“To ask for a map is to say ‘tell me a story’” (Turchi, 2004:11).
Once known as the city of a thousand bands, Dublin’s reputation as a city of popular music-making is largely considered as one that consistently, even if somewhat unknowingly, “punches above its weight”. Yet within the realm of academia, literature on Dublin’s vibrant and internationally popular music scenes are surprisingly scarce. The few academic studies that do mention Dublin’s popular music culture either focus solely on rock music, or speak of Dublin as part of a national, or nation-wide, “Irish popular music” aesthetic without teasing out the particular (and perhaps peculiar) Dublin features. Indeed, Dublin’s exciting, extensive popular music culture and heritage and their potential to enhance tourist and civic experience have received relatively little attention until quite recently. Policymakers at government and agency levels currently operate within an information vacuum, and as such there is a significant need for empirical, evidence-based research on popular music in Dublin, particularly if we are to support current industry needs and potentials.
Enter Mapping Popular Music in Dublin (MPMiD): a twelve-month research project based at St Patrick’s College, Dublin City University, thought up by Dr John O’Flynn, Head of the Department of Music, with funding from Fáilte Ireland’s Applied Research Scheme. Informed by scholarship on Irish popular music, Irish music and identity for two recent book projects (The Irishness of Irish Music (2009) and Music and Identity in Ireland and Beyond (2014)), O’Flynn is the project’s Principal Investigator. Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Áine Mangaoang joined the project with a background in popular music research and teaching at the University of Liverpool, University College Cork and the Iceland Academy of Arts.
Mapping Popular Music in Dublin aims to map popular music experience in Dublin by looking at popular music from the viewpoint of fans (citizens and tourists), musicians, and music industry personnel through a series of quantitative and qualitative methods. The overall purpose is to inform tourism, culture and music industry organisations by providing the first comprehensive overview of popular music experience in Dublin to date. Building on recent research projects from Liverpool, Portland, Reykjavik, and Rotterdam, MPMiD seeks to continue such interdisciplinary work that brings together urban geographers, cultural historians, musicologists, music collectors and curators. Collaboration is central to such a project. We are delighted to be supported by local and national stakeholders including Dunlin City Council, First Music Contact, and Irish Rights Music Organisation, in addition to regular contact with the MPMiD Steering Committee.
By employing the cartographical sense of mapping and its associations with real and imaginary ideas of space and place, MPMiD links in with headline events and initiatives organised by civic bodies /music agencies, investigating the ‘everyday’ and/or underground PM practices and ‘happenings’. We have ‘mapped’, as participant-observants, a wide range of Dublin gigs and music events (approaching 70 at the last count) from award shows (e.g. Meteor Choice Music Awards at Vicar St), film-musical adaptations (Once: the Musical at the Olympia) and new festivals (e.g. Canalophonic and MusicTown) to established festivals such as Longitude (Marlay Park), the Tiger Fringe Festival, and Record Store Day that utilises various venues and spaces across the city. We’re equally interested in surveying the more ‘hidden’ popular musical life in Dublin by following different scenes and genres that encompass the rich and varied popular musical experiences on offer in Dublin today. We are interested in how individuals/groups negotiate Dublin as a place for popular music, what popular music sound(s) are associated with the city, and how various popular music networks, scenes and ‘musical pathways’ can criss-cross in people’s experiences. Findings of the research will be published in an executive report and co-authored peer-reviewed journal article(s), along with conferences papers at various national and international symposia. We will also produce an interactive, user-friendly web article. Initial findings from the project are quickly revealing several other gaps in Irish popular music heritage provision – not limited to the lack of a centralised (popular) music archive (Irish traditional music and contemporary Irish music have established genre specific, state-funded archives). As such, we are exploring the possibilities of developing a physical archive of popular music memories and memorabilia with a view to hosting a popular music in Dublin exhibition in 2016. Several potential collaborators have emerged through researching this project. If you have any thoughts on such a venture, then do get in touch – we’d really love to hear from you.
If you are interested in being part of this research and adding your experiences of popular music in Dublin to our “map,” we have several ways of participating in our project. The first is taking our short online survey, where we ask questions about your own musical memories and experiences in and of Dublin. Certain cities are synonymous with particular sounds, and we are interested in finding out if people make particular musical or sonic associations with Dublin as a city or place, and if so, is it informed by certain artists, albums, films or other media. The survey also asks for details of participants’ musical lives, both past and present, to gather data on who, how much, and what styles of music are happening in Dublin. This survey will remain open until mid-October 2015. The second is our musical mapping workshops, which were officially launched as part of the Culture Night programme at St Patrick’s DCU, September 18 2015. Our next collaborative workshops are in partnership with the Hardworking Class Heroes Convention, October 2-3 2015. We’ll be running public workshops, free and open to all, at the NDRC, Crane St, Dublin 8. (We’d love to see you there! Go here for details.) For both the online survey and workshops we’re looking for an array of responses from fans, musicians, industry personnel, tourists and locals, so do share our project details with interested friends, family, and colleagues in any part of the world.
For those unable to attend the workshops but would still like to share with us their musical maps of Dublin, please feel free to send us your own maps, memorabilia, and memories of popular music in Dublin. We accept scanned documents , photographs, images, and multimedia links until 1st November 2015. We are also pleased to accept hard copies of hand-drawn maps, along with copies or original posters, tickets and zines, however please clearly notify us if you would like these returned to you after the project commences.
Email enquiries to Dr Áine Mangaoang: email@example.com
Postal address: Mapping Popular Music in Dublin, c/o Dr Áine Mangaoang, Dept. of Music, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin 9.
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