Has a song on the car stereo, or in a store, recently caught you off guard and brought back a tidal wave of memories? My final project is an interactive sonic map of New York City with my personal memory visualization, which means link the songs, pictures and videos that I take to some locations of NYC ,working together to realize a new form of psychogeography.
Firstly, inspired by Listen to Wikipedia and Chris Marker’s Immemory, we can listen to the database in a musical way, so can we listen to maps in this way too? Secondly, Marker used photography to convey his memory, and song is an another very effective way to preserve and convey memories. We all know the power of a song to trigger vivid memory that seem to transport us back in time and space. The songs we love become woven into a memory tapestry entwined with the people, seasons, and locations throughout our lifespan. And there are few other cities like New York that has so many songs named after road and landmarks, perhaps because it is a tolerant city of immigrants and people who come from all over the world. A lot of musicians are using melodies and lyrics to tell about themselves and their stories with New York. I remembered that I went to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building two years ago, and when I was waiting for the Subway last months, a song called Empire state of mind came on in the background. I hadn’t heard this song in this 2 years. Then I was overcome by flashbacks of my friend, wind and the view I saw on the Empire States 2 years ago stimulated by that song. I find a different feeling to listen to songs that describe the particular locations. So I wanted to feel and visualize the locative memories of New York City that they conveyed to me in a non-linear way from these old or new songs.
To begin with, the first part of my project is to make an interactive link between the song and the map through database. I found more than 3700 songs about New York through Google, Baidu and other search engines. According to the titles and lyrics, I linked 118 landmarks which mentioned in these songs to the map. Since Mapme allows only one audio to link to each marker, there are some sites that are mentioned by many songs (e.g. 69 songs mention Broadway) and I can only choose one of them to make the link. If I want to link all of songs, I might need some song lists supports from like Spotify, Youtube Music or Amazon Music. Users can click on any icon to see the songs about this place in database and listen to my linked music.
The second part of my work focuses on the impact of songs on personal memory. Katerina Cizek’s psychogeography illustrates cultural geography and digital/locative media recuperates the psychogeographic methodologies of the situationists. Using pictures, videos, audio and etc. to visualize the locations mentioned in the songs is a way of expressing my memory of the songs. I decided to use songs of database to driven my memory. I listened to hundreds of songs which are named after or described by lyrics and melody and picked 10 of them and used videos and photos I took before in my phone album and icloud to visualize my memory. After that I also went to these places to reshot some scenes in my memory. Then I began to edit my materials according to the pictures in my mind when I was listening to the song. I also linked these videos I edited to Mapme. I used scenic pictures as icons to mark the location that have been connected to my memory, and other icons that I haven’t had time to shoot are still numerically represented. But for the main part of memory, I used Thinglink to make an interactive video with the song and video, showing my memory of New York by the song driven. After viewsers chose the location, they can watch my memory video by clicking the interactive buttons during the song I linked is playing.
The purpose of this project is to explore the relationship between sound and memory, as well as the exploration of a new form of psychogeography. When people listen to songs, there will be a memory interaction and sound might create the sense of immersive. In other words, when we click on the interactive map and listen to the songs, the melody and lyrics can compose a picture in our minds due to the personal experience or imagination even though we don’t see it at the same time. To a further thought , “In the first study of its kind, Amee Baird and Séverine Samson, from the University of Newcastle in Australia, used popular music to help severely brain-injured patients recall personal memories. Their pioneering research was published on December 10, 2013 in the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.” To sum up, some melodies remind people of places; and some lyrics describe those places, or even a song itself represents a memory. As for people with similar experiences, songs evoke their memories. Without it, listeners can read the musicians’ memory from the song. Besides, the aim of connecting the song with the specific location is to make the memory less abstract but individual. Adding my video here would be a more concrete and clear example to visualize the memory of the song in an interactive way and greatly arouse the interests for people who listen to the song as well.
In summary, it is my analysis of my final project above. However, to some extent, it is still a prototype, and two weeks is not enough to complete the entire database link and memory experience. So for the rest of my life in New York, I will continue to refine and contribute to this project when I listen to songs about New York again, or go to the place which the songs are based on. And I hope that I can find a more appropriate tool to combine Mapme and Thinglink together to realize the mapping of songs and how they stimulate personal memory at the same time.
Here are My Final Project Links:
- Chris, Marker, “Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory” 1997
- Christopher, Bergland, “Why Do the Songs from Your Past Evoke Such Vivid Memories?”, The Athlete’s Way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss, 2007
- Hart, Cohen: “Data Documentary: From Authorship to Authoring in Remediated/ Remixed Documentary,” Culture Unbound, Volume 4, 2012: 327-346. Linkoping University.
- Kinder, Marsha. “Designing a Database Cinema.” In Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003
- Siobhan, O’Flynn. “Psychogeography as Social Activism in Katerina Cizek’s Digital Documentaries Highrise, The 1000th Tower and Out My Window.” 2014
- #NYC Data# New York City (NYC) Songs: A Select List of Popular Songs with a NYC theme in the Lyrics