New York City Musical References, Mapped

Music is embedded in the streets, like the streets are embedded in the music.
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Constantine Valhoulis

As the nation's cultural mecca, New York City has been honored by musicians inside and outside the five boroughs. They invoke its streets and namecheck its neighborhoods in song after song. 

Wikipedia hosts a list of songs about New York City. It is very long, but it's not all that interesting. 

And that's where a guy named Constantine Valhouli (of Facebook Fakelore fame) comes in. As a side project to his real estate development activities, he created a map of about two hundred New York references in popular music. (You can submit more to: musicmapnyc@gmail.com.)

Valhouli turned the music into a spatial database, layering different eras of the city and genres of music onto the streets. 

The clusters on the map tell stories. Like this stretch in Brooklyn, which Jay-Z and M.O.P., and Bob Dylan have all referenced in their music. 

Or this bit of the West Village, which features the Stones, The Clash, Lou Reed, Leonard Bernstein, and (again) Bob Dylan: 

The music map only shows one city within the city. There are many more. The places filmed in movies. The Internet tubes. The lost agricultural infrastructure

A now-defunct startup called Small Demons once tried to create an atlas for books, connecting people around the data hiding inside books. Caterina Fake's Findery tries to draw everyday users' stories from their brains onto city maps, too.

But mostly, this sort of local folk knowledge exists as a side project, or at best, a series of crazy quests like Bob Egan's attempts to track down famous album covers shot in Manhattan.

 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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