Christabel Stirling

Searching for sonic social space

My thesis is an ethnographic study of evolving musical and sonic publics in London UK, with a particular focus on questions of affect, access, and socio-political transformation. Working across four field sites—sound art, classical and ‘new’ music, electronic dance music, and dub reggae—I trace different kinds of ‘sonic socialities’ currently emerging in and across London, exploring the extent to which social and spatial stratifications are re-configured or reproduced by music. I am interested in whether there are ways of mobilizing the sonic that puts it in service to the struggle over social justice and/or access to the city.

My DPhil is generously supported by an Ertegun Graduate Scholarship. Previously, I obtained an MA in Popular Music and Culture from Oxford Brookes University funded by an AHRC award, and a BMus from King’s College London. I am an affiliate graduate student of the ERC-funded programme ‘Music, Digitization, Mediation’ at Oxford University, and an external affiliate of the collaborative research group ‘Recomposing the City’ at Queen’s University Belfast. I have tutored undergraduates in topics such as the psychology of music and the socio-cultural study of music.


‘Beyond the Dance Floor’? Gendered crowd formations and creative practices in electronic dance music. Contemporary Music Review, Special Issue on Gender, Education and Creativity in Digital Music and Sound Art (Forthcoming: 2015).

Sound Art / Street Life: Tracing the social and political effects of sound installations in London. The Journal of Sonic Studies, 11 (Forthcoming: 2015).

Conference papers

‘Come alive, London!’ Re-thinking ‘density’ through musical crowds, affective atmospheres, and the urban mobility of genre. Re-thinking the Concept of Density Workshop, MÜSZI, Budapest (October 2015).

Tracing the social potential of sound installation art, from Bloomsbury to Bow bells. Recomposing the City: Sound Art and Urban Architectures, Queen’s University Belfast (May 2014).

Listening in ruins: aural atmospheres of the historical present. Hearing Landscapes Critically, Stellenbosch University, South Africa (September 2013).

Spatial politics, affect, and the musical crowd. What is Performance Philosophy? Staging a New Field, University of Surrey, Guildford (April 2013).

The temporal logic of affect. Musical publics and the politics of urban space. Music, Sound and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Experience, University of Oxford (March 2013).