Aspects of place in new folk music
AffiliationSchool of Contemporary Music
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2016 Brea Acton
This practice-led research examines the notion of “place” within the context of new folk music and how the setting of a song can effectively drive, and respond to, social and environmental issues. Place is integral to my own practice as a singer-songwriter and investigating the underlying motivation behind my work has led to a broader analysis of place amongst practitioners and theorists across a diverse range of disciplines. I have chosen the genre of “new folk” to explore these theories, as it best captures the combination of techniques that are reflected in both my own songwriting and in the music of the songwriters that I analyse throughout the thesis. In the dissertation I explore three facets of place in songwriting – narrative place, virtual place, and natural place – to illuminate social themes around listener empathy, social connection and disconnection, replication and ecology. These concepts are discussed through the works of new folk songwriters, including Joanna Newsom, Scott Walker, Bill Callahan, Will Oldham, Laura Marling, and Midlake, who all engage closely with text, narrative and imagery to depict a compelling sense of place in their work. I construct linkages between place and songwriting through the lens of theorists and philosophers, including Thomas Gieryn, Tia DeNora, Jean Baudrillard, Roland Barthes, and Timothy Morton to understand how an aesthetic engagement with our surroundings impacts on our sense of social identity. To accompany the written component I present a creative folio, comprising nine original songs, that encapsulates these three notions of place, accompanied by an explication of process behind the creative output. This linked collection of songs illustrates some of the core concepts explored in the dissertation and contributes to a body of music that is concerned with place, connection and identity.
Keywordsplace; placelessness; new folk; songwriting
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