Splinter and Loss: reading Clare Loveday’s 'Johannesburg Etude 2'

William Fourie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An intricate subjectivity, born of a sense of surveillance, occupation and navigation, can be heard folded into the experience of the Johannesburg’s materiality in the works of Clare Loveday. The interpolation of subjectivity into the materiality of the city is perhaps nowhere more evident than in Loveday’s Johannesburg Etude 2 (2015). In this article, I will produce a close reading of the etude as an ‘urban imaginary’, which describes a representation of the city as the consolidation of material fact and subjective experience. This heuristic allows me to consider the etude not only as a mimetic representation of the structures and infrastructures of the city, nor merely as a subjective experience of the unfolding quotidian in an undifferentiated conurbation. Rather, Huyssen’s term allows me to think of the etude as a juncture of these two perspectives. To produce such a reading, I ground my analysis of the etude in the urban geography of Johannesburg. Particularly, I consider how the etude resounds Johannesburg’s unregulated sprawling and decentralisation, which produces urban splintering. I argue that the work does not only manifest this splintering, but, through the process of musical disaggregation, also engenders a concomitant sense of loss. Splintering and loss thus form the two tropes of the urban imaginary: the material reality of the city and the subjectivity that encounters it. Beyond analysing the etude, in my reading there arises the opportunity to assess more critically the utopian readings of the musical representations of South Africa’s largest metropolis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-489
Number of pages26
JournalSouth African Music Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Clare Loveday
  • Johannesburg
  • Music

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