Project Statement

Although some may not know the significance or specifics of Boston's musical legacy, all they have to do is see a show at The Paradise, or nearby venues like The Middle East or TT the Bear’s and hear one person say ‘do you know who played here?’ to know that there are layers of stories. Like its long gone music halls, the birthplace of punk underneath a hotel in Kenmore Square, the underground Allston basement that became a laundromat, the family-owned Italian restaurant that also served rock.

To new faces on the scene, if you look a little closer you’ll see that the previous scenes are still here and very much active, weaving an engaged and connected community just as involved as when they heard that show that changed everything, joined that first band, Xeroxed copies of their zine, or became friends with the faces they kept seeing at shows.

Boston is full of famous known and unknown musical faces, some became national figures and others local institutions. It was part of punk before and during the mainstream, brought hardcore to the East Coast, and transitioned with post-punk and new wave. Local music journalist Brett Milano writes in his ode to Boston music, The Sound of Our Town, that “…few cities are able to sustain a grassroots scene driven by clubs, small-label CDs, and college radio; yet this one does.”

About the project

Boston Then is the interactive narrative thesis of Cat Mooney, a graduate interactive design student at Northeastern University. A long-time music lover, she wanted to dig deeper into the “layers” of Boston music history, the “then” that she had heard and seen hints of. She was inspired by the experimental storytelling in Jonathan Harris’ The Whale Hunt and sought to tell the story of Boston music in a multifaceted, digital (and responsive) way that anyone could access and discover, with no single correct method to experience the stories and content.

Boston Then is made up of first person sources, including original interviews for the project; stories from journalists; bands and concert go-ers; video; audio; and photographs. It is a growing narrative, with the site launching with a sampling of what will be its full content. Come back to discover more, contribute to the narrative if you have stories, or share the site to help others discover.

This project was built using the following tools:

  • D3.js – a JavaScript library, known as Data Driven Documents, for manipulating documents based on data that “combines power visualization” and “a data-driven approach to DOM manipulation.” The language was created by Mike Bostock. The data visualization structure implemented in the infrograph was created by Jason Davies.
  • Google Maps
  • TimelineJS - an open-source timeline tool developed by the Knight Lab.

Many thanks to project advisor Ravi Jain, Chad Clark for web advice, and interviewees Miss Lynn and Paul Blowfish of Boston Groupie News, Al Quint of Suburban Voice and Stench Radio, and Mission of Burma’s Roger Miller.