Spatial Topics in Music is the series on this podcast where I select a geography theme and do a little dive into some of the popular songs that pay tribute to that theme.
On this episode, we’re listening to Songs of Urban Renewal – one of those city planning phenomena that kind of sounds like it should be a good thing. But don’t be fooled! It is/was terrible!
Urban renewal, popular but not limited to the 1950s-70s, has become known for basically tearing down good stuff and stuff associated with the working class and people of color, and replacing it with overly large and hideous highways, soulless surface parking lots, and behemoth office complexes that don’t exactly speak to the neighborhood context.
Hey gang, we’re halfway to Halloween so let’s have some fun with the utterly macabre, shall we?
On today’s episode, we’re looking the geography of cemeteries – those ubiquitous but often overlooked bastions of the sacred and the profane – the emotional and the utilitarian.
Aside from their personal and cultural significance, cemeteries have had an interesting impact on land use patterns and urban life. And the cemetery itself has its own internal geography and range of architectural features, which itself reflects the values and history of the town or city.
The built environment has long served as a mnemonic device for wayfinding or historical events. On this episode, we’re talking about spatial memory. Not so much about historic preservation, in the conventional sense, or formal archives that you might find in, say, a museum. Instead, we’re talking about memory of the more ephemeral elements of our urban spaces – how are we preserving the storefronts, signage, back alleys, street art, and informal social markers in our ever-changing world?
We’re looking at the creative ways that various urbanists and organizations are documenting, preserving, and keeping us in touch with the ever-changing and vanishing markers in our communities, increasingly in real time.
We are quite familiar with the historical immigrant communities of older American cities such as Little Italy, numerous Chinatowns, a German Village here, a Slavic Village there, etc. These places have become landmarks in many of our cities.
We also continue to see geographically clustered communities spring up from newer immigrants in cities where you might not expect it. On this episode, we’ll look at how these older immigrant enclaves emerged and explore the newer trends in immigration in our cities and their impact. …Aside from giving us the ability to have bagels for breakfast, sushi for lunch, and molé for dinner in any town worth its salt.
According to the Small Business Development Center, 77% of Americans drink coffee daily and 66% of them buy their coffee from a coffee shop rather than brewing it at home. Not surprisingly then, there were about 20,000 coffee shop businesses in the U.S. with combined revenues of $10 billion in 2011.
Chances are, you have a favorite coffee shop or three in your area that you frequent either on the way to work, or as the place where you get work done or meet with a friend or social group. In this episode, I’m analyzing the history and geography of our beloved classic coffeehouse.
This episode is the first installment of a new feature we’re starting – Spatial Topics in Music – where I select a geography theme and do a little dive into some of the popular songs that pay tribute to that theme.
For this first one, we’re taking a listen to the Songs of the Suburbs. Yes, the suburbs – that geographic entity whose derision is as ubiquitous as its Starbucks and cul-de-sacs. As a mainstay of modern American life, it’s no surprise that quite a few lyrics have been penned to both laud and loathe it.
Songs Featured + Referenced In This Episode
Ode to the Outskirts
Ray Charles, “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town”
The Beach Boys, “In My Room” + “Busy Doin’ Nothin'”
This episode examines the Geography of Political Representation.
What could be more spatial than the lines that combine and divide us to make up our political representative districts? On this episode, we will take just a peek at how we all get bundled together – or not – to get some representation – or not – in our legislative bodies. What is the makeup of our representation and is it fair and adequate? How did we get here and who is in charge? There has got to be a better way – right?
Show Notes + Sources
Um, what are Congressional Districts? Via the Census.
Hey, have you heard about this Uber thing? On this episode, I’m looking at ride-hailing services – so-called public taxis versus newer, private app-based services such as Uber and Lyft (among many other players in the market). How do these services fit in to the urban transportation picture? Are the new private services the key to the gaps in our transportation system? Do they complement or harm the public taxi system, or the public transportation system for that matter?
We urbanists know and have heard much laud for the humble bicycle as a key piece of the multimodal transportation puzzle. But who knew the bicycle was such a feminist?! In this episode, we explore the modern bicycle’s role in enabling the increase of women’s participation in democracy and local advocacy.
Note: I originally researched, wrote, and recorded this as episode 1 for release on November 9, 2016. And then…. Something unexpected happened and I scrapped the whole thing.
But hey, building off the momentum of the Women’s March this last weekend, this topic is still as relevant as ever and perhaps even more so than… back then.
So, I’ve re-recorded this episode – this time with a little less innocence and I think a bit more, mmm, presence.
Another Note!: This episode frequently references Susan B. Anthony, the well-known women’s suffragist, who also happened to be on the record lauding the bicycle during the period of time I discuss in this episode. Let’s keep in mind here that she certainly wasn’t the only major actor in the women’s suffrage movement and Ms. Anthony must also bear some controversy with her name. I just wanted to make that clear. Onward!
“Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)” by Harry Dacre – This song was considered rather progressive at the time as it helped to normalize the image of a woman on a bicycle (with a male counterpart, of course).