Archive for category visualization

Six Clicks to Imogen

For my weekend Music Hack Day hack I built in app called  Six Clicks to Imogen.   The hack is a game where the goal is to find the shortest path from a randomly selected artist to Imogen Heap.

To build the hack I used the Musicbrainz artist relationship data to find all the artist connections, and plotted the graph with the JavaScript Infoviz toolkit . The game has about 55,000 artist nodes that are connected to Imogen by millions of artist relation ship edges.  The hack is live, so go ahead a play the game:

Six Clicks to Imogen

Thanks much to Hannah for contributing excellent design suggestions for the app.


The Labyrinth of Genre

I’m fascinated with how music genres relate to each other, especially how one can use different genres as stepping stones as a guide through the vast complexities of music.   There are thousands of genres, some like rock or pop represent thousands of artists, while some like Celtic Metal or Humppa may represent only a handful of artists.   Building a map by hand that represents the relationships of all of these genres is a challenge.  Is Thrash Metal more closely related to Speed Metal or to Power Metal?  To sort this all out I’ve built a Labyrinth of Genre that lets you explore the many genres.  The Labyrinth lets you wander though about a 1000 genres, listening to samples from representative artists.

The Labyrinth of Genre

Click on a genre and  the labyrinth will be expanded to show similar half a dozen similar genres and you’ll hear songs in the genre.

I built the labyrinth by analyzing a large collection of tags.  I used the cosine distance of  tf-idf weighted tagged artists as a distance metric for tags. When you click on a node, I attach the six closest tags that haven’t already been attached to the graph. I then use the Echo Nest APIs to get all the media.

Even though it’s a pretty simple algorithm, it is quite effective in grouping similar genre. If you are interested in wandering around a maze of music, give the Labyrinth of Genre a try.


A Genre Map

Inspired by an email exchange with Samuel Richardson, creator of ‘Know your genre‘  I created a genre map that might serve as a basis for a visual music explorer (perhaps something to build at one of the upcoming music hack days).  The map is  big and beautiful (in a geeky way).  Here’s an excerpt, click on it to see the whole thing.

Update – I’ve made an interactive exploration tool that lets you wander through the genre graph. See the Labyrinth of Genre

The Labyrinth of Genre


Update 2 – Colin asked the question “What’s the longest path between two genres?” – If I build the graph by using the 12 nearest neighbors to each genre, find the minimum spanning tree for that graph and then find the longest path, I find this 31 step wonder:


Of course there are lots of ways to skin this cat – if I build the graph with just the nearest 6 neighbors, and don’t extract the minimum spanning tree, the longest path through the graph is 10 steps:


The Music Maze

I wrote an application over the weekend called Music Maze. The Music Maze lets you wander through the maze of similar artists until you find something you like.  You can give it a try here:  The Music Maze (be forewarned, the app plays music upon loading).

We’ve seen the idea behind the Music Maze in other apps like Musicovery and Tuneglue’s Music Map.  The nifty thing about the Music Maze is that I didn’t have to write a single line of server code to make it all happen.  The Music Maze web app talks directly to The Echo Nest API.   There’s no middle man.  The artist graph, the album art, the links to audio – everything are pulled on demand from the Echo Nest API.  This  is possible because the Echo Nest API now supports JSONP requests (in beta, full release coming soon!).  With JSONP  an AJAX app can escape the Javascript sandbox and make calls to 3rd party web services. No need for me to set up a server to proxy calls to the Echo Nest, no Apache or Tomcat, no MySQL,  no worries about scaling.  This makes it incredibly easy for me to host and deploy this app.  I just toss my HTML, Javascript and CSS files into an Amazon S3 bucket, make them world readable, and I’m done.  It really has never been easier to create Music Apps. This whole app is less than 500 lines of javascript, written in a few hours on a  Sunday morning while the rest of the family are still asleep.  It is great to see all of these technologies coming together to make easy to create music apps.

(Be sure to check out the JavaScript InfoVis Toolkit . It does all of the the graphical heavy lifting in this app. It’s pretty neat.)


Map Of Metal

Web designer Patrick Galbraith has built the Map Of Metal – an interactive tool for exploring the  world of metal.  It is a bit like Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music but for metal.  The map shows how the various subgenres of metal are connected, provides descriptions of the various subgenres (culled from Wikipedia) and plays full track examples of each type of music (drawn from Youtube).    The map has a funky design sense that adds to the fun.  Patrick uses denim, patches of leather, chains, threads , band-aids, buttons, pins and a whole lot of skulls to knit the whole visualization together.

There’s lots of information crammed into this hand made visualization.  There are about a hundred metal genres represented, (South American death Metal anyone?), era, connections, influences, and lots of music. Each genre is represented by a dozen or so representative artists and tracks.   Unlike Ishkur’s, the Map Of Metal plays full tracks so the music never stops while you are exploring.  It is certainly a whole lot more interesting than the map of metal I built a few years ago by analyzing tags:

I do wish that I could see the whole map at once – there is a navigation map that shows the whole thing but it is far too small to give me a sense of the  whole space.

The Map Of Metal is good fun. Worth checking out.

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Last.FM’s Listening clock

Nifty new visualization at that shows the time of day when  you listen to music:

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Visual Music

The week long Visual Music Collaborative Workshop held at the Eyebeam just finished up.  This was an invite-only event where participants did a deep dive into sound analysis techniques, openGL programming, and interfacing with mobile control devices.

Here’s one project built during the week that uses The Echo Nest analysis output:

(Via Aaron Meyers)


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SoundBite for Songbird

Steve Lloyd of Queen Mary University has released SongBite for Songbird.  (Update – if the link is offline, and you are interested in trying SoundBite just email ). SongBite is a visual music explorer that uses music similarity to enable network-based music navigation and to  create automatic “sounds like” playlists.

Here’s a video that shows SoundBite in action:

It’s a pretty neat plugin for Songbird.  It’s great to see yet another project from the Music Information Retrieval community go mainstream.

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Lady Gaga meets Edward Tufte

In his spare time, Echo Nest developer Reid Draper built – a neat web app that shows the top 50 hotttest artists (according to the Echo Nest get_top_hottt_artists) along with sparklines showing the historical hotttnesss for the last week. Reid used the nifty jquery sparklines plugin to make it happen. Mouse over an artist name to get links to the and Spotify pages for the artist so you can find out what the big deal is about Broken Bells or lyaz.


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LastHistory – Visualizing Listening Histories

This week Klaas, one of the researchers at released to the playground the ability to plot data from your personal listening history.  (read about it here: Now in the Playground: Scrobbling Timelines).

You can look at when you started to listen to particular bands, or even compare your listening to one of your friends (here you can see my cumulative listening as compared to my good friend Neil Gaiman.  It’s a really neat app that highlights the awesome listening data that has been collecting for the last 6 or so years.

With the new plots you can look at your listening history – but there’s a new app that takes this idea one step further.    LastHistory, an application by Frederik Seiffert and Dominikus Baur from the Media Informatics Group of the University of Munich  allows you to analyze music listening histories from through an interactive visualization and to explore your own past by combining the music you listened to with your own photos and calendar entries.  Like  Klaas’s scrobbling graphs, LastHistory lets you browse music listening history, but LastHistory goes beyond that – it lets you interact with the visualization, allowing you to use your listening history for music exploration, and playlisting.  And since the listening history can be any listener, it is a great vehicle for music discovery too. The video makes it all really clear:

The integration with your iPhoto library is genius. While you listen to the music  that you played in the car on that road trip to Tennessee in 2oo8 you can see a slide show of your photos from  that same trip.

LastHistory runs on a Mac. When you run it for the first time, you tell it your name. It then goes to to collect your listening history and info about all of the tracks.  (This can take a few minutes depending on how long you’ve been listening at But even while it is retrieving your data you can start to interact with the data.   And interacting with this application is very fun.

Each dot on the display represents a single song play at a point in the past.  Mouse over the point to see the song name and to see other times when you played the song.  Click on the song to hear it.  The dots are colored by the genre (discovered by using the tags applied to the song).  It is quite fun exploring my own listening history. Here’s the time when I first got the Weezer ‘Red’ Album:

This app is cool in so many ways, I know that I’m going to spend  a lot of time playing with this app.  But ff you try it out, remember that it is a 1.0 version. I did experience a crash or two, but it seemed to pick up where it left off without trouble.  Oh yes, one more thing that moves this app from totally cool into über-cool is that it is all open source.  Get the code here:  LastHistory on Github. Congrats to Frederik and Dominikus for creating the first novel music exploration app of the decade.  Nice job!