Melbourne popular music in the museum

Locating the academy in the sonic city


  • Marcus Breen Boston College



Melbourne, Popular Music, Mushroom Records, Gudinski, culture


An exhibition at RMIT University in 2013–2014, ‘Music, Melbourne and Me: 40 Years of Mushroom and Melbourne’s Popular Music Culture’, suggested that art museums can offer new ways of engaging with the complex world of popular creativity and commerce in its urban location. In an effort to move beyond established tropes of popular music representations featuring static displays of posters, album covers, costumes and photography, an audio-visual invention designed and built at RMIT called Morphos combined music video and design to noisy combinatory effect. As such, Morphos suggested that the exhibition connected with the rise of an ideologically-informed museum studies that foregrounds the way knowledge is assembled and that museum innovations have a critical role to play against popular music’s consumerist excesses, identifying as ‘bullshit’ popular music that is uninformed by the history and political economy of the place in which it is located. Furthermore, as popular music history becomes a regular part of museum exhibitions, the article argues that academics have a unique opportunity to critically inform the relationship between popular music and urban life, to generate a praxis that delivers the truth of lived experience in the urban sonic landscape.

Author Biography

Marcus Breen, Boston College

Marcus Breen is visiting Faculty, Director of the Media Laboratory, Director of Movement & Media Action Research Project (MRAP), Department of Communication, Boston College. He is the author of Uprising: The Internet’s Unintended Consequences (2011), Rock Dogs: Politics and the Australian Music Industry (1999/2006).


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How to Cite

Breen, M. (2017). Melbourne popular music in the museum: Locating the academy in the sonic city. Perfect Beat, 17(2), 124–143.