chapter  2
10 Pages

Milieu Cultures—The Theoretical Development of the Milieu: From Subcultures, Scenes, and Neo-tribes to Milieu

Sara Cohen made a plea for more ethnographies of ‘scenes’ to ‘help illustrate the way in which scenes are lived, experienced, and imagined by particular groups within particular situations, and to explore their local, national, and transnational connections’ (Cohen, 1999: 249, in Horner and Swiss, 1999). She had written this in the context of a chapter examining the importance and use of the term ‘scene’ in popular music literature. She had charted its development as a term that was initially used to describe local music culture through studies such as her own on Liverpool (Cohen, 1991) and Barry Shank’s on Austin, Texas (Shank, 1994), through to a term that could be used to describe music scenes as global and mobile cultures. Cohen uses her study and Shank’s study again to describe how ‘scene’ can be used in this ‘global’ and ‘mobile’ context, also drawing on the work of Mark Olsen, who links the idea of scenes with migrancy and permanent motion (Olsen, 1998, in Swiss, Sloop, and Herman, 1998). Will Straw developed a more complex notion of the term in his account of North American rock scenes (Straw, 1991). He emphasised a more fl uid, cosmopolitan, transitory, and geographically dispersed sense of scene and discussed the way scenes are created by ‘alliances’ made by people with similar musical preferences. He also suggested that scenes were constrained or enabled by relations of power that shape the way the scene is imagined and its nature. This could be the championing or ridiculing of a ‘scene’ by the music press (e.g., ‘Madchester’: the Liverpool sound) or, conversely, the celebration of a scene like ‘trip-hop’ and then its demise as a new cutting-edge genre in the music press, or the amount of resources for music production and promotion available in a particular city.