Music matters in geography: The geographies of new electronic music in Cologne between fluidity and fixity* BERND ADAMEK

*This is the original english version of a paper reviewed, translated and published by the french journal Geographie et culture as: Adamek-Schyma, Bernd (2006): Les geographies de la nouvelle musique electronique a Cologne: entre fluidite et fixite. In: Geographie et Cultures 59, hiver, numero special: La geographie de la musique, dirige par Claire Guiu, Paris: L'Harmattan. S. 105-126. Summary: In this paper an often marginally explored issue in the work on geographies of music, the notions of fluidity and fixity in music, is addressed by example of contemporary new electronic music in Cologne. After a short overview of the German speaking contributions to the field of geographies of music, the notion of “fluidity” in music will be related to the fluidity of spaces by way of a critical discourse in Actor-Network-Theory and after. The empirical part of this paper employs the concept of fluidity and its - seeming - counterpart fixity by drawing on results taken from research on specific Cologne music scenes from a global-local-perspective. The focal point is the Belgium quarter, an innercity neighbourhood in Cologne. Finally, some new routes for possible further research in the field will be shortly highlighted.

1. Writing geographies of music in German-speaking countries Since the evolvement of modern geography in German speaking countries, music matters in the discipline: as early as in the 1920s, Alfred Hettner criticized Friedrich Ratzel for doing geography only in a visual manner. He emphasized the necessity of a geography which also integrates sounds and smells (Hettner, 1927, p.128). Through the work of Albrecht Penck and Wilhelm Volz and the description, categorization, and aesthetics of landscape, the language and concepts of music and especially the notions of ‘rhythm’ and ‘harmony’ found an early way into geography (Hartshorne 1939, p.260-262). However, apart from these musical footnotes in the history of our discipline, since a couple of years a growing interest in the field of geography of music can be noticed also within the German-speaking scientific community. This work has been done first and foremost by younger up-and-coming researchers and post-graduate students. I will not draw on these extensively, a short spotlight-like overview with a few examples might well serve the needs of a first insight into the studies which are maybe not all ‘genuinely’ geographic but at least touch the field of music geographies. Some single studies were carried out in economic geography from the perspective of cluster formation (Grimm 2002) which were also extended to other 1

aspects of economic geography in special local music scenes. Two just recently finished diploma theses drew on economical aspects of location strategies and space matters of the music industry in Munich (Bock 2004) or on the relations between urban subcultures and location choices of the music industry in Berlin (Bader 2003) which also led to an international conference on the “the sound of the city” (Der Sound der Stadt, in Berlin in 2004). Recently, Christoph Mager (2003) has been carrying out a study on representation, diffusion, identity and transformation processes of and in German Rap and Hip Hop music from an explicitly geographical perspective. Other German-speaking researchers focused on specific local music ‘scenes’, e.g. Susanne Binas’ (2000) in her study on the Berlin music scenes or Robert Harauer (2001) in his work on new electronic music in Vienna. Although these two later authors are not geographers, their studies are equipped with partly strong references of and questions asked for the matters of place and space in relation to music scenes. In 2004, Rüdiger Ritter, a historian came up with an extensive study about conflicts between Warsaw and Wilna in terms of national and urban music cultures before 1939 (Ritter 2004). Another line of research on the spatial aspects of music followed by Germanspeaking researchers are ethnographically-sociologically furnished studies. The studies by Bastian Lange and Silke Steets (2002) revolve around the supposed sociospatial strategies of young urban cultural entrepreneurs, so called “culturepreneurs” – among them many entrepreneurs who work in the field of music. These studies on Berlin and Frankfurt/Main mainly employ a ‘cultural industry’ perspective combined with urban lifestyle matters (see also Helbrecht 1998) and issues of recent urban development. The work on culturepreneurs is also connected to research projects and post graduate colleges on transformation issues in so called transit spaces ( and These first and foremost ethnographically oriented projects – departing from research on the transitions of central- and eastern European cities – among other issues draw explicitly on the geography of informal economies like those of certain music scenes with respect to transit spaces. Not strictly connected to music, but to sound and soundscape research with a geographical perspective in the realm of environmental and landscape perception and landscape aesthetics is the work carried out in Switzerland by the geographer Justin Winkler (see e.g. Winkler 1992). This work is in many ways connected to the tradition of the world soundscape project and its studies in acoustic ecology carried out in 2

Canada from the 1970s on till today. Among other contributions, Winkler’s work includes studies on the acoustic landscapes of Switzerland and thus delivers a contemporary European addition to the work started in Canada. 2. Fluidity and fixity in music Although a whole range of new aspects has been addressed by this body of recent work in the realm of the geographies of music, one aspect which is in my opinion central for the construction of place and space through the production and consumption of music was often implicitly or explicitly mentioned but has nevertheless not been extensively explored yet: the notion of the fluid characteristics of music and matters of fluidity in the construction of spaces and in the processes of emplacements. Obviously, the notion of fluidity is at some points connected to accounts of the global spaces of flows as introduced e.g. by Appadurai and Castells (see e.g. Castells 1989, Castells 2000, Appadurai 1996, 2000). Nevertheless, the concept of fluidity and the fluidity of space at crucial points lifts off from the concept of the global spaces of flows. Thus, a separate consideration of these concepts especially with respect to music promises some deeper insights into the subject issue. Fluidity and music are intrinsically connected. Probably because of the fleeting, non-fixed, and non-fixable characteristics of the aural, music is a cultural form through which fluidity emerges in various – especially spatial – ways. Through the fluid and fleeting features of the aural highly flexible spaces can be created. This is subject e.g. in studies on club cultures. Ingham et al. (1999) state in their study on warehouse, i.e. techno parties and raves, in northern England in which they recall Hakim Bey’s concept of “temporary autonomous zones that existed in a fleeting space-time of their own (p.291)”. The full range of possibilities to work with the concept of fluidity in music can be tapped by pulling the apparently antithetical concept of fixity into the boat. Interesting in this respect is Connell and Gibson’s (2003) confrontation of these concepts with respect to popular music. They consider the tensions “between music as itinerant and fleeting, and music as something static, fixed and immobile” (Ibid., p.9) and note that these tensions “reflect a range of spatial practices, tendencies, decisions and physical objects” (Ibid., see also table 1).


Table 1: Interpretations of ‘fluidity’ and ‘fixity’. Source: Connell and Gibson (2003, p.10) ‚Fluidity’ Material processes Distribution of products Migration Capital Flows Mass markets The act of tourism Broadcast and transmission Technological diffusion Cultural flows and stylistic influences Discourses of styles and symbols Trans-continental and crosscultural alliances Hybridity ‚Fixity’ Agglomeration tendencies at industry level Insularity Fixed production infrastructure Domestic markets / tradition Sites of tourism Consumption of products Sources of musical product Territorial assertions Tradition / heritage authenticity Cultural ‘resistance’ Appeal to ‘roots’ /

Discursive processes

However, when employing the concepts of fluidity and fixity in this way, we have to be aware of the pitfalls: all too easily one may associate fixity with places and fluidity with spaces and consequently treat places and spaces as a dichotomy. Doreen Massey (2004) hints at the dangers of on the one hand associating place with authenticity and meaningfulness and on the other hand treating space as something abstract, moreover, “place as space to which meaning has been ascribed” (Carter Donald and Squires 1994, quoted in Massey 2004, p.7). She considers this to be “both intellectually untenable and politically problematical” (Ibid.). She argues that when working on relational space – which we do especially when working on the production and consumption of music where interaction, relations and connections are essential – and on the “mutual constitution of the local and the global - then this kind of counterposition between space and place is on shaky ground” (Ibid.). This has to be kept in mind when applying the concepts of fluidity and fixity to the geographies of music. 3. Networks in music Obviously, the issues of fluidity and fixity are in many ways connected to network issues. In many recent studies on the geographies of music, the network – especially the social network – concept is employed to explain the spatiality of the production and consumption of music and of the social movements connected with music. The benefits of working with the network concept in the realm of the geography of music – a field inherently interwoven with the global-local nexus – are manifold. E.g. in the area of so called independent or underground music ‘scenes’ it 4

seems to be the case that global spaces are reorganized “from below” through social networks and the “network-oriented subaltern strategies of localization”, as Escobar (2001, p.139) puts it. This again results in new configurations of both space and place: “These networks propitiate the reorganization of space from below and some measure of symmetry between the local and the global. They can be seen as creating “glocalities”, that is, cultural and spatial configurations that connect places with each other to create regional spaces and regional worlds” (Ibid., p.166). The necessity to employ network considerations has been especially emphasized for research on the music industry, communities, ‘scenes’ and social movements in music. In a programmatic and subsuming article Simon Frith (2000) states that “first, we need to focus research on the differences between different music networks – the economy of dance music, for example, with its network of clubs, DJs, small record producers and specialist importers, works rather differently than the economy of pop” (p.390). Network research, it seems, promises to deliver important building material with which a new and flexible framework for research on the geographies of music can be constructed. It might open up possibilities to deal with manifold aspects of the issue in an integrating manner. E.g. questions of cultural diversity might be explicitly addressed by researching music networks since special cultural practices in music are connected to the differences between specific music business cultures which depend on networks: “[T]these networks (the basis of trust, the source of knowledge) differ according to the musical genres involved. Rap talent, the rap market, works differently from country talent, the country market; … A successful company is not one that imposes a singular company culture on its various musical divisions, but one which is able to manage divisions which operate according to very different cultures. (Ibid., p.388-389) Another example of what research in network-oriented spatiality reveals is that the quality of work and the working culture in the music industry, especially in the so called independent, underground or alternative sector is in some ways substantially different from other cultural industries (Gibson 2003, p.205-206). Within these networks, according to Scott (1997), „[e]ach of these communities represents a node of location-specific interactions and emergent effects [...] in which the stimulus to cultural experimentation and renewal tends to be high“ (p.325). The urban environment is the testing ground and experimentation field of the cultural products (Scott 1999, p.1974-1975) developed through and in networks. Additionally, at this point the aspect of the blurring of borders of the places of music comes into play, like 5

e.g. in musical production where sites of socio-cultural interaction are intrinsically connected to networks: “Thus the ‘work’ of music cannot be divorced from the social networks of people who make and promote it, and the sites they occupy in order to do so” (Gibson 2003, p.205). From all these examples we can read that processes of spatiality and emplacement are intrinsically linked to network issues. Moreover, approaching the cultural geographies of music via network paths promises fruitful ways to integrate a whole range of different and highly important aspects which otherwise were damned to be treated in an isolated manner. 4. After networks: fluid spaces? But there are also certain serious difficulties with the employment of the network concept. I will shed light on these difficulties by shortly outlining the critical discourse within Actor-Network-Theory (ANT). This critique, put on the agenda by one of the main developers of ANT (Bruno Latour) and also some of its practitioners, revolves around the careless use of ANT and specifically the concept of the network. Furthermore, I would like to show how from this critique the notion of fluidity and especially the notion of fluid spaces evolves. According to the developers of ANT, “[ANT] was never a theory of what the social is made of, contrary to the reading of many sociologists who believed it was one more school trying to explain the behaviour of social actors” (Latour 1999, p.19). Furthermore, Latour suspects that the inflationary and careless use of the network concept has caused the closure, stream-lined grinding, shallowing and centring of the features of the network concept. Hetherington and Law (2000) criticize not only the misuse of the network concept but draw on the problematic inherent features of this concept. They claim that through the network concept, which originally meant structural relations freed from hierarchies and centres, a new centre, that is these relations, is created so that everything can be fixed and categorized within a closed system (Hetherington and Law 2000, p.127). Eventually the network would become a „a system of thought that can colonize all areas – to incorporate, order, and unify all things“ (Lee and Brown 1994, p.780). This, obviously, has undesired side-effects which endangers the entire foundations of the project of actant-network research. Latour (1999) states that eventually “the last bit of the critical cutting edge of the notion of network” (Latour 1999 p.15-16) has been killed.


According to Latour and the other ANT developers, through the network concept as it is used today, no more space is left for what is outside, or in between the networks – these spaces, this “terra icognita“ which, according to Latour (1999) where the most exciting aspect of ANT are lost (p.19). ANT, meant as a tool for thinking non-rigid and unlimited topologies, is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success with “the effect of limiting the conditions of spatial and relational possibility“ (Law 1999, p.8) and become itself a “form of spatiality” (ibid. p.7) The problems with restrictions, centring, exclusion and rigidity identified by developers and practitioners of ANT obviously limit the usage of both the network concept and ANT for the work on social space. An escape from this dilemma after networks could be the employment of the concept of fluidity, as Mol and Law (1994) suggest that “sometimes, then, social space behaves like a fluid” (p.643): For in a network things that go together depend on one another. If you take one away, the consequences are likely to be disastrous. But in a fluid it isn’t like that because there is no obligatory point of passage; no place past which everything else has to file; no panopticon; no centre of translation; which means that every individual element may be superfluous. (Ibid., p.661) But how can this concept of fluidity be employed in the work on the geographies of music? It seems that especially matters which are connected to production and economy, matters of communication, network relations and actant / actor connections promise to be fruitful paths towards an exploration of the fluidity of spaces. During the research that I have carried out on the scenes of new electronic and contemporary experimental and new electronic music in Cologne (Schyma 2002) it became clear that the global connection of actors is an essential feature. Dense relations and frequent communication are necessary tools to produce publishing possibilities and promotion or market platforms for non-“mainstream”, experimental and not first and foremost commercially oriented cultural products. It is important to mention that these connections and relations were, of course, not just out there. Also, they did not develop in all cases into the strong and permanent relations that the notion of a network might suggest. The relations were very flexible. They themselves produced spaces and around them spaces were constructed which may be considered to have those kind of fluid characteristics that were mentioned above.


5. New electronic music in Cologne between fluidity and fixity The connections between activists and artists in new electronic and experimental music ‘scenes’ have some roots in off-springs of punk, new wave, industrial, Do-it-yourself or home recording and independent music scenes of the late 1970s and the early to mid 1980s. From early personal contacts, established either face-to-face in a local artist or music scene or via mail or telephone contacts with artists and activists located all over the world, global and trans-national flows of information (e.g. through fan publication, so called Fanzines) and musical products (through distribution of products via record labels and mail orders, later distributors) developed. From the middle of 1990s on these connections and flows resulted in clearly hearable and visible new geographies of music. On the local level, the fluidity of music spaces surfaces in the creation and cooperation of local scenes and results in the production and transformation of various places and spaces. On the other hand the fluidity of space comes into play by trans-national flows which are transformed by both the places and spaces of music production and which also themselves transform these places and spaces. Some examples from the Cologne music scenes might help to illustrate this. The following section is based on research carried out in Cologne between 2001 and 2002 (Schyma 2002). The research design of this study consisted of 15 interviews with experts (key figures of the Cologne music scenes and international collaborators), an extensive media analysis and participatory observation. The following section recapitulates some of the results of this study with respect to the notions of fluidity and fixity. In the second half of the 1990s the neighbourhood of the so called Belgium quarter (Belgisches Viertel) in Cologne was the urban quarter with probably the highest relevancy for the scenes of new electronic music in Germany and probably the world. The Belgium quarter had been developing into a global centre for new electronic music with international recognition: not only the specialized music scene press like the British music magazine The Wire (see e.g. The Wire 159/1997 and The Wire 164/1997) but also major German newspapers and news magazines like Der Spiegel (Der Spiegel 32/1997), Die Zeit (Die Zeit 29/1996) or the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Süddeutsche Zeitung 05.04.2002) and also international newspapers showed a great interest in the musicians, producers, labels, distributors, shops and other actors who worked and partly lived in the Belgium Quarter. The saying of


Cologne as the “world capital of electronic music” ( Süddeutsche Zeitung 10.12.1997) made its round. Not without reason: between 1994 and 1995 within less than 12 months three different new electronic music scenes installed their headquarters in the quarter in the form of record shops. Within only a few hundred meters walking distance to each other the shops joined a fourth store which was located in the neighbourhood already since 1992. This sudden concrete manifestation in urban space around the St. Michael’s church and the Brüsseler Platz can be regarded as a spatial manifestation of flows - of symbols, cultures and people - connected to music which were circulating within the city and beyond since many years. At the time of the opening of the shops the different scenes and actors around the a-Musik (experimental and listening music), Kompakt (minimal techno music), Formic (electro, techno music) and Groove Attack (Groove, soul, Hip-Hop, Drum’n’Bass) stores had been active in various constellations up to more than ten years. Formerly these scenes or individual actors were publishing and selling records independently of each other so to say from their children’s rooms in their parents houses (e.g. a-Musik, see e.g. interview with F. Dommert 14.02.2002 1). Either they had met in music schools (interview with G. Odijk, 22.01.2002) or the ‘scenes’ had been developing in and around music clubs (e.g. Groove Attack, And then suddenly these ‘scenes’ – partly without having known each other before – took place in the same neighbourhood, at various locations only a couple of minutes walking distance apart at an inner-city location in one of the major German cities. So let me turn to the questions why at this time? and why there? within such a short time such a concentration of underground music businesses mushroomed in the Belgium Quarter. The question why at this time? can be answered relatively straight forward with the general technological and economical changes in the cultural realm connected to globalization and digitalization which found their wide expression in different economic and cultural sectors. Within this field, the changing production conditions in the making and selling of music play a central role (Sumudits / Sperlich 2004). Obviously, not only meanwhile widely available and affordable home-recording and music production technology (synthesizers, software, plug-ins, etc.) but also lower costs for communication and transport stimulated the

Here and in the following I refer to fully transcribed qualitative interviews, for more information on these interviews see the reference section of this paper and especially for original quotes from these interviews see Schyma 2004.


production within these cultural segments which formerly were often disadvantaged in terms of monetary capital. Lower costs for e.g. promotion, marketing and distribution as well as faster ways to connect to other activists and artists resulted in a speed-up of artistic and cultural contacts and of business and production. In terms of the question why there? it is difficult to apply traditional explanation patterns to the location choice of these former underground businesses. Both in the middle of the 1990s and today the Belgium quarter was and is far from being a low price rental area. There was neither a surplus of commercial or residential space in this area nor was Cologne – at that time fiercely promoted as the German media metropolis – a shrinking city. The music scenes were not recycling void urban spaces. Neither these nor any (other) effects of contemporary city transformation are apt for the explanation of cultural underground business settlement in the Belgium Quarter. Instead it seems to be the case that the spatial concentration of cultural entrepreneurs of this new kind at that special time is connected to a series of cultural developments which were spatially manifested both locally and globally and likewise between fluidity and fixity. But let us first turn to the hard and soft location facts: beside the fact that Cologne is Germany’s fourth biggest city and occupies a central location in Europe at the crossroads of major traffic lines – the newest development being the major German turnstile for cheap airlines –, the city plays an important role for the cultural life and cultural industries in Germany. Cologne is one of the most important German locations for the media, on a global level Cologne hosts international art fairs (e.g. Art Cologne) and its art collections, galleries p.201-204). In the field of music some aspects of Cologne are especially striking which, of course, have not escaped the attention of the city marketing of Cologne: since the 1990s the city of Cologne is promoting itself as “ Musikmetropole” ( The Cologne music conservatory ( Musikhochschule) and the New Music scene in Cologne from the 1950s on had been enjoying an excellent international reputation: highly influential composers of early electronic and experimental music (Karl-Heinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel) live and work in or close to Cologne and the first studio of electronic music in Germany was established in the 1950s in Cologne under the roof of the regional broadcaster WDR. The Jazz Scenes in Cologne from the 1950s on developed vividly and partly with international recognition (Zahn 10 and museums (e.g. Museum Ludwig) are of global relevance (Kessler-Lehmann 1993,

1998) and from 1989 until 2003 one of the biggest popular music and entertainment fairs, the ‘Popkomm’, was situtated in Cologne. Not the least, there is a considerable new input of fresh creative talent through the establishment of the Academy of Media Arts (Kunsthochschule für Medien) in 1990. But also on the smaller scale of the Belgium Quarter culture seems to be a key factor for the development of the respective cultural entrepreneurs of the music scenes. It seems that although the rents especially in central locations of Cologne are high, the cultural life of the Belgium quarter was perfectly apt for the settlement of these special and not first and foremost commercially oriented businesses. Although never classically gentrified, the quarter had a past as a location for artistic life and countercultural movements: e.g. the basement of the Café and club Stadtgarten, since the middle of the 1980s a central meeting point and venue for the Cologne Jazz scene, hosted Cool Jazz concerts in the 1950s ( Besides, the editorial offices of both the local city magazine Stadtrevue and of the most influential and biggest German magazine for alternative music, Spex, both with roots in the countercultures of the 1970s and 1980s, were also located in this neighbourhood. Furthermore, the quarter has the highest density of galleries in Cologne (Kessler-Lehmann 1993, p.224) and from the beginning of the 1990s on also other businesses of the cultural industries were pulled to the quarter – culture and art promotion agencies, advertising agencies, international and ‘scene’ gastronomy or fashion designers, boutiques and shops. Of course these cultural businesses and the people who operated them brought specific lifestyles to the quarter, but the quarter nevertheless remained a city-centre quarter with an almost village like character – the centre being the St. Michael’s church at the Brüsseler Platz surrounded by streets with a relatively high density of turn of century and Gründerzeit buildings and, especially along Bismarckstraße and Venloer Straße, former back yard workshops and other production spaces which were reused as galleries from the beginning of the 1980s on (Ibid.). Nevertheless, some pockets of older businesses and gastronomy associated with local, traditional Cologne quarters (in the local dialect also called “ Kölsche Veedel”) culture remained. This mixture probably attached to the quarter a certain sense of place connected to a certain lifestyle (for an idiosyncratic and revealing description of the life and lifestyle in the Belgium quarter from the perspective of one of the music protagonists see Spex 11/1997).


The city-centre location itself resulted in short walking distances from other important places of new electronic music in Cologne, e.g. the living room like club Liquid Sky which for some years in the second half of the 1990s played a central role as a meeting and performance place with international recognition ( The Wire (159/1997), The Wire (164/1997), Spex (11/1996), see interviews M. Mayer 07.03.2002, J. Zimmermann 21.02.2002, F. Dommert 14.02.2002). The Belgium quarter is also located in closest proximity to the Media Park - built on the site of a former railway goods depot - which in the middle of the 1990s hosted all kinds of media companies, among them the German Music TV channel VIVA, the youth radio channel Einslive of the regional broadcaster WDR and later also the German headquarter of the major record company EMI. It is also close to other neighbourhoods, e.g. Ehrenfeld where a high amount either of artists live and work or the quarter close to the university and the Zülpicher Straße, where a high amount of students lives and works – of which both are important clientéle for the music scenes as major producers, activists or customers. The spatial concentration of cultural activities, practices and businesses around new electronic music that had formerly been taking place mainly in private space all over the city or beyond became open to the public in the middle of the 1990s. With the record stores little islands within the constantly global fluid spaces of new electronic music surfaced on the city level and spaces and places of global music activities. New spaces and places of the cultural life of the city were produced and the existing were transformed. The global flows of music, different sorts of actants and the relations between them, as well as different discursive processes connected to music took place in Cologne, materialized, or departed from there. New geographies of music were created and negotiated between fluidity and fixity. Following Connell’s and Gibson’s (2003) interpretation of fluidity and fixity (Ibid., p.10), these concepts can be read into the following material and discursive processes at this time in Cologne:
Table 2: Interpretations of ‘fluidity’ and ‘fixity’ (following from Cologne ‘Fluidity’ Material processes worldwide distribution of music products from Cologne Connell/Gibson 2003): examples

‘Fixity’ dense agglomeration localization of distributors shops in the Belgium quarter Migration of artists and activists The insular situation of a to Cologne distributors and shops Cologne and especially Belgium quarter Broadcast, Transmission, local live performances playing of recorded music from

and and few in the


Discursive processes

Cologne all over the world Global flows of music stylistic influences

and Development and assertion of Cologne specific styles (e.g. minimal techno from Kompakt ‘scene’) Hybridity Appeal to roots (traditional electronic music, 1970s German Krautrock, composer Karl-Heinz Stockhausen, etc.) Formation of a global ‘fan’ and The everyday of the local scene follower scene of certain Cologne based styles Global flows of music and Life, style, and lifestyle in the people, global lifestyles emerging Belgium quarter from Cologne, coming into Cologne

In the following section I would like to elaborate these examples of interpretations of fluidity and fixity with respect to Cologne a little bit further. A few deeper insights into the local circumstances, put together in a narrative way, might help. Soon after the opening of the shops the face-to-face encounters of music activists on the streets and in the shops of the Belgium Quarter drastically increased (see interviews e.g. with M. Mayer 07.03.2002 or G. Odijk 22.01.2002) and cooperation of various kinds happened. Flows of music were confronted with fixity, in the way that they found places in the stores or music was consumed or performed in new places, the shops, clubs, or homes. Cooperation in terms of the distribution and sale of records, of informal and formal knowledge transfer or services between producers, artists and other actors or various other kinds of distribution occurred (see interviews e.g. with M. Detmer 20.12.2002, M. Mayer 07.03.2002 or G. Odijk 22.01.2002, F. Dommert 14.02.2002). An increasingly fixed infra structure of the production – consumption chain was built. Locally, cooperation in terms of the distribution and sale of records, of informal and formal knowledge transfer or services between producers, artists and other actors from Cologne occurred. Especially in the field of sales and distribution these cooperations played an important role: e.g. although the shops and scenes partly sold the same records and were thus potential competitors in close neighbourhood, this was generally not regarded as competitive. Quite the reverse was the case. A general feel of solidarity, support and mutual help between all different scenes and most of the actors created a special and explicitly welcomed business and working atmosphere (see esp. G. Odijk 22.01.2002, M.Mayer 07.03.2002, F. Dommert 14.02.2002). Records made by one scene from Cologne were sold also in the other shops and the products and shops of the other scenes were recommended to 13

the customers with the respective music taste. Here, the same "competition seeking" (Kessler-Lehmann 1993, p.222, quoting Behrens 1961) like in the gallery and art scene of Cologne (Ibid.) occurs. Records made in Cologne by local or international artists were pumped into global music flows by the record distribution units which were vertically integrated into the stores located in the Belgium quarter. Records from Cologne were released in high numbers but in small editions – usually between 500 and 2000 copies per release were pressed. The stores served as multifunctional headquarters and meeting points for a global scene (see interviews e.g. with G. Odijk 22.01.2002, A. Sasaki 14.02.2002, O. Ambarchi 04.03.2002, The Wire 159/1997, The Wire 164/1997). On a small but recognizable scale, some kind of trans-national artist migration to Cologne occured. Beside the music tourism to the sites of music production and consumption, a considerable amount of fans and (future-) music professionals were pulled to to Cologne temporarily or permanently moved to Cologne and started a career in the music businesses around the stores and distributors Kompakt, Groove Attack or aMusik (see e.g. interviews with M. Mayer 07.03.2002, A. Butler 19.12.2001). Cologne thus became an island in the flows of new electronic music where explorers of new styles found a new artistic home (in the form of publishing at the Cologne based labels) or permanent residence (in the case of those artists and activists who decided to move to Cologne because of the things going on around music). Contacts and exchange with actors, activists and scenes world wide were established (see e.g. interviews with O. Ambarchi, 04.03.2002 and A. Sasaki 14.02.2002). Cultural Flows and Musical Styles originating from Cologne had a world wide influence but were territorially asserted in Cologne. Examples are the Electronic Duo Mouse on Mars, Wolfgang Voigt (the owner of Kompakt), Thomas Brinkmann or Bernd “Burnt” Friedmann who had a world wide success in the respective scenes and were highly influential for other musicians around the world. In the late 1990s it had become increasingly easy to buy the formerly hard to get records from Cologne even in remote places. The difficulties to buy records from Cologne e.g. in Australia or Japan diminished as the underground distribution connections developed and more and more foreign distributors in various countries or on the internet sold records from Cologne (see e.g. interview with G. Odijk 22.01.2002, O. Ambarchi 04.03.2002, A. Sasaki 14.02.2002). On the other hand the records of generally unknown artists from Japan, the U.S.A., Australia and many other countries surfaced in Cologne's record shops. Moreover, obscure musical 14

footnotes of the music history could be bought in the increasingly deeper specialized record stores of Cologne. The agglomeration and more and more fixed production infrastructure in Cologne became an increasingly important catalyst for the global fluid spaces of new electronic music. Especially journalists and other media and cultural multiplicators welcomed that a seemingly fixed geographic location, a city and on a smaller scale even a city quarter could be associated with the otherwise abstract fluid spaces of a new primarily non-vocal global music movement. On the world map of new electronic music Cologne was marked with the pins which indicated the development a new sound and this by the music press was labelled “The sound of Cologne” under which the various and partly fundamentally different styles of new electronic music that was made in Cologne was subsumed. The development and exploitation of this term by the media and the cultural affairs department of the city of Cologne - which published CDs with music from Cologne under the name “The Sound of Cologne” (Various Artists 1998, Various Artists 2000) and distributed it for city marketing purposes shows the necessity and willingness to freeze fluidity of music, fixing it and pinning it down to a place. When considering the music itself though, it becomes clear that a geographic label in the “made in” tradition does not supply extra knowledge in terms of the aesthetics or the styles of the music itself: listening to the different kinds of new electronic music from Cologne and considering the reaction by the music community towards being stylistically subsumed under such a homogenizing label shows that it does not make sense to speak of one recognizable sound (see e.g. interview with M. Mayer 07.03.2002, G. Odijk 22.01.2002, and De:Bug 22/1999). But this “made in Cologne” stigma and the discussions and conflicts around it supplies extra knowledge on another level. It could be argued that the various scenes, actors and actants (thus also the sounds produced by numerous musicians, DJs and producers) are connected not by a recognizable style or sound but through places and spaces which are created by making this music. These places and spaces where this music is made, sold or performed have specific characteristics which are in constant transformation not least due to the fluid features of the music they are connected to. The places and spaces of music are places and spaces of the encounter of actors and actants. During these encounters the meaning of these places and spaces is constantly changed and changing, sometimes there are hard-edged borders and sometimes


meaning is produced in a mixture of various gradients. From this the dangers of generally associating fixity with place and fluidity with space can be read. But not only “The Sound of Cologne”-phenomenon, also other media coverage shows, that ‘fixity’ characteristics are welcomingly employed for a supposedly deeper understanding of fluid issues like this of music. The media coverage circling around the life and lifestyle in the Belgium quarter as a site for music and music production is revealing here. Several newspaper and music magazine articles on the music scenes around the Brüsseler Platz draw explicitly and extensively on life and lifestyle issues in the Belgium quarter (see e.g. Intro 03.02.1999, Spex 11/1997 and De:Bug 37/2000). These are lifestyles which are on the one hand strongly influenced by the music scenes themselves. Examples are Cologne based musicians and DJs who are travelling all over the world to play and put on records and who of course participate in the urban life of the quarter through their other business and artistic activities (see esp. Spex 11/1997). Lifestyles circling around art, experimentation and cultural underground are confronted and mixed with lifestyles connected to youth, global styles, fashion, or simply to careers and mere consumption. The conflicts arising are regarded by some of the actors as negative side-effects for the personal quality of working and living in the quarter (see e.g. interview with G. Odijk 22.01.2002, and Intro 02.1999). Other media contributions draw almost voyeuristic explicitly on private environments and places, e.g. the living rooms and kitchens of the artists ( Die Zeit 29/1996) in order to attach a certain feel of authenticity or ‘roots’ feeling and with this fixity to the fluid and otherwise abstract matters of music. Others employ matters of local musical tradition and heritage ( Der Spiegel (32/1997) or hint at the built environment – almost in the tradition of environmental determinism - as useful reference points for fixing music in words (see e.g. The Wire 159/1997 and The Wire 164/1997). Fixity in music, it seems, is likely to be employed in order to mediate an otherwise fleeting subject issue like music. Today the situation in Belgium quarter and in the Cologne music scene is substantially different. Both materially and discursively the processes which might be attached to fluidity and fixity during the last years changed their face. Around the year 2000 the dense agglomeration of shops and infrastructure in the Belgium Quarter broke up. The a-Musik ‘scene’ closed their shop in the Belgium quarter and established a more spacious shop-office. Now four different companies, labels, distributors, mail-orders and the a-Musik shop, all in some way connected to each 16

other, took place at a former bicycle workshop and store in a different quarter around the Kleiner Griechenmarkt street. Kompakt also moved to a bigger shop-office in close neighbourhood to the Belgium quarter, now hosting the shop, the label, a distribution unit and a booking agency. One shop, Formic, also moved to another neighbourhood quarter. The distribution unit of Groove Attack moved to a newly developed media quarter on a void industrial quarter in Mülheim on the other side of the Rhine. The music magazine Spex also moved to a different location. Nevertheless, another important German independent music magazine, Intro, moved from to Cologne and chose a location close to the Belgium quarter. However, the core and cluster in the Belgium Quarter around the Brüsseler Platz cracked up and with it the buzz of the flows of the everyday face-to-face contacts of production activists and artists and also the high density of flows of music tourism and consumption. The reaction on these de-localizations shows that the perception of the flows generated by new electronic music and the respective music scenes in Cologne was tightly connected to the fixed agglomeration of the businesses that were producing them. This can be read e.g. from the speculations by the music press around the now supposedly nomadic future of the Cologne music scenes – the ‘home’, the Belgium quarter being now lost ( De: Bug 37/2000). For the respective scenes the moves away from the Belgium quarter also meant the spatial manifestation of processes which had been developing before: the different scenes had used these years of frequent interpersonal and face-to-face exchange and also the media coverage of the music scenes in the Belgium quarters to develop strong and not primarily local connections and establish various, often transnational connections and influxes to global flows of music and those flows connected to market issues. Representatives of each of the respective scenes appreciated the time in the Belgium quarter as a time of a locally fixed parallel and connected development with the other scenes. But they also express the importance of finally being able to break up these structures because they developed different structures which reach far beyond the local realm (see interviews F. Dommert 14.02.2002 and M. Mayer 07.03.2002) and help to concentrate on the development of a further exploration of borders in the respective field of musical interest (F. Dommert 14.02.2002). The breaking up of structures where fixity seems to be attached to the local and a new ‘fluidization’ of the places of music and on the other hand a ‘fixation’ of the spaces of music seems to open new fields for experimentation in the work of music. 17

6. Conclusions This paper has attempted to show the relationships and different material processes of both ‘fluidity’ and ‘fixity’ in music. The examples of the scenes of new electronic and contemporary experimental music in Cologne drew on various kinds of these processes and focused on a local agglomeration of scene relevant activities within a special quarter in Cologne which is integrated into global spaces of flows. What is probably most striking is that both fluidity and fixity can occur at all scales between the local and the global. It can be thus concluded that neither fluidity can be assigned primarily to global processes, nor fixity to local. Likewise, neither can fixity be associated exclusively with place, nor fluidity with space. Although, admittedly, also some of the chosen examples from Cologne might leave the reader with the impression that fixity can be assigned exclusively to some matters of place, it should be stressed that, for example, also places indeed can have quite striking fluid features. Fluidity and Fixity, the local and the global, place and space cannot be seen as dichotomies. Reading these processes in terms of a relational sense of place (Massey 2004), spaces, even fluid spaces, might be considered “to mean dwelling, affinity, immanence, relationality, multiplicity and performativity” (Amin 2004, p.34). Finally I would like to hint at one aspect which has not been mentioned here yet, although it is likely that it has some importance when thinking especially about the fluidity of music. The notions of performance, embodiment and affect as they were introduced to geography by Thrift (see e.g. Thrift 1999, 2000 and 2004) might supply useful ideas to the opening of a promising and yet almost neglected field of work in the geography of music. Employing these notions in further geographical music research with the respective non-representational methodologies might also shed a light on issues yet in the shadow of geographical attention e.g. the understanding “urban skills” the rhythm or music of a city and of city life (Thrift 1999, p.242). In this way also the spatial and cultural politics of music might be read in a new, probably more vivid way.

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