Austin Music Map: Stories, maps, and story maps
KUT’s Texas Music Matters is partnering with the national Localore project to create the Austin Music Map: a yearlong effort to go beyond the well-traveled streets of the Austin music scene in search of the hidden places where music is being made. We want your help discovering and documenting these places. To find out how to get involved, visit austinmusicmap.com or call our hotline with stories and tips: (512) 861-8266.
Curious to see how the stories we’ve produced so far are sorting out by neighborhood, we’ve plotted them geographically. Each point below represents a story, a hotline call from a listener, or a bit of live music we’ve recorded in some of the places we’re currently exploring.
For the last three months, we’ve been talking maps with our collaborators at Zeega, a crack team of documentary makers, creative technologists, and urban designers dedicated to inventing new forms of interactive storytelling. A number of the Zeegans have worked on previous experiments in geo-located storytelling that we’ve looked to for inspiration as we get the Austin Music Map off the ground.
These projects include Capitol of Punk—a documentary/walking tour that chronicled the hardcore scene in Washington D.C. back in the 1970s and 80s—and Mapping Main Street—a collaborative project that aimed to document all 10,466 Main Streets across America. (With the help of a whole slew of volunteer photographers and citizen documentarians, they’ve managed 822 so far—not bad!)
Like these projects, the Austin Music Map is interested in the communities that form around musical subcultures, how music helps to define the identity of a particular place, and creative forms of mapping that blend cartography with storytelling and documentary—all while inviting the community into the map-making process.
We’re still determining exactly what form the Austin Music Map’s interactive website will take, but we know that it will blend the stories we’re producing at KUT with community-sourced photography, videos, and sounds, and that it will allow visitors to explore the musical geography of the city not just by location, but also by musical genres and descriptive themes (like, say, neon signs, dancing, or bathroom wall graffiti.)
As we think through how to effectively combine maps and stories, I keep returning to a book called A Narrative Atlas of Boylan Heights, by an imaginative cartographer named Denis Wood. The Narrative Atlas is a collection of maps that chart the small, often overlooked or invisible qualities of Wood’s neighborhood in North Carolina. Rather than tracing the usual grid of streets and landmarks we’ve come to expect on a map, Wood documents squirrel routes, the glow cast by street lights, the view of the night sky through neighborhood trees, traffic signs, and Halloween pumpkins.
It’s a decidedly off-beat take on mapping, upending the traditional notion that maps should be functional—documents that guide us from here to there—rather than experiential or personal, but the idea has some appeal. Radio’s own Ira Glass wrote the book’s introduction, describing the Narrative Atlas as something closer to a novel than a tool or a definitive neighborhood resource:
What [the maps] chart isn’t Boylan Heights exactly but Wood’s feelings about Boylan Heights, his curiosity about it, and his sense of wonder at all the things about the place that are overlooked and unnamed.
While the Austin Music Map will chronicle a few places that are both known and named, we’re also taken with this idea of the stuff that often goes unnoticed, and we’re all in favor of letting curiosity and wonderment guide us to new places in the city… Tell us where to go! What does your particular version of Austin music look like? What’s the musical equivalent of Wood’s jack-o-lantern map?
To help us build the map, add photos to our Flickr pool, call our hotline (512-861-8266), or record some sound at one of your favorite spots, and get in touch to share it with us. We can’t wait to see where you lead us!