Space, Place, and Music in New Orleans

This dissertation explores ways in which many people in New Orleans use, experience, form emotional attachments to, and make sense of space through music. It analyzes how music intersects with geography and how the musical experiences of New Orleanians bring meaning to the built form. It examines the role of the agent in the social construction of space, and how people use music as a spatial enabler in New Orleans. It proposes that music enables people to socially construct space because it accesses the nexus of memory and emotion, operates in a greater cultural context, and is a useful tool for variable expression. In order to present varied experiences with the musical construction of space, this dissertation approaches its subject through four case studies: place attachment through the “second line” parading tradition and North Claiborne Avenue, the fixing of memories in space at the Ernie K-Doe Mother-in-Law Lounge, the negotiation of public space through musical performances in various contexts, and the creation and growth of a music community in the New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village. In so doing, it illustrates that New Orleans, as a musical city, is greater than a soundscape or a cultural identity—it is the sum of myriad musical experiences that individuals in New Orleans have had as they interact with the space around them.