Walkin’ Blues: Exploring the Semiotic Musicscape of Rory Gallagher’s Cork City

O'Hagan, Lauren Alex (2024). Walkin’ Blues: Exploring the Semiotic Musicscape of Rory Gallagher’s Cork City. Ethnomusicology Forum (in press).

Abstract

This paper traces a walking tour of Cork City that I recently undertook, using an autoethnographic perspective to tap into the linguistic and semiotic features of places and spaces associated with the blues musician Rory Gallagher and how they are tied to specific music memories. To do this, I draw on the theory of semiotic landscapes, yet put forward the term semiotic musicscapes to account for the imagined, embodied and emotional aspects of the visual linguistic environment that such music walks entail. I argue that these forms of secular pilgrimage turn the ‘ordinary’ into the ‘extraordinary’, relying on both specialised music knowledge and the imaginarium to make true meaning from visual and verbal signs. The paper, thus, offers a new way for ethnomusicologists to explore the cultural geography of music, as well as for (socio)linguists to approach the study of semiotic landscapes, particularly when tied up with musical heritage. It also extends current scholarship on Rory Gallagher whose life and work remain underresearched, despite his importance as a founding figure of Irish rock music.

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