Now that we’ve all emerged from our so-called “hack-fest” (a three day period of solely data-entry), we can pause and take a breath knowing that the bulk of our data entry is behind us. We can also pause to make more nuanced and informed critiques of our methodology. The three biggest questions and ideas we’ve had to deal with through the process have been:
Which sources: At first we thought finding ample data points would be difficult. We started by looking at the literature other musicologists and historians had written on 1920s Paris and looking for dates of 1924 premiers this way. This provided important but limited information. Pretty soon, though, we hit the jackpot, if you will, when turning to 1924 issues of French newspapers that recorded sections on musical events. Once we had access to Le Figaro, La Semaine à Paris, and Le Gaulois, we were inundated with hundreds of concerts and performances and had to figure out not where to get data but how much of it to include.
What and how much data: The daily and weekly French newspapers are both treasure-troves and burdens. Philip, for example, spent multiple days recording over 100 data points from Le Figaro’s January 1 issue. The fact that this data is available is amazing, but it’s simply impractical to record it all. Thankfully, we didn’t subject Philip to any more of this torture and decided to leave out theatre performances and stick with solely musical entries. Even after this, though, the data from the papers is overwhelming and begs further questions—for example, is it more important to spend time recording every possible performance of Faust listed in Le Gaulois or to spend time researching and writing detailed accounts of important premiers that we read about in secondary literature? What we’ve more or less decided is that both are important. While we must attempt to record major premiers and performances involving the most famous dancers, composers, musicians, etc, it’s equally important for us to step beyond the areas most covered and written about by other researchers. We want our map to cast a snapshot of the daily musical life in 1924, and we hope our semi-comprehensive coverage of newspaper concert listings will provide a fuller look than previous accounts have given.
Consistency: To ensure consistency and order given the impossibility in 10 weeks to record every concert listing, we’ve made sure each month on our map has entries from at least one of the newspapers. We’ve recorded which papers we have used for each month as well, to assist future members of this project—there’s always more that can be added.
Another point on consistency: When adding concerts from newspaper listings, it’s tempting to add only the ones at the most famous venues or only the performers/composers we know the most about. Although adding in the names we don’t recognize can require a lot more side research to fill in the gaps, it’s necessary for a truly consistent look at each day, and we’ve made a strict effort to adhere to this.
As we go, we’ll keep updating and refining our methodology.