The architecture that built "The Live Music Capital of the World" : from Paleolithic caves to the Moody Theater
McKeeman, Ryan Keith
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This thesis provides a fresh perspective on “The Live Music Capital of the World” from the vantage of its venues, their respective ritual practices, and the aural cultural values they represent through the aural experience of their architecture. These rituals and aural experiences draw upon a canon of archetypes from the history of architecture, many of which are well known to architectural historians for reasons other than aural experience, like their building technology, for example. As this thesis investigates the cultural significance of music in architecture, the venues for live music, the first chapter provides a contextual basis for the origins of music, arguing that music’s cultural significance in general is integrated and intertwined with our sociality as human beings. Like the control of fire, music fundamentally impacted the evolution of humans, allowing early human ancestors to engage in sensually rich and abstract communication that mimicked the novel social designs of the time period. In the second chapter, this thesis establishes a canon of archetypes in architectural history from Paleolithic Caves to late-nineteenth century Romanticism, providing examples as a form of case study. These examples demonstrate pivotal instances of the social, political, religious, and cultural power of music in architecture. In every case, it is clear that music specifically (and aural design more broadly) has been embedded within architecture and ritual practice since the beginning when humans inhabited the borrowed structures of caves, even before designing and building their own structures. Finally, in chapter three, the public and semi-public soundscapes of Austin are explored utilizing the theoretical framework of aural architecture developed by Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter. In an intimate account of specific “signature” venues in Austin, this thesis identifies aural features that originate from within the canon of archetypes developed in chapter two. The evolution of Austin’s live music venues illustrates an evolving set of cultural values related to where, when and how loudly live music ought to occur in our public spaces.