Mapping Music – A Critical Reflection Thus Far

There are various themes, issues and surprises that I have encountered thus far in my research process.

Immediate Challenges

Firstly, it is very difficult to research topics that are broad and spread across a wide spectrum of topics. Simply researching music halls or music venues whether in a digital archive or on-site at a library might sound wonderful, because of the vast amount of information you will encounter, however, it creates difficulty when it comes to focusing on a particular subject and not getting overwhelmed with information. With that, something I would change in the future would be to keep my topic of study very specific from the start, that way, the research process does not become about gathering loads of irrelevant information but focuses on finding the right information for the project.

Next, it is good to ask for help and allow one set of information to lead you to other relevant information. Using the research as clues to guide you to the next point can be extremely helpful. It is important to allow yourself to be open-minded and not discouraged if you hit a dead end.


Preliminary Research

When I began my research on live music halls/venues in New York City I decided to research if any other music mapping projects already exist. I found at least 10 other maps that already exist which use different tools and techniques to illuminate the information at hand. While some are better than others, this was really helpful in allowing me to visualize what features I would and would not like to include in my final map. I found this to be a helpful start in the process.



Because I am dealing with many attributes and entities organizing my research has been a challenge. Using an excel spreadsheet to collect raw data on venues has been a very helpful way to organize each entity by category and has allowed me to input information as I come across it.

At the same time, since I am dealing with such a plethora of written and visual information I needed to come up with a very strategic organizational structure. This resulted in using a staircase method of building folders. I have 10 folders of information, which clearly describe the elements of information within them. Within each folder there are more folders, which are clearly labeled – where they came from and what it is; only then will the contents of the folder be found in raw form.

Each image that was taken or collected from an archive is tagged by name and accompanied by a caption explaining any further or relevant information. In order to keep each image and caption together the images are numbered accordingly.

Finally, because I am collecting current and historic information there are lots of crossovers in terms of tags and subjects. To avoid confusion, I simply duplicated the files where necessary and changed the tag to accurately reflect the folder in which it resides. This tactic will allow me to keep all relevant information together – as opposed to spending time looking through the folders when I begin to input my data into URT.


Relation to Class Themes

One of the most important tools that I was able to employ right from the start was the ability to evaluate multi-modal mapping projects. Because I decided to research what was already out there in my preliminary steps I found it very useful to know what to look for, what was useful, irrelevant and/or convenient about a map’s presentation. Having spent plenty of time working on evaluating multi-modal projects in class and then on our own to present – it became an invaluable tool in deciphering what would be useful for my research and for my final product.

In doing my research I have found the GIS mapping has been very helpful for me. Since I have over 50 venues to research, Google Maps has been very useful in terms of providing me with general information (including addresses, genres, pictures) and a map view of each venue all on one screen.

Another really important theme that I have come across is that the city acts as its own archive. Whether looking for current images, information or data in a library or online – just by walking the streets I feel that I am able to collect information that is relevant to my research.


Cartographic Arguments

My arguments for my music-mapping project are not set in stone yet. As of right now I am approaching the project from bottom-up point of view. I am doing this because I am finding it hard to decide how to present the information to communicate my point as efficiently as possible. The point and main argument that I am trying to exemplify is that music halls/venues in New York City are historic identifiers in neighborhoods and communities. I would like to map the historic and existing venues in order to see what types of music (genres) existed and exist in certain neighborhoods and thus be able to track any shifts or changes that have happened over time. By mapping these points and tracking the change or endurance of music halls in particular areas we can then research how that venue has impacted, if at all, the area in which it resides. This project on a grander scale could act as a study that neighborhoods and could explain how music and social gathering impacts cultural and societal behaviors.

The problem in deciding how to present the information at this point is whether or not to approach the project by genre, by neighborhood or by venue. As I conclude my research I think that it will become clear which way to best organize the data and input it into URT.


One comment

  1. I think you’ll find that starting broad was necessary; it allowed you to appreciate the myriad intersecting music cultures and music geographies in the city. Now, of course, your challenge is to carve out a some communities or places — music scenes/genres or neighborhoods, e.g. — to focus on for your map. Once you home in on a particular site or scene, you’ll be able to focus your remaining secondary research (e.g., there’s existing scholarship on the geography of jazz in NY).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *