Music Studies Colloquium: Will Straw (McGill U): Night, Noise and the Urbanization of Musical Politics

Colloquium | March 8 | 4:30 p.m. | 128 Morrison Hall

 Department of Music

Will Straw is James McGill Professor of Urban Media Studies. He has been Visiting Professor at the Open University (Budapest), the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the University of Belgrade. He is also Adjunct Research Professor in the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture, Carleton University.

Professor Straw has a Bachelor degree in Film Studies, and postgraduate degrees in Communications Studies. Much of his work has dealt with the social and institutional dimensions of popular music, and with the development of the notion of music scene. He has a strong interest, as well, in histories of popular music in Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

In the area of cinema, Dr. Straw’s current research focuses on so-called “background players”, and the ways in which they offer a sense of social texture within films. He has a long standing interest, as well, in sensational print culture - in magazines and newspapers engaged in covering crime, scandal and celebrity gossip. Part of this interest centers on the lower levels of magazine publishing in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. As well, he maintains a strong interest in the print culture of Mexico, and in crime-oriented periodicals in particular.

More recently. Dr. Straw’s research has come to focus on the ways in which the night-time culture of cities is governed, promoted and represented. On the one hand, this takes the form of an interest in new policy instruments adopted by cities so as to acknowledge the role of night-time culture within them. On the other hand, this interest takes him into the study of narrative forms (in the cinema, journalism and fiction) that treat the night as a distinct “territory” of human experience. Straw maintains a website,, that tracks developments in night-time urban culture.

Dr. Straw is on the editorial boards of many of the leading journals in several fields, including Screen, Cultural Studies, Intermédialités, Convergences: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Space and Culture, and Journal of Urban Cultural Studies. With Kieran Bonner, he co-edits the book series Culture of Cities (McGill-Queens University Press). With Bart Beaty, he edits the series Canadian Cinema (University of Toronto Press).