Archive for category Music
For that long Thanksgiving drive, there’s nothing better than a handful of infinitely long songs to keep your ears occupied on the way to Grandma’s house:
- Autumn Sweater by Yo La Tengo
- Thanksgiving Day by Ray Davies
- It’s Thanksgiving – Nicole Westbrook
- Alice’s Restaurant Massacre by Arlo Guthrie
- Turkey in the Straw by ZEPP
Or you may want to head over to Evolver and check out the community built Thanksgiving playlist that will actually end before heat death of the universe.
My favorite hack to come out of last week’s Music Hack Day London (and perhaps one of my favorite music hack of all time) is the hack by Iain Mullan called “Johnny Cash Has Been EVERYWHERE (Man)!“. This hack has all the ingredients of a great music hack – great music, great execution, a bucket full of whimsy, and absolutely nothing about it that would make an MBA start writing a business plan. It’s practically a perfect hack. The only flaw is that Johnny Cash would never measure his distance travelled in kilometers. Check it out: Johnny Cash Has Been EVERYWHERE (Man)!“.
The Infinite Jukebox generates plots of songs in which the most similar beats are connected by arcs. I call these plots cantograms. For instance, below is a labeled cantogram for the song Rolling in the Deep by Adele. The song starts at 3:00 on the circle and proceeds clockwise, beat by beat completely around the circle. I’ve labeled the plot so you can see how it aligns with the music. There’s an intro, a first verse, a chorus, a second verse, etc. until the outro and the end of the song.
One thing that’s interesting is that most of the beat similarity connections occur between the beats in the three instances of the chorus. This certainly makes intuitive sense. The verses have different lyrics, so for the most part they won’t be too similar to each other, but the choruses have the same lyrics, the same harmony, the same instrumentation. They may even be, for all we know may even be exactly the same audio, that perfect performance, cut and pasted three times by the audio engineer to make the best sounding version of the song.
Now take a look at the cantogram for another popular song. The plot below shows the beat similarities for the song Tik Tok by Ke$ha. What strikes me the most about this plot is how similar it looks to the plot for Rolling in the Deep. It has the characteristic longer intro+first verse, some minor inter-verse similarities and the very strong similarities between the three choruses.
As we look at more plots for modern pop music we see the same pattern over and over again. In this plot for Lady Gag’s Paparazzi a cantogram we again see the same pattern.
We see it in the plot for Justin Bieber’s Baby:
Taylor Swift’s Fearless has a two verses before the first chorus, shifting it further around the circle, but other than that the pattern holds:
Now compare and contrast the pop cantograms with those from other styles of music. First up is Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to heaven. There’s no discernable repeating chorus, or global song repetition, the only real long-arc repetition occurs during the guitar solo for the last quarter of the song.
Here’s another style of music. Deadmau5′s Raise your weapon. This is electronica (and maybe some dubstep). Clearly from the cantogram we can see that is is not a traditional pop song. Very little long arc repetition, with the densest cluster being the final dubstep break.
Dave Brubeck’s Take Five has a very different pattern, with lots of short term repetition during the first half of the song, while during the second half with Joe Morello’s drum solo there’s a very different pattern.
Green Grass and High Tides has yet a different pattern – no three choruses and out here. (By the way, the final guitar solo is well worth listening to in the Infinite Jukebox. It is the guitar solo that never ends).
The progressive rock anthem Roundabout doesn’t have the Pop Pattern
Nor does Yo-Yo Ma’s performance of the Cello suite No. 1.
Looking at the pop plots one begins to understand that pop music really could be made in a factory. Each song is cut from the same mold. In fact, one of the most successful pop songs in recent years, was produced by a label with factory in its name. Looking at Rebecca Black’s Friday we can tell right away that it is a pop song:
Compare that plot to this years Youtube breakout, Thanksgiving by Nicole Westbrook, (another Ark Music Factory assembly):
The plot has all the makings of the standard pop song for the 2010s.
In the music information retrieval research community there has been quite a bit of research into algorithmically extracting song structure, and visualizations are often part of this work. If you are interested in learning more about this research, I suggest looking at some of the publications by Meinard Müller and Craig Sapp.
Of course, not every pop song will follow the pattern that I’ve shown here. Nevertheless, I find it interesting that this very simple visualization is able to show us something about the structure of the modern pop song, and how similar this structure is across many of the top pop songs.
update: since publishing this post I’ve updated the layout algorithm in the Infinite Jukebox so that songs start and end at 12 Noon and not 3PM, so the plots you see in this post are rotated 90degrees clockwise from what you would see in the jukebox.
Another Music Hack Day weekend … this time in Boston hosted at MIT. It was a pretty awesome event. The space at MIT was perfect for hacking, with the best network connectivity I’ve ever seen at a hacking event. For my weekend hack, I took the idea from my Iceland hack (Infinite Gangnam Style), and made it work with any song. The result is The Infinite Jukebox.
With The Infinite Jukebox, you can create a never-ending and ever changing version of any song. The app works by sending your uploaded track over to The Echo Nest, where it is decomposed into individual beats. Each beat is then analyzed and matched to other similar sounding beats in the song. This information is used to create a detailed song graph of paths though similar sounding beats. As the song is played, when the next beat has similar sounding beats there’s a chance that we will branch to a completely different part of the song. Since the branching is to a very similar sounding beat in the song, you (in theory) won’t notice the jump. This process of branching to similar sounding beats can continue forever, giving you an infinitely long version of the song.
To accompany the playback, I created a chord diagram that shows the beats of the song along the circumference of the circle along with with chords representing the possible paths from each beat to it’s similar neighbors. When the song is not playing, you can mouse over any beat and see all of the possible paths for that beat. When the song is playing, the visualization shows the single next potential beat. I was quite pleased at how the visualization turned out. I think it does a good job of helping the listener understand what is going on under the hood, and different songs have very different looks and color palettes. They can be quite attractive.
I did have to adapt the Infinite Gangnam Style algorithm for the Infinite Jukebox. Not every song is as self-similar as Psy’s masterpiece, so I have to dynamically adjust the beat-similarity threshold until there are enough pathways in the song graph to make the song infinite. This means that the overall musical quality may vary from song to song depending on the amount of self-similarity in the song.
Overall, the results sound good for most songs. I still may do a bit of tweaking on the algorithm to avoid some degenerate cases (you can get stuck in a strange attractor at the end of Karma Police for instance). Give it a try, upload your favorite song and listen to it forever. The Infinite Jukebox.
Some of my favorite listener contributed tracks:
- Call Me Maybe
- R Kelly’s Ignition (remix)
- Scatman by Scatman John
- Feel Good by Gorillaz
- The Game Has Changed by Daft Punk
- Supersition by StevieWonder
- Blue Rondo a la Turk by Dave Brubeck
- BIRDHOUSE IN YOUR SOUL by They Might Be Giants
- Mediterranean Sundance 5.14 by Al DiMeola - this one is fantastic!
- I Feel Love by Donna Summer – this song was made for the Infinite Jukebox
- Come Together by The Beatles – The Beatles are really tight on this song, so it works really well
- Yakity Sax – The Benny Hill Theme - oh my.
- The Game has Changed by Daft Punk - ”This song was made for the Infinite Jukebox” – an insightful Internet user
- Sabotage by the Beatie Boys
- Green Grass and High Tides by The Outlaws - the guitar solo that never ends! via @tpetr
- Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana – seamless infinite grunge
In preparation for the upcoming Music Hack Day Boston, I was running the latest build of The Echo Nest Remix through its paces. As part of the Remix checkout I thought I’d try running Psy’s Gangnam Style through Tristan’s Swinger. The results are amusing. Listen to Psywinger:
The code for this marvelous hack can be found here: The Swinger on Github.
One of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard about Infinite Gangnam Style is that it is hard to take it with you. Due to the image swapping pseudo-video in the desktop version, it doesn’t run very well on iOS devices. This means you can’t listen to Gangnam Style 24/7. Clearly, since Infinite Gangnam Style is supposed to let you listen to Gangnam Style forever, this would not do. So, I’ve made an iPhone specific version called Gangn∞m Style:
This version plays on your iPhone device through Mobile Safari, letting you listen to a never-ending, every changing version of Gangnam Style wherever you are and whenever you want. So now there’s no excuse to ever stop listening to the greatest pop song of the millenium.
Some tech details: The hardest bit was figuring out how to prevent the iPhone from going to sleep after a minute or so of playing. There’s no direct way to disable sleep mode in the browser, but there’s a little hack. I created a 5 second long silent mp3, and then force that silence to loop forever with a bit of html:
<audio src="silence.mp3" preload autoplay loop></audio>
This keeps Safari live and prevents the iPhone from deciding it wants to go to sleep. Of course this will wear down your battery, but that is one of the risks inherent in infinite listening.
I used jQTouch to give a nifty iOS look and feel in the browser, and of course I used the Echo Nest analyzer to figure out where all the beats were in the song, and to build the beat by beat similarity graph that I use to make the song play forever.
Go check out Gangn∞m Style and let me know what you think.
This weekend at Music Hack Day Reykjavik I built a music hack called Infinite Gangnam Style. This hack takes the viral hit by Psy and creates a never ending, ever changing version of the song. Here’s a video of it:
The app works by taking the audio and analyzing it with The Echo Nest analyzer to break it up into its individual beats. Next, an analysis pass is run on all the beats finding each beat’s nearest similar sounding neighbors that fall within a similarity threshold. Then, the song is played beat-by-beat – but with the added twist that any time we play a particular beat there’s a chance that we will transition instead to one of the beat’s similar sounding neighbors. For a pop song like Gangnam Style there’s lots of repetition so there’s plenty of good transition points. The result is that we can loop through the song forever with the song always morphing.
Since the Gangnam Style video is a key part of the song, I’ve included a dynamically remixed video in the web app too. (The mixing is done just be image swapping, there’s no way to dynamically control a video player as far as I know, which is why this app will load about 2000 images ;).
This hack was inspired by Tristan’s “James Brown Forever “ hack.
If you look through the Top 50 Most Political Artists you’ll find some rather unusual election-related news items. Here are some of the most extreme:
- Megadeth frontman accuses Obama of murdering people to promote gun safety
- Devo to unleash song about Mitt Romney’s dog
- LMFAO’s Sky Blu Says Mitt Romney ‘Vulcan-Gripped’ Him On Airplane
- Glenn Beck writes open letter to Muse
- Secret Service Looking Into Ted Nugent’s Violent Obama Threat
- Nicki Minaj Receives Death Threats Over Mitt Romney Rap Line
There’s some weird stuff going on out there.
Musicians are not shy about expressing their political opinions nor are politicians shy about courting favor of the musical elite. As we approach the U.S. Presidential election I thought it would be interesting to see which artists have the most political capital. To do this, I looked through all the recent news and blog posts (using The Echo Nest API) about each of the top 1,000 most popular artists and scored each artist based upon the number of election-related stories found for each artist. I’ve taken the results of this search and summarized the results in this app:
Here’s a screenshot:
Not surprisingly popular artists make lots of news, and when a popular artists says or does something political it tends to make news, especially when what they say goes against expectations. For example, when Nicki Minaj said she was going to vote for Mitt Romney it created a storm of hundreds of news articles and blog posts (and even a response from President Obama).
Check out the list of top 50 political artists. Some common themes: Musicians get pissed off if you use their music in your campaign and they don’t agree with you, President Obama gets lots of love (and fundraising help) from popular artists, and sounding like a crazy artist gets you lots of attention.
Also, check out this related post on how we are using musical taste to predict your politics.
A bunch of music tech folk will be in Dublin Ireland next week to attend ACM Recommender Systems 2012. We’ll be heading over to the Bull & Castle, beside Christ Church, Dublin City on September 13 at 18:30 to join <Pub> Standands Dublin, to hang out and chat about hacking music. Pub Standards is a post-conference drink-up without the conference. There’s no format, talks or presentations. It’s just geeks + beer. If you are in the area and are interested in hanging out, feel free to come on down and have a beer.