Instructor: Steven Swayne, Music
Overview: While music is fundamentally an aural art, much of the sound and history of any particular piece is inextricably linked to the time and place of the piece’s creation. One can distinguish various pieces of classical music by recalling the features of a map and remembering the music associated with various places on a map. What Swayne hoped to explore in this Venture Fund project is how to link the sounds of music more closely to the locales of its production. He wanted his students to be able to look at a map of the world and instantly think of the sounds associated with the places they see. Call it a musicalized map.
His project began rather simply, as students created websites about musicians, technologies, histories and philosophies that interested them. In these websites, students made links to visual and audio files that help illustrate their chosen topic. In addition, students were encouraged to “locate” their topic, that is, their website would take into account that their musician lived somewhere (or several somewheres), their technology was developed somewhere, and so forth. Parallel to the development of these student websites was the development of interactive maps that direct a user to this information about music. For example, a user who clicks on Paris would find text and audiovisuals about the composers who were active in Paris at various times. Indeed, the maps are designed to be time-sensitive; borders and music information change based on the century (or decade) chosen.
Given that the history of music covers a great span of time and that the world is a big place, Swayne has limited his attention to nineteenth-century Europe. There is the desire, however, to encompass more locales and more history over time, with the concept of the musicalized map being one more gateway for students to master the history of music.