PhD defense Leonieke Bolderman on music tourism
Music tourism is an increasingly popular practice – just think about the amount of people visiting The Beatles’ Liverpool, or Elvis’ Graceland. But what are these people looking for? How can music lead to tourism, and what makes this activity meaningful to those concerned? On 22 March 2018, Leonieke Bolderman will defend her dissertation ‘Musical topophilia. A critical analysis of contemporary music tourism’, in which she answers these questions.
City marketers increasingly build on the imaginative power of music. Through ‘place-branding’, cities are given new identities, which increasingly build on popular culture such as film, tv and music. Music tourism is seen as a way to stimulate economic growth, to contribute to urban revitalization and to attract new audiences.
Despite these high expectations, little is known about the ways music becomes intertwined with local identity, and what visiting music-related places means to tourists. To explain the popularity of contemporary music tourism, Leonieke Bolderman explored these more fundamental questions underlying this phenomenon. In her dissertation ‘Musical topophilia. A critical analysis of contemporary music tourism’, she analyses music tourism as a form of musical topophilia: the love for place through music. Listeners form a connection to place through listening to music.
To explore this process in practice, she compared various types of tourism involving different genres of music: she traveled to Bayreuth for Wagner tourism, Stockholm for ABBA tourism, Dublin for U2 tourism, Prague for a jazz workshop, Corfu for a classical music workshop, and Miltown Malbay for a workshop on traditional Irish music. On top of that, she interviewed tourists about their holiday music – the music they collected in streaming service Spotify for going on holiday.
Based on this research, she concludes in her dissertation that music can move people literally by moving them emotionally first: music stimulates the imagination and thereby lays the groundwork for musical topophilia. Some listeners then travel to make their appreciation of music tangible, by walking around somewhere and by experiencing the location physically. Their travel experiences reinforce their love for both music and place, growing the link between them. Therefore, on the one hand, music contributes to the popularity of and the affinity with certain place identities. On the other hand, it is through visiting these places that one can experience proximity to the otherwise more abstract nature of music. In this way, music can function as a resource to ‘locate’ oneself in an increasingly ‘fluid’ world, making the ephemeral more concrete – by adding a soundtrack to your surroundings –, while at the same time enchanting the tangible world with something beyond sight.