Nowhere man

urban life and the virtualization of popular music


  • Paul Graves-Brown Freelance Writer and Archaeologist, Llaneli, Wales



heritage, monument, non-place, performance, placelessness, recording, virtualization


Music is not a physical thing, but an event and an action, and since modern urban and posturban ‘places’ are fragmented, topological and often virtual, the attempt to monumentalize popular music seems misguided. The monumental sense of place is based on concepts of tenure and ownership that are challenged by the fluidity of modern urban life. Rapid transport and the media of instant communication have created a non-Euclidean sense of place, and the development of recording and other audio media over the last 130 years has been integral to this process, emphasizing time axis manipulation over the fixity of location. This paper does not seek to refute the connection between music and place, but rather to see both making and listening to music as involving a dynamic construction of place which is necessitated by the ephemeral, kinetic nature of music itself.

Author Biography

Paul Graves-Brown, Freelance Writer and Archaeologist, Llaneli, Wales

Paul Graves-Brown is an archaeologist specializing in modern material culture/technology and the archaeology of the contemporary past. Principal publications include Matter, Materiality and Modern Culture (ed. 2000) and ‘Avtomat Kalashnikova’ (Journal of Material Culture 2007). He has also performed, composed and recorded music for more than 30 years, working as a sound engineer for BBC Radio, engineering for live bands, creating incidental music for theatre and very occasionally producing. Recent work can be heard at and


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How to Cite

Graves-Brown, P. (2010). Nowhere man: urban life and the virtualization of popular music. Popular Music History, 4(2), 220–241.