Constantine Valhoulis

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

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.

This story originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    Why Amsterdam’s Canal Houses Have Endured for 300 Years

    A different kind of wealth distribution in 17th-century Amsterdam paved the way for its quintessential home design.

  2. photo: San Diego's Trolley
    Transportation

    Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

    In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

  3. photo: Developer James Rouse visiting Harborplace in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
    Life

    What Happened to Baltimore’s Harborplace?

    The pioneering festival marketplace was among the most trendsetting urban attractions of the last 40 years. Now it’s looking for a new place in a changed city.

  4. Equity

    What ‘Livability’ Looks Like for Black Women

    Livability indexes can obscure the experiences of non-white people. CityLab analyzed the outcomes just for black women, for a different kind of ranking.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×