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Map of the southern United States

A musical tribute to maps


A playlist takes a tour of the myriad musical works dedicated to maps and cartography...

A sequence of sounds, rhythms, melodies and silences: music is a most primitive art, the most essential, and the most powerful of all languages. Its capacity is not limited to the (hardly trivial) transmission of emotions. It’s also able to move in time and to act as a sonic vehicle which can transport us geographically without the need to move us physically. Through music, one can make a map of sounds and (why not?), one could compile music on maps—as was recently shown in an exercise put together by the website CityLab.

Speaking of musical themes related to maps, the site’s editorial team was given the task of making a musical list that focused precisely on such instruments, the products of imagination and science—a taxonomic exercise as interesting as it was inspiring. The result is a playlist titled Maps… They Don’t Love You Like I Love You. At nearly five hours, it consists entirely of songs referring to cartographic events, both literally and metaphorically. Putting the scope of their platform to use, the CityLab team also invited readers to propose songs within the theme so that they’re part of the list, too.

Within this strange exercise are two characteristic features of our species: musicality and a need for taxonomies. The first involves making sense of the world through the intuitive and the emotional in a universal language. It’s one that doesn’t need prior knowledge or codes to reach us inside. A second characteristic is, perhaps, an attempt to make the universe objective and orderly, to shape it and to make sense of it. Finally, maps (the guides that inspired such a playlist) are also tools based in the great fiction that is cartography, documents with a beauty all their own and which conjure realities ever more profound.

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