Archive for category visualization

The SXSW Music Maze

There are thousands of artists playing at SXSW this year. To help sort it all out, I thought I’d adapt my Music Maze to work within the world of SXSW 2011 artists.   It is a good way to figure out which bands you’d like to see.

This visualization fits in with the SXSW talk I’m giving in a few days: Finding Music With Pictures

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What’s your favorite music visualization for discovery?

In a couple of weeks I’m giving a talk at SXSW called Finding Music with pictures : Data visualization for discovery. In this panel I’ll talk about how visualizations can be used to help people explore the music space and discover new, interesting music that they will like.  I intend to include lots of examples both from the commercial world as well as from the research world.

Ishkur's guide to electronic music - One of my favorite visualizations for discovery

I’ll be drawing material from many sources including the Tutorial that Justin and I gave at ISMIR in Japan in October 2009:  Using visualizations for music discovery.  Of course lots of things have happened in the year and a half since we put together that tutorial such as  iPads, HTML5, plus tons more data availability.  If you happen to have a favorite visualization for music discovery, post a link in the comments or send me an email: paul [at]


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The 3D Music Explorer

Next month I’m giving a talk at SXSW Interactive on using visualizations for discovering music.  In my talk I’ll be giving a number of demos of various types of visualizations used for music exploration and discovery.  One of the demos is an interactive 3D visualizer that I built a few years back.  The goal of this visualizer is to allow you to use 3D game mechanics to interact with your music collection.  Here’s a video

Hope to see you at the talk.

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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.)