In her article “How to Play with Maps,” Bethany Nowviskie writes that “one cannot ‘play with maps’ without playing with the truth” (107). We like to think that maps represent an “objective” reality, that “solid, real-world referents underlie everything we see in maps” and mapmakers “maintain reasonable continuities in the relation of design to reality” (Nowviskie 108). But, like any other visual representation, maps contain biases. Certainly, maps can be tools of propaganda and contain conscious manipulation of facts towards some goal, ideological or otherwise. But, in many cases, “bias” in map-making means that mapmakers privilege (consciously or unconsciously) some kinds of information over others, and make all kinds of decisions on how to clearly present a set of information geographically. In other words, maps contain arguments.
Our most recent map locates and depicts the premieres of works by Milhaud, Poulenc, Stravinsky, and Honegger from approximately 1915 to 1929 (Stravinsky = purple; Honegger = red; Poulenc = green; Milhaud = blue):
Right off the bat, our decision to map only the premieres of each of these works limits the domain of information and scope of the map. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing -it certainly makes data collection more manageable, and it allows us to draw valuable conclusions and questions concerning the circumstances of where and how these works were premiered. However, it is important to note that premieres don’t tell us everything about a work, its significance, and its influence. For example, a subsequent performance of a work may be more influential or important than its premiere in terms of critical reception or influence of the work on musical, political, or cultural history.
But, as Nowviskie points out, mapping isn’t just the product of scholarship and analysis -mapping is also “a hermeneutic activity, a process or method” (114). Mapping is just as much a research tool as it is a way to present research findings. By mapping information, we can draw new conclusions that weren’t as readily apparent in the data set, as well as generate new research questions. After mapping the premieres of works by these four composers, several trends and subsequent research questions emerged:
1.) Paris held the monopoly on premieres of works by these four composers. About 72% of these premieres (138/221) were held in Paris. This seems to support the idea of Paris as cultural capital of Europe in the early 20th century, but what factors made it possible for so many premieres to take place here?
2.) Stravinsky was the only composer out of the four who had a majority of his works premiered outside of Paris -about 46% of Stravinsky’s works were premiered in Paris, compared to Milhaud’s 64%, Honegger’s 70%, and Poulenc’s 84%. Why were many of Stravinsky’s works premiered outside of Paris? To what extent does this have to do with the nationality of each composer? Why were Milhaud’s works premiered more outside of France than those of Honegger and Poulenc?
3.) The vast majority of premieres were held in public theaters and concert halls (rather than churches or private residences). What does this say about the role of music in social life in early 20th century Europe? To what extent does the kind of venue inform the style/genre of music that is performed there, and vice versa?
4.) The vast majority of premieres were held in Europe, except for a couple along the East coast of the U.S. and one in Rio de Janeiro. What connections did these composers have that made it possible for their works to be premiered outside of Europe? How and why did one of Milhaud’s works get premiered in Rio?
5.) In France, the vast majority of premieres were concentrated in Paris, while in Germany, premieres were spread out over several cities. Why is this? What does this say about the sociopolitical systems and the distribution and flow of power in each country?
The researching and mapping continues!