Soundmapping Donny Hathaway's The Ghetto

Authors: Rainier Leloup*, Universite Laval
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Cartography
Keywords: Soundmap, HyperCity, ghetto, Donny Hathaway
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Oakley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This work focuses on the role and status of the soundmap as a necessary and integrative tool for a city to be conceptualized of as a « HyperCity » (Presner, Shepard, Kawano 2014). With the explosion of soundmap projects in the early 2000s, the very definition of the map had to evolve. The prior quasi-neutral aspect of a fixed representation of an unchangeable territory was no longer valid. Soundmapping enlightens new situations, stakes and realities, but also interacts with maps history and digital medias (Waldock 2011). Soundmapping as a concept originated the 1970s, with the essential works of R. Murray Schafer (1977). McCartney later criticized the implicit political connotations of Schafer’s work (2010). Regarding the list of soundmapping projects, too many failed to cross the neutrality frontier and were essentially no more than road maps with added sonic elements. As such, this work attempts to distinguish four natures of maps and their characteristics: concrete, abstract, theoretical and empirical. The above natures of maps trigger the integration mechanism for a city (or any selected space) to transform into a « HyperCity » which encompasses any individual or collective interpretation of a city. To illustrate this transformation, this work analyses the connexions between the four natures of maps and the song The Ghetto (1970), from the Soul musician Donny Hathaway, through its lyrics, circulation and imaginary. This song has had an impact on the daily life of the namesake urban environment and this analyse will reveal how it shaped the city’s soundmap.

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