Planning, Experiencing and Transforming the Urban Utopia: Local Music-Making in the New Town of Cergy-Pontoise, 1965-Present

Solene Heinzl

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis studies the planning, development and ageing of the French new town of Cergy-Pontoise and its residents (1965-present) through the lens of local music-making. I observe the way top-down planning and bottom-up musical initiatives shape and reshape the new town through changing socio-economic and political circumstances.

I foreground musicians’ voices and focus on how they experience, navigate and sometimes transcend the inadaptability of the typically one-size-fits-all cultural and urban planning regime. I explore the various ways the burden and slow pace of local government bureaucracy impacts the running of the planned facilities. Within this context, I discuss the lag between the paces of bureaucracy and planning and the rapid obsolescence of planned facilities and their equipment. I thus examine aspects of top-down cultural and urban planning and how musicians and urban communities are experiencing them on a daily basis.

Social science research focusing on new urban environments rarely explores local music scenes, despite music being interwoven within society, urban living and economics (Reyes 2012). Music is thus an insightful angle for studying the development of new urban areas and assessing their sustainability. Ethnomusicology has had limited engagement with issues of urban environment, and most of its studies remain focussed on older towns despite the current rapid urbanisation of many parts of the world (United Nations 2020). The interdisciplinarity approach of this thesis aims to address these gaps and build new bridges between ethnomusicology, urban studies and related areas of policymaking. The overarching aim of this thesis is to contribute to more sustainable urban living, cultural planning and community living. It does so by attempting to broker a conversation between residents affected by urban plans, policymakers and urban planners.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Morcom, Anna, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Nov 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 7 Nov 2021


  • solene
  • heinzl
  • ethnomusicology
  • Cergy-Pontoise
  • music
  • Urbanism
  • policymaking

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