‘When Country Music Comes to Town’: Nashville’s Country Music Festival,” chap. 3 in Music/City: American Festivals and Placemaking in Austin, Nashville, and Newport (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

Questions to guide reading:

  1. How is Nashville’s country music scene organized in urban space?
  2. How does country music recording and performance industries based in Nashville profit from Nashville’s musical scene and legacy?
  3. How does the Nashville’s other industries, particularly those based on physical development and real estate, profit from the city’s country music activities?

Powerpoint presentation for day 2.

Day 3: Mythologizing the post-industrial city


View Joy Division (2008 documentary, dir. Grant Gee).

Leonard Nevarez, “How Joy Division Came to Sound like Manchester: Myth and Ways of Listening in the Neoliberal City,” Journal of Popular Music Studies 25(2013): 56-76.

Alexander Reichl, “Manufacturing Landmarks in New York City Parks,” Journal of Urban History, April 7, 2015 (first published date): 1-19.

Questions to guide reading:

  1. How do bands, journalists, designers, and other creatives influence myths about local urbanism?
  2. What are the contributions of myths about local urbanism to creative urban economies?
  3. What are the contemporary contexts in which people “listen to the musical city” (Nevarez) or inhabit post-industrial landmarks (Reichl)?

Powerpoint presentation for day 3.


Some context for this section: Vassar’s Intro to Urban Studies course is organized around guest lectures by faculty participating in the Urban Studies Program. Therefore, it doesn’t so much present a coherent “introductory” curriculum organized by one instructor as introduce students to multidisciplinarity, in the form of guest lectures by faculty presenting their own work or background in the urban field. This gave me a lot of liberty to pitch my own project as an intellectual agenda that’s a step or two removed from a conventional “urban sociology” approach — a point I made clear to the students.

Nevertheless, I was cognizant that my guest lecture section was only the second scheduled in the course, after an urban history section taught by Lydia Murdoch covering the industrial cities and colonial cities of the British Empire (including a serendipitous overlap with my own material on Manchester, England). Thus, after introducing my musical urbanism project with a reading from my blog, I spent considerable time in the first lecture bringing students up to speed on the model of the industrial city of 20th-century North America; political economists’ views on the roles of economic restructuring and urban growth coalitions in the industrial city; and previous models of a new post-industrial city — namely, the finance-driven global city and the technology-driven flexible industrial district. The first lecture wrapped up on two recent models of the post-industrial city: the entertainment machine and the creative city. Not much focus on music per se in this first lecture.

The second lecture took up the case of Nashville, the U.S. city with the highest concentration of music talent and music industry thanks to its role as center of the country music sector. Richard Lloyd’s article provides a useful ethnographic tour of the city (including its neighboring bohemia, East Nashville) and a framework for thinking about musical cities in terms of industries, legacies, and scenes. A reading about Nashville’s CMA Fest (taken from Jonathan Wynn’s excellent new book Music/City) underscores the urban branding interests that growth coalitions have in local music industries. The juxtaposition of the two readings highlights contested visions of musical ‘authenticity’, i.e., East Nashville musicians’ reverence for the hallowed traditions of singer-songwriters versus CMA Fest attendees’ scrutiny of country musicians’ staged intimacy (“They’re just like us!”).

The third lecture added more critical context to the question of local/musical authenticity through my own research on Manchester. My theory of the “Manchester myth of Joy Division” illustrates a social construction of localness (“Joy Division sounds like Manchester”) that resonates specifically in the current era of urban regeneration, where the industrial city has been erased in landscape and economy. As I argue, music documentarians and writers may hope to preserve this bygone city in their hagiographies of Joy Division, but their promotion of Joy Division-themed histories, museum exhibits, walking tours and local landmarks is nevertheless complicit in  modes of urban consumption that characterize the neoliberal post-industrial city. Finally, Alexander Reichl’s article on NYC’s post-industrial parks (the Highline, Gantry Plaza Park, and Concrete Plant Park) raises questions about the generalizability of these “music city” cases from the non-musical vantage point of historic preservation, and about the politics of the post-industrial city more generally.