UCL Urban Laboratory


Unconscious Music: Listening to the Background Sound of Motown

18 July 2024, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm

Vinyl Cover The Darnells - 'Too Hurt To Cry, Too Much In Love To Say Goodbye ‘ (1963)

Rachael Finney and Louis Moreno host a listening session playing a selection of Motown Records from the late 1960s and early 1970s within the newly launched Memory Work Exhibition at UCL Urban Room.

This event is free.

Event Information

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UCL Urban Room


Urban Room
1 Pool Street
E20 2AF
United Kingdom

Unconscious Music: Listening to the Background Sound of Motown

A listening session with Rachael Finney and Louis Moreno 

Rachael Finney and Louis Moreno host a listening session playing a selection of Motown Records from the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

Drawing on Finney's research into the aural archives of Motown's background singers, the session will listen closely to the extraordinary vocal work of the Andantes and the Blossoms asking 'what work has to be rendered unconscious in order for a song to become a hit record?'. 

Thinking about how the relationship between memory and the city, people and history is spatially produced and musically repressed, listening to the Andantes and the Blossoms opens up a mode of phonographic occlusion – what Finney calls the sound space of the ‘back/ing/ground’.

Speaker Biographies

Rachael Finney is Course Leader for MA Music Production at London College of Communication. Rachael is a musician, composer, artist, and cultural theorist whose work examines histories and cultures of popular music, recording technologies, and the arrangements of sonic and musical space. Rachael completed her PhD in the department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths where her thesis focused on the phonic space of the background seeking to both question and realise modes of listening that occupy the edges of attention and the sounds,  and specifically voices, that have occupied this aural site.  Rachael has a background in experimental music where her work makes extensive use of reel-to-reel tape. She has worked with various labels to release recordings including WhereToNow and Nightschool records. Her work has been featured in publications and platforms including The Wire, Electronic Sound, The Quietus, the Vinyl Factory, and the Boiler Room. Previously, Rachael was Senior lecturer in Computational Arts at UAL. She also taught across the School of Communication at the Royal College of Art where she led the Scratch Ensemble elective.

Louis Moreno is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures. Louis is a member of the research collectives Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective and freethought. 

Memory Work Exhibition – UCL Urban Room

Connecting researchers and practitioners from across UCL, the new 'Memory Work' exhibition explores the theme of memory in urban research, and how creative outputs might provide more engaging entry-points for understanding the complex evidence that arises from urban investigations. 

This showcase connects research by members of the UCL Urban Laboratory Steering Committee, and includes the work of the Lab's previous Director, Clare Melhuish and current Director, Catalina Ortiz. It positions creative outputs as entry points for understanding complex evidence in urban investigations. The presentations span across disciplines and geographies. The range of materials reveals a multidisciplinary approach to memory in urban research, Urban Lab’s biennial research theme for 2022–24. Contributions have come from scholars in the Urban Lab network across UCL, including the fields of urbanism, architecture, geography, political science, planning, critical heritage studies, history and anthropology.

Clare Melhuish presents ‘Memory in Suspense’, an installation exploring the entanglement between memory, heritage, colonialism and emancipation in Kingston, Jamaica. Through a juxtaposition of mid-20th century archive material and contemporary fieldwork images, it evokes a continuing negotiation of authority and values in difficult memory work and politics in the city’s current development debates.

Catalina Ortiz presents ‘Archivo Vivo’, collaborative research from Medellin, Colombia, which uses weaving to explore communities' multi-temporal struggles about their connections to the territory. It reveals an urgent need to mobilise women's role in creating and caring in and for the neighbourhood as well as contributing to collective emancipatory transformation, by spatialising and embodying place-based memories and emotions.

The exhibition also features work by Andrew Harris, Anna Maguire, Ava Fatah gen Schieck, Haidy Geismar, James O'Leary, Kalliopi Fouseki, Nishat Awan, Njogu Morgan and Pablo Sendra

About the UCL Urban Room

Located at One Pool Street, the public-facing UCL Urban Room hosts events, exhibitions, workshops and engagement with local stakeholders, professional audiences, and the wider public. Exploring the impact of industry, globalisation, regeneration and gentrification on the six Olympic Park boroughs and their people, UCL Urban Room is a partnership between UCL Urban Laboratory, The Bartlett, School for the Creative and Cultural Industries and UCL Library Services: Special Collections.

For more information, email urbanroom@ucl.ac.uk.

Image: The Darnells - 'Too Hurt To Cry, Too Much In Love To Say Goodbye ‘ (1963)