Music Geography

By Carney, George O. | Journal of Cultural Geography, Fall-Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Music Geography


Carney, George O., Journal of Cultural Geography


More than 30 years have elapsed since Peter Hugh Nash (1968) of the University of Waterloo authored "Music Regions and Regional Music," the first scholarly article on music authored by a professional geographer. Two years later, Jeffrey Gordon (1970), a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University, completed the first Master's thesis in geography on music--"Rock-and-Roll: A Diffusion Study." The first full-length article on music geography in an American journal appeared in 1971 with the publication of Larry Ford's (1971) "Geographic Factors in the Origin, Evolution and Diffusion of Rock and Roll Music." In 1973, the eminent cultural geographer, Wilbur Zelinsky (1973), who called for studies on folk music to better understand the spatiotemporal processes in American culture, supported further research on music geography. A 1974 article, "Bluegrass Grows All Around: The Spatial Dimensions of a Country Music Style," was selected for a Journal of Geography award by the National Council for Geographic Education (Carney 1974). At the first Society for the North American Cultural Survey (SNACS) meeting in 1974, music was designated as one of the chapter topics for This Remarkable Continent: An Atlas of United States and Canadian Society and Cultures eventually published in 1982 (Rooney, Zelinsky, and Louder). With this rather inauspicious debut, a new subfield of cultural geography was born.

Special sessions and individual papers on music geography at national meetings began in 1974 when a session devoted to music in the geography classroom was organized for the National Council for Geographic Education convention in Chicago. Since that time, special sessions on music have been arranged for the Association of American Geographers in 1982 (San Antonio), 1985 (Detroit), 1986 (Minneapolis), 1992 (San Diego), 1993 (Atlanta), 1994 (San Francisco), 1995 (Chicago), 1996 (Charlotte), 1997 (Fort Worth), 1998 (Boston), and 1999 (Honolulu). In addition, the "Place of Music" conference was held at University College of London in 1993 under the sponsorship of the Economic Geography, Landscape, and Social/Cultural Geography Research Groups of the Institute of British Geographers. Regional and state geography conferences have also included music geography papers during the past 30 years.

Over the past three decades, a salient amount of research in the spatial and environmental dimensions of music has been conducted. More than 60 articles have been published in 40 different academic journals, including such highly-respected international geography outlets as Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, The Canadian Geographer, and Progress in Human Geography as well as such national geography journals as the Journal of Cultural Geography, The Professional Geographer, and Journal of Geography. Music geographers also published in a myriad of multidisciplinary international and national journals. Among the national journals were the Journal of Popular Culture, The Social Science Journal, and Popular Music and Society, while international journals consisted of Asian Studies Review, Asia Pacific Viewpoint, and Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. As a culmination of the past 30 years, music geography was featured in more than 80 professional outlets, i.e., academic journals and conference proceedings. Moreover, acceptance of music geography as a cultural geography subfield was legitimized in the 1980s and 1990s by an increase in citations in such human geography textbooks as The Human Mosaic: A Thematic Introduction to Cultural Geography, Human Geography: Landscapes of Human Activity, and The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography. In addition, several North American regional texts included material on music geography. Among these were Regional Landscapes of the United States and Canada, The United States and Canada: The Land and the People, and The United States: A Contemporary Human Geography. …

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