Synoptic Office rebrands Carnegie Hall’s Timeline of African American Music to tell “the history of music through music”
Through an on-site integration with Apple Music, the new timeline offers users a pioneering and accessible way to browse its cultural resources and listen to music at the same time.
- Elfie Thomas
- 24 February 2022
Since 2009, Carnegie Hall has provided a leading cultural resource on African American music through its timeline. In a recent re-design by Synoptic Office, the timeline has been relaunched with a totally new look. The team was tasked with interpreting 400 years’ worth of audio and data into an “easy and compelling” format for users to explore, says Synoptic Office in a press release. Through a collaboration with Apple Music, audio tracks were incorporated throughout the timeline’s interactive resources. “With the music embedded within the timeline itself,” says Synoptic co-founder YuJune Park, “Carnegie can tell the story of music in an innovative way – the history of music through music.”
The Synoptic team, led by co-founders YuJune Park and Caspar Lam, harnessed the duo’s experience in education and the “tremendous developments in digital technology” since the timeline’s inception to bring the history of African American music “beyond classroom conversations, and to the wider public.”
Comprising the lifetime research of Dr. Portia Maultsby, the founding director of the Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University, the archive includes an expansive collection of academic essays, photos, historical images and audio data. One of the main challenges of the project was to accommodate the wide range of researchers, educators and music-lovers who approach the platform for different reasons. “We do not expect the outcomes for each type of user to be the same,” says Lam. “This means that the redesigned timeline is multi-faceted in nature and provides multiple pathways for exploration and understanding this content.” To do this, Synoptic took a progressive approach to mapping data along the lines of broad humanities themes, engagement points and learning goals.
This required an in-depth investigation into the resources held in the archive as well as its various audiences. “The user experience functions like a funnel, without trapping audiences into one path”, says Synoptic. The timeline provides broad cultural context for each genre it covers and offers users the option to jump to more specific information from each exhibit. The on-site integration with Apple Music, “perhaps the most exciting evolution” from the former iteration according to Synoptic, allows you to listen to related audio tracks throughout the interactive experience.
With its slick integration with Apple Music and its goal to bring Carnegie’s resources to an ever-wider audience, Park is confident that the timeline will be “a truly special gift for the education community, and the wider public […] indicative of a bright future for innovative creations at the intersection of scholarship, technology, and design.”
Synoptic Office: Timeline of African American Music (Copyright © Carnegie Hall, 2022)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.