From Ella Fitzgerald to The Ramones, designer John Davies is visualizing Manhattan's musical history as a gorgeous 3D map.
Harlem - Artist: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong // Track: Autumn in New York // Year: 1956 // Key Venue: Minton's Playhouse; Images courtesy of the artist
Designer John Davies' Soundscape: The Physical Sounds of Manhattan is a love letter to New York City's rich musical history, composed of plastic topography and transparent vinyl. The work includes a 3D map constructed from laser-cut perspex, a record, and a booklet that outlines his extensive research on creating a tactile music listening experience.
The buildings that make up Davies' miniature Big Apple are the peaks and valleys of sound waves from famous NYC songs, adjusted in height based on their respective influence on the NYC music scene. For example, the Lower East Side is represented by a towering Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop, and Harlem is packed with skyscraping visualizations of Ella Fitgerald and Louis Armstrong's Autumn in New York.
Although it was never the original intent, the final piece ended up mapping the early gentrification of Manhattan in certain areas, Davies tells The Creators Project. "Greenwich Village folk scene in places like Cafe Wha? and Cafe Au GoGo in the 60s move directly east into the East Village in the late 60's," he points out. "Early 70's venues like the Fillmore East, famous for psychedellic rock (Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane), move directly south. There, you have the start of the punk scene in places like CBGB's in the Lower East Side that kicked off in the mid 70's. The young creative generation moving round—suppose it would be somewhere in the depths of Brooklyn nowadays."
Davies wanted to "address the the loss of multi-sensory experience in modern music" with Soundscape. The record that Davies put together to go with the 3D map holds the songs that occupy each Soundscapes neighborhood. The accompanying book is a record of the history surrounding the music, as well as an explanation of each song choice. These tangible materials root the music in the context of their history, but also in the physical world, allowing people to look, listen, feel, and even smell or taste the songs if they want to. Much like Bernholz's new album, How Things Are Made, Soundscape is one of many possible answers to the question, what will music look like in ten years?
Visit Davies' website to check out more of his work.