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Durham University



Publication details for Dr Samuel Horlor

Horlor, Samuel (2019). Chinese Street Pop and Performing with the Urban Environment. Sound Ethnographies 2(1): 39-68.

Author(s) from Durham


The urban environment is more than simply a setting that contains the regular pop
shows found in various public spots in the city of Wuhan in China. Instead, the
performances are formed from the sounds and other material conditions of their
situation. Their sustainability as sources of income for performers and organisers,
I argue, relies on a synergy between the acoustic qualities of the music and the
wider sound environment, including in senses that draw upon the particular
physical geography of this river city. Zooming in to look at individual street
performance venues reveals also that different layouts are associated with
characteristic patterns of audience behaviour, and there are links between these
patterns and contrasting modes of social engagement. These modes, in turn, are
significant in how singers negotiate legitimacy in their identities as performers,
with different material circumstances and wider cultural perceptions of street
performing in China shaping the struggles and successes of the group whose
fortunes I follow in this article.