exploring Copenhagen

City Rhythms

Everywhere where there is interaction between a place, a time and an expenditure of energy, there is rhythm (Lefebvre 2004:15). 

After eight months of reading, writing and researching, my time in Copenhagen has come to an end. During this research journey I have found myself not only about 18.000 kilometres further north, but also in a rather different sphere regarding my understanding of space, place and music-making. Besides previous readings on cultural production, (musical) knowledge creation, localization and globalization, I delved into literature on spatial atmospheres, rhythms, affects, embodied movements and relationality. I pursued the idea of a sensual world-making, the affective bond between people and places, their feel for- or sense of a certain place. I came across Heidegger’s (1927) notion of ‘dwelling’, as a way of ‘being-in-the-world’, Yi-Fu Tuan’s (1974) Topophilia, or ‘love’ for a certain place as well as Kathleen Stuart’s (2011) concept of atmospheric attunements – the activity of a sensual world making that creates the charged atmospheres of everyday life. Here, things matter not because of how they are represented but because they have qualities, rhythms, forces, relations and movements. It is a non-representational approach that emphasizes rhythms of living, the body and its intensities of feeling, practical skills, and non-human agency, indicating that the world unfolds as these embodied practices take place.

For the purpose of my research, I decided to focus on the musician’s sense of place or more precisely, the unique urban rhythms underlying the music maker’s sense of place in Wellington and Copenhagen. Those rhythms are everyday life regularities that involve interactions between people, and interactions between people and their urban environment. Any kind of movement that evolves from physical space, people, nature and time (Wunderlich 2008). Whether one feels a place to be social and relaxed, or speedy and stressed, depends on the intensity and dominance of certain kinds of urban rhythms. Therefore, in order to grasp the musician’s sense of place I had to grasp their rhythms in daily life spaces (either in Copenhagen or Wellington). But how could I actually ‘do’ rhythmanalysis? How could such ‘grasping’ take place?

The music-maker’s urban rhythms involve movement between different locations as well as regular temporal patterns of events, activities, experiences and practices. For the purpose of recording and registering these rhythms, I decided to use four principle qualitative methods: participant observation, serial interviews, photo-elicitation interviews and mapping.

disposableAfter the first interview all musicians were given a disposable camera and the task to take photos of their musical environment. The instructions were purposely left rather open as I tried to limit any kind of framing in order to avoid setting up the everyday as an object of analysis, which then had to be ‘represented’. After a couple of weeks I developed the films and conducted follow-up interviews with each participant. In total there were around 600 images from 40 musicians – 20 of each city. After looking through them again, and again, I could recognise certain, place specific patterns, rhythms, recurring experiences or themes. I tried to visualise those first impressions by carefully selecting certain photographs that the musicians took in Wellington/Copenhagen and assembling them into two short movies:


Heidegger, M. (1996). Being and Time (J. Stambaugh, trans.). Albany: State University of New York Press. (Original work published in 1927).

Lefebvre, H. (2004). Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. (S. Elden, G. Moore, trans.). London: New York: Continuum.

Stewart, K. (2011). Atmospheric attunements. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

Tuan, Y.F. (1974). Topophilia: a study of environmental perception, attitudes, and values. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Wunderlich, F. M. (2008). Symphonies of Urban Places: Urban Rhythms as Traces of Time in Space. A Study of ‘Urban Rhythms’. KOHT ja PAIK / PLACE and LOCATION Studies in Environmental Aesthetics and Semiotics VI, VI, 91-111.

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