In my usual way, I went about starting this blog post by trying to come up with a witty (at least to me) title. Check out hits like On the Media (for you NPR fans), and Pulling Out All the Stops. Seeing as this is my wrap-up of H.T. Burleigh research, this title needed to Burleigh-related so I went through a list of his arrangements and listened to “My Lord, What a Morning” which I had never heard before in SATB. Just as I have done many times this month, I found myself caught off guard by what I heard. It didn’t matter what group I listened to performing it, there was a certain reverence built into the structure of Burleigh’s arrangement. After going through a few YouTube clips I found a beautiful video of Le Choeur d’Adultes de la Maîtrise Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris singing “My Lord, What a Morning” as a musical homage to the victims of 9/11 on the 10 year anniversary in 2011.
Of course, because I can’t help myself, I found the archives of Notre Dame de Paris because I wanted to look at the rest of the program, and I discovered that the program incorrectly listed a performance of “My Lord, What a Morning” by Stephen Paulus and following that “Splendid Jewel” by Henry Thacker Burleigh. Of course, Burleigh never wrote a piece called “Splendid Jewel” but Stephen Paulus sure did. Maybe this is all to say that when you’re trying to make some poetic point about New York as Burleigh’s home and how it was a unique space of opportunity and how intriguing of a journey his music took to getting performed in Paris on the anniversary of 9/11 you get caught up in the details and its hard to come back to the task at hand!
So much of this month has been a revolving question of space, how do we constrain it, how do we define it, what do we want it to show, why do we care. Map making and data collection are all about making lots and lots of little choices that add up to big decisions about what to frame as the truth. My area of research, Burleigh’s performances in New York City, meant that I made lots of decisions about which New York newspapers to use, how many of certain kinds of performances should be included, and so on. I got to read reports in Vogue about fancy luncheons where Burleigh performed and learned about the ridiculousness of John Wanamaker’s store in Manhattan which had its own auditorium, restaurant, and organ. In a short-lived project to start mapping the racial make-up of Burleigh’s audiences, I learned about the migration of New York’s black residents from downtown to Harlem and the Bronx. I read about the segregated history of New York’s churches, churches where Burleigh performed.
My research process wasn’t the smoothest. I enjoyed looking through Burleigh’s New York Performances but I have regrets about focusing too much on newspaper articles when I should’ve been looking deeper through Jean Snyder’s biography on Burleigh. Once we went into specializations I started working on the race of people who attended Burleigh’s performances, which while clearly an important avenue of research, we realized that we had neither the time nor resources to make any well-supported arguments about Burleigh’s audiences.
After closing up shop on this research adventure I turned to the task of adding media to the maps. I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into, and spent quite a bit of time with Sarah Dale, the GIS specialist here asking questions about the best way to add images to the pop-ups in our maps. I spent a lot of time combing through our finalized spreadsheets to find any media links people had left behind, and then followed up on those links and either downloaded or screenshotted the images. From there I reuploaded them onto our Google Drive Folder and added new links for these files. Later on, I realized I actually needed to download these images again, re-upload them to an image sharing website, and then replace the old links with the new links. The reason for all of these finicky changes to data is that ArcGIS Online isn’t built to prioritize images, and will only accept very particular formats. I found myself going back to our readings about how GIS wasn’t built to be a tool for the humanities, and how lots of scholars find themselves bending their research to GIS instead of the other way around.1 Luckily my fellow researchers made some very cool Story Maps, which really are the best way to look through the media we collected. For now, my Burleigh Media Map can be more of a starting point that illustrates the types of sources we researched.
Who knows where the research will go next? I think as a class we can all agree that the work with Burleigh is by no means finished. There are so many routes to go down from just individual sources people found. Perhaps most importantly, the serious work of analyzing the maps and looking at gaps in geographic location has yet to be done and I’m certain there are stories begging to be told.
To any future researcher – you can do it! I am very proud of you! Work with your peers to establish clear systems of communication and research plans in order to make the work go smoothly. Read the Music Mapping Guide over and over again, especially once I update the information on how to put images into maps! Remember that even if you fall down a rabbit hole and you feel like you’ve wasted your time, there’s a good chance that information will inspire new ways of thinking you never would’ve gotten otherwise.
1 Jack Gieseking, “Where Are We? The Method of Mapping with GIS in Digital Humanities,” American Quarterly 70, no. 3.