To this end, I looked at the map of Musical Centers of Italy around 1650 as seen in the textbook The Histroy of Western Music. This map, while clear in symbols, was vague and ambiguous. I found it lacking any definition of what makes a “musical center,” and it seemed as though they just labeled every major city in Italy at the time . The map lacked the proper tools for what Diana Sinton calls “Critical Spatial Thinking.” In this regard, I sought to create a map that allowed for further analysis by the viewer, but still conveys the same simplicity. I decided to narrow the focus to only look at major centers of composition in Italy during the 17th century. In this way, it contains information that can be analyzed by a careful and critical reader, but still give the same basic detail that the original map does.
One potential problem with my approach lies in the sheer scale of the task at hand. Exclusion bias runs rampant when trying to count and categorize every piece of music written in 17th century Italy. Many composers have lost works or works without any location info, and I am constantly discovering new composers. I have reached a point where I’ve analyzed over 2500 pieces of music that are fitting into trends rather nicely, but there is still sampling bias present. Maybe the reason I’m finding so many pieces from Rome was because composers in Rome worked through the Vatican, who kept notoriously good records. Secular composers of small cities may not have kept their music in written form, or any written copies may have been destroyed along with any trace of the composer.
You’re right to point to possible sampling bias in your data collection; at the same time, as Bodenhamer pointed out, a map that tries to include everything wouldn’t be very useful at all, so some sampling bias is absolutely necessary. I’ll be very curious to see how you correct for the problem you noticed in the original map – the lack of tools to enable readers to apply critical spatial thinking skills. You’ve already found a clever way to indicate the difference in composers’ productivity (at least, that we know about) visually on your map, but that doesn’t tell us much about why those particular places/locations were able to foster such musical productivity. I’m not sure we can always know the answers to questions like that one, and I can hardly imagine how we’d visualize the answer on a map even if we did have it – but you’re just the person for the job!