Mapping Music History

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: Music


Historical musicologists are now paying greater attention to the geographical contexts in which past performances took place. Fuelled by the increasing accessibility of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, they can now also visualize and analyse complicated trends across time and place with greater ease than ever before. Building on work in contemporary music studies and urban sound studies, this network will ask what is at stake in turning to maps as objects and methods in music history and heritage. These questions are not merely methodological but also political. Part of the premise of this network is that cartography has never been innocent or neutral. Given that more and more musicologists are plotting their findings onto two-dimensional representations of the world, it is vital to establish a critical forum for the mapping of the musical practice - past, present and future.

The network will take the form of four meetings bringing together participants from across disciplines (musicology, literature, theatre, architecture, geography, heritage, urban studies, digital humanities) and sectors (academic research, archives and museums, arts consultancy and urban planning). Newcastle University will host the first and largest meeting (c. 35 people), which will take stock of current work across the range of disciplines and professions represented in the network. Liverpool University will host the second, smaller meeting (c. 20 people), which will focus on heritage and tourism as contexts for mapping music history. Harvard University will host the third meeting (also c. 20 people), which will focus on music and colonial mapping in the long nineteenth century. The Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London will host the final meeting (again c. 20 people), which will focus on sound and urbanism as contexts for mapping music history.

Planned Impact

The research network has four pathways to impact. The first two involve web resources for the general public, the second two involve engagement with professional stakeholders.

1. Developing a new project site to advertise network meetings, record presentations, and disseminate early findings

The network will have a website with the domain name allowing open access to research activities. This site will be hosted for free by Newcastle University throughout and beyond the duration of the network. The site will provide access to research activities and findings, a hub for communication among network participants, and an archive of past discussions and proposals for future research and impact.

2. Enhancing and promoting to provide an accessible and sustainable online hub for digital mapping in music history

Founded by Dr Louis Epstein (Co-I) in 2016, and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a leading international resource for mapping music history. In only two years the site has clocked more than 30,000 page views with each individual map viewed around 100 times. After the US, the UK has the highest number of visitors. Participants in the research network will enhance the content of by adding new maps, links, and blog posts. The network will also enhance the visibility and interactivity of by promotign the site via academic and social networks.

3. Collaborating with key stakeholders in archives and museums to develop exhibition proposals on mapping and music history

The network will support knowledge exchange among academics and curators in order to develop proposals for exhibitions related to mapping and music history. It will do this by involving expert participants (e.g. Map Curator of the National Library of Scotland and Digitisation Officers from the Royal College of Music Museum); arranging hands-on time with collections (e.g. the Harvard Map Collection); and workshopping exhibition ideas. The output from these discussions will be a proposal to Newcastle University's Robinson Library for an exhibition on mapping music history drawing on local archival materials.

4. Collaborating with key stakeholders in arts policy and urban planning to explore the use of historical mapping in music heritage and tourism

The network will support knowledge exchange among academics and arts/planning professionals in order to develop the use of mapping in music heritage and tourism. It will do this by involving expert participants (e.g. from the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) and music consultancy Sound Diplomacy) and by workshopping ideas and methods for historical mapping in music heritage and tourism. Outputs from these discussions will include a briefing note for heritage organisations highlighting best practice and potential academic partners for future projects.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/S006354/1 31/03/2019 29/06/2019 £36,045
AH/S006354/2 Transfer AH/S006354/1 30/06/2019 29/09/2023 £34,144
Description The grant has so far paid for two network meetings. The first meeting, focussed on the uses of maps and mapping in heritage and tourism, revealed the considerable overlaps between work undertaken by historical musicologists and work by creative practitioners and heritage professionals. Not only are a range of people using old and new maps in innovative ways to explore musical pasts and help new audiences to engage with these pasts, but these diverse individuals and groups are also developing a shared vocabulary for questioning the way that stories and patterns are presented in cartographic form. This finding will help to inform the decisions taken about future funded projects and collaborations (as the project enters the second half of its life span).

The second meeting focussed on the uses of maps and mapping in historical musicology, particularly concentrating on research addressing colonies and metropoles in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of the key findings from this meeting was that a majority of historical musicologists exploring the significance of cartography in colonial musical histories are relying on European sources, even when the places/practices/people of interest are located in extra-European territories. This suggests that the topic of mapping in music history is deeply implicated in broader debates about the priorities and prejudices of the colonial archive. How current and potential members of the network respond to this situation is a key topic for the second half of the research project.
Exploitation Route Referring to the two points made above: there is scope for further dialogue between historical musiocologists and heritage/museum profesisonals. And there is a need for further engagement - on the part of historical musicologists addressing cartography - with cirtical discourses on decolonising the archive.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections