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The map of music
April 30, 2013 8:01 PM   Subscribe

Every Noise At Once. A map of musical genres, built by Glenn McDonald of The War Against Silence and the Echo Nest. Click on a genre name to hear a sound sample, or pop it open to see a map of bands within that genre.
posted by escabeche (51 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was pleased to see indie rock front and centre. Thrilled to see Wolf Parade represented with the excellent "I'll believe in anything". Going to spend some time exploring this.
posted by arcticseal at 8:10 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Putting "shoegaze" in between "funeral doom," "atmospheric black metal" and "dream pop" suggests that their algorithm is doing something right.

Also: "stomp and holler" is the name of a genre? Is this a phrase that actual human beings use? Because that's kind of awesome.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:16 PM on April 30, 2013


This preemptively answers my future AskMe question "What is be-bop, and how does hard bop differ from it?". Thanks.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:19 PM on April 30, 2013


(Gah but why won't he tell us where the similarity data comes from? Is this like Pandora-style judgments about stylistic attributes, or people-who-bought-X-also-bought-Y type shit, or what? I am too much of a nerd to enjoy this on its own terms! I demand a detailed methodological description before I can have any fun at all!)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:21 PM on April 30, 2013


Exactly! What's the data? I must see the underlying data!
posted by benito.strauss at 8:23 PM on April 30, 2013


THEN IT'S AGREED! GRAB YOUR PITCHFORKS EVERYONE!
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:24 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd also like the underlying data behind this; but this is undoubtedly very good work looking at it. It all rings quite true.
posted by solarion at 8:26 PM on April 30, 2013


This is amusing. Fairly worthless, because genre is so utterly meaningless – "pop" doesn't include the Beatles? Isn't a lot of what shows up in the pop map really funk or rock or dance? – but it's fun watching one person's interpretation of what music is nonetheless.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:29 PM on April 30, 2013


I think it has to be something stylistic rather than demographic (i.e. Pandora-ish and not people-who-bought-X-bought-Y). "Qawwali" and "country gospel" could end up next to each other on stylistic grounds, but demographically I'm not seeing it. Or "Thai pop" and "rock en Español."

Or "free jazz" and "klezmer," unless a bunch of rabid John Zorn fans have gone and skewed things way out of proportion.

But yeah whatever this was based on it's pretty plausible and a blast to explore.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:33 PM on April 30, 2013


No post punk? Seems like an omission. We poor Gen Xers miss out on everything.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 8:40 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stuff like this only exists to complain about, so: I shouldn't get anything but Desmond Dekker when I click "ska", dammit. Reel Big Fish or some crap 90s band is on there. Also, I see drone, power electronics and dark ambient, but no harsh noise or HNW, and "Japanoise" is not a genre, it's the name of a scene. I am not a trainspotter.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:41 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Post punk is on there. It was a Television song, which I find acceptable I guess, even though they were also a very early punk band. Post-hardcore I have more of a beef with, it's At The Drive In when it should obviously be Fugazi.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:43 PM on April 30, 2013


I haven't checked this out to be certain, but I suspect their map comes from cultural similarity, not waveform analysis or even hand-tagged attributes like people (wrongly) think Pandora uses.

Check out Paul Lamere's blog on the subject of song to song similarity. Playlist co-occurrence in a large sample of people's scrobbled data from Last.fm or similar spots is much better for genre classification. This is easy to explain: musical genre is culturally-determined, and our reactions to any genre-fitting algorithm are driven by our cultural knowledge. Hence, pick the ground truth data that's closest to what you're trying to model.

Perhaps one day, waveform analysis will catch up to genre classification. But it would still need a human to tell it what the genres are in the first place (unless of course, you really want the musical opinion of a computer).
posted by phenylphenol at 8:44 PM on April 30, 2013


Oh no! Lo-fi is right next to Progressive Rock. Don't cross the streams!
posted by gamera at 8:45 PM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


(For those curious, I believe Pandora uses artist-to-artist similarity based on their users stations to do all the webbing. Within a station, it's upvotes and downvotes. But correct me if I'm wrong.)
posted by phenylphenol at 8:45 PM on April 30, 2013


I rather like the "Scan" option on the top.

DecemberBoy, it could go as far as to clarify 1st, 2nd or 3rd Wave Ska, because that would be pretty awesome. But at that level of division, this page would have to be rather large to include all the proper sub-categories of genres.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:46 PM on April 30, 2013


Or "free jazz" and "klezmer," unless a bunch of rabid John Zorn fans have gone and skewed things way out of proportion.

I have exactly zero doubt that's what's happened here, incidentally. Zorn makes -so much- music his heavy followers are easily going to overwhelm the actual klezmer fans (who probably don't use internet scrobbling services nearly as much).
posted by solarion at 8:47 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Ska-punk" is on there too, though, which would include pretty much every 90s ska band that wasn't on Moon Records.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:47 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh. I didn't realize that each genre has it's own cloud of artists. Wow.
posted by gamera at 8:50 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems to confuse names of scenes with names of genres several times: "Madchester", which I guess was SORT of a genre, "Merseybeat", which again sort of but was actually the name of a fanzine, etc.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:54 PM on April 30, 2013


Any other old-timers remember that nice big hand-lettered chart of bands, influences, and/or the migration of members among bands, that was done maybe in the late 70's? This seems to be in that fine tradition.
posted by thelonius at 8:55 PM on April 30, 2013


Oratory is pretty funny. Hitler is on there twice under slightly different names, once next to Churchill and not far from Timothy Leary (?) and Noam Chomsky (?!), and then again not far from George W. Bush (!!).
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:06 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


If this was an app I'd buy it.
If this was an offline-app I'd pay double.
If this was a stand-alone speaker box I'd trade the cat.
posted by artof.mulata at 9:09 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ok, I was a lot more impressed once I clicked through to a genre I know well and found that, problematic as a lot of these labels usually are, it's a map I more or less recognize, bearing a more-than-coincidental relationship to the territory.

glenn mcdonald looms sort of large in my mental map of people on the internet who have written interesting things. TWAS is, as a body of writing, ridiculous, bombastic, over the top, absurdly verbose - and generally wonderful.
posted by brennen at 9:15 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Genre-challenged musicians like me won't make this page, I reckon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:23 PM on April 30, 2013


The artists are generally right in the EDM tracks I'm listening to, but the actual songs they pick can be kind of iffy fits for the genres.
posted by empath at 9:32 PM on April 30, 2013


Gah but why won't he tell us where the similarity data comes from?

Because it's Glenn McDonald, so the answer would involve fifteen pages of musing on love, memory, childhood, longing, family, intellectuality, and their place in forming our musical tastes and reactions.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:41 PM on April 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hmm...I've found The Church in four genres so far; as others have mentioned I'd love to see the data. Apparently noise pop and uk post punk would cover all my desert island music needs.
posted by N-stoff at 9:45 PM on April 30, 2013


What's awesome about this is using the "scan" button within a genre. If it's a genre you don't know well, it's an overview. If it's a genre you like but don't know that much about, it's a way to find new bands. If it's a genre you know everything about, it's a name-that-tune competition.

It would be awesome to be able to search artists from the top level or something; enter their name and have the genres they're in pop up. Took me a few tries to find some of my favorites. (Also a slider to determine how long the scan is, if I'm requesting features into the void.)
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:11 PM on April 30, 2013


Because it's Glenn McDonald, so the answer would involve fifteen pages of musing

I knew somebody else who read TWAS would show up in this thread sooner or later.
posted by brennen at 10:14 PM on April 30, 2013


"Garage rock" is the Black Keys, which really made me scratch my head. There's no distinction for 60s garage, which I guess is fine but damn if there are so many variants of hardcore. Alright, so then when I look at what's in "garage rock" there are some huge glaring holes - no Mummies? Really the huge oversight is the omission of Billy and Mickey. Yeah... I'm a Billy Childish/Mickey Hampshire collector nerd, but where would modern garage rock be without the Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Caesars, or Thee Headcoats? It's just shocking.

Which is all to say, where's this data coming from?

(This is also why we hate ascribing genres at the radio station - too much room for argument.)
posted by kendrak at 10:47 PM on April 30, 2013


"(Gah but why won't he tell us where the similarity data comes from? Is this like Pandora-style judgments about stylistic attributes, or people-who-bought-X-also-bought-Y type shit, or what? I am too much of a nerd to enjoy this on its own terms! I demand a detailed methodological description before I can have any fun at all!)"

Or more importantly, navigate from one thing to another based on shared connections. There're suggestions of connections there, but nothing coherent enough to, say, not tie reggae to ska and ska to jazz, you know?

It looks less like a map and more like an arbitrary ("curated") splatter.
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 PM on April 30, 2013


"Japanoise" is not a genre, it's the name of a scene.

and not only this, but like three quarters of the bands in the Japanoise cloud are not even a little bit Japanese!

also, i'm pretty fluent in Blog as well as Last.fm and nobody told me "grave wave" was a thing.
posted by tealsocks at 10:57 PM on April 30, 2013


Okay, this is one of the most incredible tools I've ever seen. I am going to get lost in this for months. Any one of these genres has dozens of great listening possibilities. How many AskMe's out there say "introduce me to the best examples from genre X?" Notice how there are rdio playlists on every genre page?

I found more info on the blog, including what the axes mean (won't spoil it), and the data source: Echo Nest. Which is mentioned in the post here, but I wasn't familiar with them. They're a music data firm started by MIT Media Lab grads. "The data" is their product, which powers Spotify among others. It feels like they are a leader in this space.

I'm also curious about how the list of genres was generated. Things like 'grave wave' must have emerged from the data, but it looks like some human intervention was involved to draw the boundaries. Probably there is a classification model with tuneable granularity and at any level there are emergent sort-of-genres which the author can designate as genres, or not. Really interesting stuff! (What impresses me the most is that aside from tuning the model, the pages are clearly not curated -- they are generated. This speaks to an incredibly sophisticated and high-quality data product underneath).
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:37 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


as skeptical as i always seem to be about these genre-map/cloud/tree gadgets, they really are very interesting. genre is much more of a social than a technical way of categorizing music, and i'm fascinated by how serviceably this thing is able to represent that. even the hiccups and miscategorizations that are making me twitch a little bit are actually pretty productive -- obviously it's not correct to put Pylon and Devo and Television and LiLiPUT and Pere Ubu in the "UK post-punk" cloud, but it makes a bit more sense when we take into account who's using this music and how.

and back to the "grave wave" thing, it apparently encompasses a lot of acts i really like and listen to lots, but wouldn't have thought to put in the same category (and much less with that name). having spent (wasted?) a little time googling it, though, i have a bit of a better idea where it comes from: the teeny-tiny last.fm tag cloud has lots of gothy white hip-hop producers with alt characters in their names (which we used to call witch house back in my day!) and some wacky outliers like Frou Frou and lovesliescrushing. precedents and aesthetic cousins. it all makes sense! this is how people think of Television as a post-punk band and a proto-punk band at the same time!

all this is to say that we might sneer at all the silly subgenres people come up with and then discard ad nauseam, but what's always really happening is that sounds are being categorized socially according to their uses.
posted by tealsocks at 12:17 AM on May 1, 2013


I do an assignment on music genre with my grade twelve English class and I expect this to blow a lot of their minds!
posted by jeffen at 3:45 AM on May 1, 2013


Wow, just the amount of work that went into this ... now I can complete my confusion collection.

No Adult Contemporary? Settle for a split into country and 'urban'? Ah ha ha. No-nothing PDs everywhere are squirming.
posted by Twang at 4:44 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guns 'N Roses are Glam Rock? Sigh...
posted by Jonesisdying at 4:45 AM on May 1, 2013


Anyone else not hearing the music in Firefox? Works great in Safari, for me, but FF is mute.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:08 AM on May 1, 2013


The lack of classical genres is puzzling. What is there is fairly well-populated but at least in the classical world we tend to distinguish between baroque, classical, romantic, late-romantic, and then all sorts of 20th century stuff (and this does a little better with that).

Also, J.S. Bach and Johann Sebastian Bach appear to be treated as two different people. And Beethoven as well? Also Brahms but not Mozart. Interesting, maybe this was done to represent different styles of that composer but without creating the extra genre labels?

I need to know.
posted by bfootdav at 5:21 AM on May 1, 2013


This is really cool project - I had no idea so many variations existed in the metal-genre! I'm not a huge fan of metal as it is but I have a feeling I'm going to find one that I really like. So far it's Viking Metal, because it makes me feel like I'm winning something
posted by antonymous at 5:54 AM on May 1, 2013


"Techno" is one absurdly under-representative, outdated lump. This is what happens when you hand taste over to algorithms.

Anyone else not hearing the music in Firefox?

Same problem here. Some browser filter I 'spect, since it plays fine in rekonq.
posted by Twang at 6:29 AM on May 1, 2013


TWAS is, as a body of writing, ridiculous, bombastic, over the top, absurdly verbose - and generally wonderful.

It really was. All of those things. The best music review column that wasn't about music ever.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:28 AM on May 1, 2013


Thanks for bringing Glenn back into my life! Especially since I had no idea he did a couple annual updates to TWAS. Off I go . . . whee!
posted by whuppy at 7:40 AM on May 1, 2013


Anyone else not hearing the music in Firefox?

I always have trouble with sound in FF. But I've got it loaded with NoScript and FlashBlock add-ons. I just open stuff in (unprotected) Chrome for the occasional site like this.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:28 AM on May 1, 2013


I emailed Glenn about my concerns re: classical genres and he added them to the project which is really cool and amazingly fast/responsive. He did mention that duplicates do not mean anything other than issues with the data which need to be fixed by hand and are tedious to deal with.
posted by bfootdav at 10:28 AM on May 1, 2013


Omg, this is one of the coolest things, evah! Thanks SO much escabeche. I've had so much fun for hours listening to all the kinds of music I didn't know, had no idea what that genre meant or was called. What a great education and I can't wait to share it with all my friends.
posted by nickyskye at 9:36 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Guns 'N Roses are Glam Rock? Sigh..."

Since they're right out of the Sweet/Slade mold, yeah, pretty much.
posted by klangklangston at 8:27 AM on May 2, 2013


For more detail on "techno," and for a clear methodology ("went with own opinions") there's always Iskur's Guide.
posted by eritain at 7:35 AM on May 3, 2013


Where's K-pop? I already know what these genres (mostly) sound like, but WTF is k-pop?

Guns 'N Roses are Glam Rock?

Appetite for Destruction is a fine album, but not that far removed from Poison or the (superior) Cinderella.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:26 AM on May 3, 2013


Me, back on Tuesday: It would be awesome to be able to search artists from the top level or something; enter their name and have the genres they're in pop up.

Holy shit, this is now a feature. Awesome. That is totally awesome. I say awesome a lot. But it is. Awesome, I mean.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:39 PM on May 3, 2013


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