Mersey beat tunes in to Big Easy boom

August 25, 1995

The unique relationship between music and the city is to be explored in a study of New Orleans and Liverpool, officially twinned in 1988, by the Institute of Popular Music at Liverpool University.

The two port cities both recognise the importance of their maritime and musical heritage and have identified their cultural industries as a primary focus for regeneration. Both are also renowned for popular music which today generates huge international interest. It has been calculated, for example, that music in New Orleans attracted $593.6 million in 1990. Music tourism created 38,000 jobs in the year - excluding musicians.

Sara Cohen, research fellow at the institute, which was established by Liverpool's former vice chancellor Graeme Davies, says the complex relationship between music and place has yet to be properly investigated. Work under way at the institute has begun to explore soundscapes and the semiotics of place in music and urban regeneration.

Researchers will spend six months in each city carrying out ethnographic research on popular music including its social effect and the sounds, artifacts, images and resulting tensions and controversies. The music's symbolism will also be studied alongside its economic impact.

A report by the institute on the proposed research, says the policy implications of the research will be emphasised, particularly in relation to tourism, for policy makers have rarely capitalised on the increasingly global and highly profitable music industry. "The role and potential of popular music in tourism policy and in economic development generally has tended to be neglected by policy makers, partly because it has been perceived as overtly commercial and as entertainment rather than as art or industry," the institute says.

Music can however be a significant factor in local development influencing, for example, quality of life and the ways in which people perceive and value places.

The research will not only be relevant to cities with a strong indigenous music tradition, but will also be of interest to those wanting to use music to attract tourists.

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