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‘Montreal might eat its young, but Montreal won’t break us down’: The co-production of place, space and independent music in Mile End, 1995–2015

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This article seeks to link the processes of gentrification in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood with its musical history over the past twenty years. A selective chronology of independent music from the neighbourhood is described, beginning with the early years of instrumental rock group Godspeed You Black Emperor! and concluding with the recent output of electronic music label Arbutus Records, via the commercial breakthrough of Arcade Fire’s Funeral album in 2004. Through a discussion of the ideas of Henri Lefebvre, Sharon Zukin and David Ley’s interpretation of the theories of Pierre Bourdieu, it is argued that the music produced in the neighbourhood can be seen as unified with its physical spaces in a number of ways under contemporary capitalism; in their parallel trajectories of progression and renewal and in the way they both construct and are constructed by notions of ‘place’. While it is argued that the dynamism of the music scene in Mile End has been intimately connected to broader processes of urban economic restructuring, the article also highlights the challenges an increasingly gentrified Mile End faces in maintaining its status as a fertile centre of cultural production.
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Keywords: Mile End; Montreal; alternative music; electronic music; gentrification; place; space; urban restructuring

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: York University

Publication date: 01 September 2015

More about this publication?
  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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