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Entries in music (23)

Monday
Jul112016

PopWaves: Making of the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music

PopWaves: Making of the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music

This is one of my favorite designs! PopWaves is a fantastically detailed, hand-drawn poster that visualizes over 60 years (1955-2015) of the evolution of Pop and Rock music. It's a huge poster, measuring in at 89" x 24", over 7ft long! Released in 2015, PopWaves is a massive update to the original Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music design by Reebee Garofalo and printed posters are distributed by HistoryShots. When it was released, I sent Reebee and Larry Gormley (HistoryShots) a number of questions about creating the poster.

60 years of music! 1200 music artists! 75 genres! Two years in the making. PopWaves picks up where the classic Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music left off; it maps the top pop artists of each year since rock ‘n’ roll began by style. Bolded titles and genre boundaries show the flow and interrelationships among styles; artist names and dashed arrows represent moments of peak popularity. 

Meticulously researched, reviewed by experts, and subjectively categorized, this humongous, carefully hand-lettered, 7 foot long beast of a chart will provide you with endless hours of musical memories and arguments with your friends. Perfect for music lovers and owners of large walls everywhere.

 

PopWaves: Making of the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music close upPopWaves: close up


PopWaves: Making of the Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music ZoomedEven closer!  

Reebee Garofalo with his complete designReebee Garofalo with his complete design

Cool Infographics: What were your thoughts and reasoning behind the new PopWaves poster design?

Reebee Garofalo: The original version of what is now called PopWaves grew from my love of pin striping on cars and my desire to capture the contours and flow of the mid-20th century pop/rock/soul market in graphic form, as part of the research I was doing for Rock 'N' Roll is Here to Pay: The History and Politics of the Music Industry by Steve Chapple and myself. I first got the idea from a rough drawing that Charlie Gillett did on the cover of the 1970 paperback edition of his seminal The Sound of the City. It first appeared as a three-page fold-out called Marketing Trends and Stylistic Patterns in Pop/Rock Music in early printings of the book, which was published in 1977, (and then was reduced to smaller sizes in subsequent printings). This is the version that appears in Ed Tufte’s Visual Explanations.

         

Original chart: Click to see in detail

Reebee Garofalo: In 1979, I was commissioned by NBC Radio to update the chart to 1978, at which point I renamed it The Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music. This is the version that is displayed on the HistoryShots website. In the interim, this graphic has had a long and venerable history of popping up in some very interesting places.


Reebee Garofalo: Although PopWaves is essentially an extension and an update of the Genealogy, the construction of PopWaves not only occasioned the creation of dozens of new genre names, it also necessitated some refinements in the original graphic. The soul categories were further subdivided to include southern soul and funk. Art rock, glam, and southern boogie were added to the rock lexicon.

Larry Gormley and I talked about updating and greatly expanding my original chart for many years. Finally, in 2013, the openness of my schedule and my enthusiasm to tackle such a large project aligned and I started work that spring. I once estimated that the original graphic took me about 100 hours to complete. PopWaves clocked in at around 300 hours. In both instances, I did all the initial design work and the original drawings myself, then brought in artists with calligraphy skills to do the final lettering. Larry spent another few hundred hours on graphic design creating the production-ready version of the chart. 

Reebee's hand-drawn design in progress

Reebee Garofalo: From the beginning I used the year-end pop charts of leading trade magazines like Billboard that Larry and I researched to compile the basic data, and consulted music encyclopedias, the rock press, and, more recently, any number of online databases, as well as a team of experts in the field (academics, radio personalities, music journalists, etc) to help me craft genres names and categorize hard-to-place artists. Still, the results are quite subjective, much more an art than a science. 

It is worth noting that the various inputs that determine the chart position of a given recording have changed over time. What was once a straightforward, if notoriously corrupt, tabulation of record sales and radio play, has become an unruly assemblage of new formats and platforms, and new ways of accessing and sharing music. As a result, it is unclear whether chart position in 2014 is measuring quite the same thing as chart position in 1967.

It is also important to note that the data I am using captures the top of the commercial bubble. These are not necessarily the most interesting or talented artists, or even the most influential musically. They are simply the most broadly popular at a given moment. So there are any number of other interesting graphic representations that could be made. But this is the one I wanted to make. All its contradictions notwithstanding, it attempts to tell the story of US popular music culture, writ large.

 

Cool Infographics: The poster is a large, odd size when compared to standard 24"x36" posters. Why the unusual size and will it cause complications?

Larry Gormley (HistoryShots): From the beginning we realized that in order to do it right, PopWaves needed to be big. We understood that some people may not have the necessary wall space (that’s why we’re going to continue to sell the original chart), however, we know that many people are looking for large-format statement pieces. Also, we’ve been selling over-sized graphics for many years so we feel comfortable with all the marketing and production complexities associated with selling large charts. We’re in the process of working with our framing partner to develop a canvas-wrapped triptych version that is going to be amazing. 

 

Reebee Garofalo: More History of the Chart

As soon as the chart hit the market in Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Pay, it started generating buzz in the music community. Early on, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wanted to use it as a permanent installation. It was actually displayed in the original architect’s model for the Rock Hall that was made by the Burdick Group of San Francisco. The Rock Hall even sent me a contract. But then there was a complete staff turnover, and a more active Board of Directors decided that it would be difficult to decide on an appropriate genealogy for this music. You can bet there was a back story there.

In May 1978, Steve Chapple and I had a piece in Mother Jones magazine on “The Rise and Fall of FM Rock.” It was accompanied by an uninspiring artist rendering of the chart that ran as a graphic over the story. I thought it was a rather lackluster interpretation that did no justice to the original, but there it was, in the pages of Mother Jones.

The following year, NBC Radio commissioned me to update the chart for a marketing campaign they were contemplating, which I did. The woman who contracted me, however, abruptly left her job and her marketing campaign sank without a trace. But this exercise led to the version of the chart that is now available through HistoryShots.

When WGBH-TV, Boston’s PBS television station, was first developing the idea for what became the 10 part series Rock and Roll, I was called in by the Executive Producer as a possible consultant to the project. I think I talked myself out of a potentially lucrative consulting gig when I criticized the original proposal for its overproduction of Britrock and lack of attention to black artists and particularly disco. Still, they were interested in using the chart for their marketing proposal. Since they were going after big time corporate bucks, however, they didn’t want to use the original, which they thought of as . . . I think the word they used was “primitive.” Instead they created a computer generated, high tech version of the chart with circles and arrows and curlicues all over the place. Imagine Keith Haring working in an early draw program. I guess it worked though; their proposal got mega-funding.

The last time that I was brought in as a rock ‘n’ roll consultant to a major project was when Paul Allen was building the Experience Music Project in Seattle. His team of curators was interested in creating a huge sculpture in the middle of the building that depicted the “Roots and Branches” of rock ‘n’ roll — a  sort of three-dimensional version of the rock chart. Having gotten hold of a reproduction of my chart, they pulled me in to help develop the concept. Umpteen staff changes later, they still couldn’t agree on a concept, and the “Roots and Branches” idea was ultimately abandoned in favor of that gigantic guitar sculpture that now ascends dramatically to the second level. While it works well enough as an abstract sculpture, it provides little in the way of useful music history.

If WGBH didn’t like primitive and EMP couldn’t figure out how to incorporate information into its central sculpture, graphic design guru Edward Tufte touted the virtues of the chart on both counts. He decided to use the original 1974 version of the chart in his seminal graphics text Visual Explanations (1997). For those of you who have seen his road show, he uses the chart as an example of an effective design for capturing lots of information in a graphically pleasing way. “Your chart brings my book to a stop,” he once told me, “at least for those of us of a certain age!”

Los Angeles Artist Dave Muller was so taken by the chart that when he was asked to contribute an installation of his own choosing to the 2004 Whitney Biennial, the signature exhibition of New York’s Whitney Museum, he blew up the reproduction in Tufte’s book and made it the centerpiece of a 30 foot wall mural. Muller’s “appropriation” moved the chart into the realm of fine art. Muller has since mounted versions of this installation in Rome, London, Paris, Melbourne, Australia, and elsewhere, all without ever asking my permission. This has outraged many of my friends, who feel I should sue him, especially after he installed it again in 2008 in my backyard at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston. There it defined the public wall at the ICA’s entrance for almost all of 2008. I thought about suing, even talked to a lawyer, who assured me we could make big bucks. Ultimately, however, I decided that public access to information was more important than lining my pockets. I wonder if Muller knows how narrowly he dodged a bullet.

I included a copy of the original drawing as a two-page fold-out in the third edition of my book Rockin’ Out: Popular Music in the USA (2005). Also in 2005, I was approached by Marco Ferrari, a journalist working with the Italian magazine Focus, with a proposal “to compile in just one graphic timeline a (very rough) history of popular music, by genres,” using my chart as the basis for their work. The result: “River of Music,” a graphic that extends my original chart in a most engaging way to the year 2000. It appeared as an eight flap, full color, centerfold poster in the June 2005 issue of Focus.

For me, creating this chart was a labor of love that drew equally from my love of popular music (for content) and my attraction to the contours of “pinstriping” on customized 1950s cars (for graphic design). Along the way, I enjoyed the company and able assistance of many friends and acquaintances. I still remember the night that Dianne Dion (then Carasik) spilled Scotch on the original while surveying my placement of artists. When my calligraphy skills were not up to the task, my friend and former college roommate, the late Damon Rarey, stepped in with a major assist in the graphics department. (Damon was an accomplished artist in his own right; check out his legacy at www.rarey.com) For the 1978 update presented here, artist Jean Nicolazzo, my girlfriend at the time, took over Damon’s graphics role. When decisions about artists and categories seemed too complicated to manage, I was fortunate to have Sam Kopper, Allan MacDougall, Beverly Mier, Rory O’Connor, Robert Plattner, and Norm Weiner to talk to.

PopWaves picks up where The Genealogy of Pop Rock Music left off. This update could not have happened without the help of others. I am beholden to my crack team of advisors—Murray Forman, Wayne Marshall, Steve Waksman, and Elijah Wald—for their invaluable assistance in helping me to name styles and position artists. Hats off to Jan Boyd for her awesome calligraphy in the final rendering of artists’ names. And, finally, I am deeply indebted to Larry Gormley (who convinced me to take this on) for his pixel-level interventions and tasteful aesthetic choices in turning PopWaves into an appealing poster. All of the above should get some of the credit for these projects; I’ll take all of the complaints.

Monday
Nov232015

Anatomy of Songs

Anatomy of Songs and Anatomy of More Songs are hilarious looks at the common layout of songs from different genres. Designed by cartoonist John Atkinson, his site is called Wrong Hands. These stacked bar charts are geat visualization of timelines for songs.

John has designed many more along this same style like Anatomy of the Holidays, Anatomy of Generations and Anatomy of Ages

Found on Visually

Thursday
Dec042014

The Pianogram

The Pianogram Joey Cloud infographic

The Pianogram is a histogram using the design style of a piano keyboard to show the frequency of notes in a given song. Designed by software programmer Joey Cloud, the site has a handful of preloaded songs, but you can upload the MIDI file for any song to create a custom pianogram.

The visual below shows how often each key gets pressed relative to the rest for a given piano piece. It is a piano-looking histogram, so I named it a Pianogram! You can take a look at the pre-loaded options, try uploading your own piano songs (MIDI files only), or download the pianogram as a PNG image. Enjoy!

This a fun visualization tool. Here’s Billy Joel’s Piano Man, just because it seemed the most appropriate:

 

The Pianogram Billy Joel Piano Man

Found on FlowingData and FastCo Design

Thursday
Nov062014

Top 100 DJ's of 2013


Top 100 DJS of 2013, by Data infographic

Top 100 DJ’s of 2013, by Data, created by by Topple Track, takes a different approach to coming up with a top 100 DJ list. Instead of the traditional voting method, they took a more data driven approach.

We partnered with our friends over at JustGo.com to compile a list of ’100 DJ’s’ that is driven by data. (Data that is available to anyone who obtains an API key to the applicable social platform).

Our goal with list was to create an alternative view to the existing lists. This doesn’t mean there isn’t value in a traditional voting poll or we’re questioning it’s validity, this is our attempt at taking data, consumption weighted, algorithmic approach.

The biggest names in EDM command big money, for promoters it’s a numbers game. For many, social data is a huge barometer for who to book and who not to book.

Our methodology is made up of the following weighting (as mentioned in the infographic):

  • 60% Total Fans
  • 30% 2013 Fan Growth
  • 10% Buzz & Piracy

The data started on January 1, 2013 and ran through nearly all of 2013. It’s clear we have room from improvements, such as spotting the ‘next big thing’ through trends (a la Martin Garrix’s absence from the current poll) and tweaking weighting of certain platforms as usage permits.

*Editors Note – We did exclude 3 DJ’s that we deemed at least 75% or more of their social following was purchased.

Clean, colorful design that does a good job of changing the visualization method each time you move down from one section to the next. Pie-Doughnut to Doughnut to Line to bar chart to list.

Thanks to Brandon for sending in the link!

Friday
Dec132013

100 Years of Rock Visualized

100 Years of Rock Visualized infographic

From Gospel to Grunge: 100 Years Of Rock in Less Than a Minute is an ambitious design project from ConcertHotels.com.  It’s an animated, interactive timeline design that let’s you click on any genre to highlight it’s specific history and play a sample of the appropriate music.

The history of rock music is pretty interesting. Everyone knows that it’s roots lie in genres like Gospel, but what about all the other genres?

How did Cowpunk come about? Or Indie Rock? Or Nu Metal?

These are the sorts of questions we ask ourselves here at Concert Hotels (oh, and other important topics like what we should have for lunch).

Curiosity piqued, we decided to trace the roots of the various rock genres, kinda like ‘Who do you think you are?’ but for rock music, and then visualize it.

We embarked upon what turned into a mammoth research task, the likes of which none of us have undertaken since college. But we stuck with it. We think it was worth the effort.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you our Rock Time Machine - click here to journey through 100 years of rock in less than a minute.

And there’s more - while we were at it we thought it might be pretty cool to be able to hear a sample of each genre.

So turn your speakers up to 11 (or pop your headphones in if you’re the considerate type) - you never know, you might just find a new music genre to fall in love with.

Although music heritage isn’t an exact science, the color-coded flow arrows are easy to follow throughout the design.  However, they get more complicated at the bottom.  Apparently there hasn’t been any new music since Y2K?

Found on Fast Company

 

Tuesday
Aug202013

The History of Music Media - From Vinyl To Bitstreams

The History of Music Media infographic

A creative timeline view of The History of: Music Media infographic from Indigo Boom. The colors track the popularity of each new and old source of music media through the years. From left to right it goes 0% popular to 100% popular. 

Selling music as recordings first became possible in 1877 with the introduction of the phonograph cylinder. Since then media formats have developed and radically changed the way we listen, and recently even where we can listen to music. We have looked at the last 30 years of music format development and popularity in the infographic below.

Beautiful, colorful design. This is a vertical stacked area chart covering the last 30+ years of music sales. You can see that in 1980 (where the chart begins) vinyl was already in decline. CDs have had a big run, but downloads are obviously growing to become the new dominant method to get music.

I like that the design tells one story really well, and doesn’t get into a whole bunch of extra data points. It’s a simple, clear story to the readers who can understand the content quickly and then move on.  

The source listing of The RIAA is too vague.  Source listings should include a link to the specific data so others can examine the original dataset if they wish.  I went to the RIAA site, and it appears that they are selling this information in a report. Publishing the data publicly in an infographic may be a violation of the terms of service or copyright of the report, but I can’t tell because I can’t determine where the specific data originated.

The URL to the infographic landing page should be included in the footer of the design so readers can find the original when they come across a smaller version posted on another site.  Not all sites are good about linking back to the original.

Thanks to Bogdan for sending in the link!

Monday
Feb252013

The Social Grammys

The Social Grammys infographic

I missed posting this before the actual Grammys, but I really like the design.  The Social Grammys from Activ8Social looks at the online stats of the biggest names in music.

What is the only thing that could be more exciting than this year’s Grammy Awards? An infographic about the Grammy Awards, of course! Before we see them rock the red carpet, we wanted to see how the biggest names in music size up against each other in terms of their social reach.

To find out who would win the “Social Grammys,” we analyzed the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube accounts of the nominees for the Best New ArtistSong of the YearRecord of the Year, and Album of the Year. There’s no question that the nominees all have a substantial and influential online presence but some are shockingly stronger in some areas than others. One surprising statistic is “Thinking About You” artist, Frank Ocean, has over 1 million more followers on Twitter than he has fans on Facebook. Another interesting statistic is the fact that only 42% of the nominees have Instagram accounts.

I thought the photos of the artists shown through the grids of squares representing the number of YouTube subscribers was really clever and well done.  

Monday
Oct172011

Animated History of the iPhone

CNET UK brings us this infographic video, The Animated History of the iPhone.  I love this style of animated, infographic video, and they did a great job with this one.  Some of the data goes by quickly, but that just means you’ll have to watch it again.

What’s better than an infographic? A video infographic, that’s what. In anticipation of the announcement of the iPhone 5, currently tipped to be on 4 October, we’ve made a gorgeous animated video charting the history of the iPhone. (Editor’s note: this turned out to be the iPhone 4S, so have a look at our preview while you’re here)

We’ve divided the iPhone into its component parts and charted how the technological and design developments of the past few decades have influenced the look, feel and features of the different models so far. If you want to know what connects the Walkman to Tim Berners-Lee to the NeXTcube, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve seen previous, popular videos in this design style (like the music video to Remind Me by Royksopp and the Little Red Riding Hood project).  In fact the brief image of the world map in the iPhone video looks like the same illustration as the Royksopp video.  It just highlights California instead of the UK.  If you’re going to be inspired by an infographic video, they picked one of my favorites.

Found posted on Facebook by Griffin Technologies.

Also now available on YouTube:

Wednesday
Jun012011

Artfully visualizing our humanity: Aaron Koblin's TEDTalk 

In March 2011, Aaron Koblin, Creative Director of Google’s Data Arts team, gave a good TEDTalk presentation, Artfully Visualizing our Humanity, looking at a number of his visualization projects, and how visualizing data is becoming our interface to large datasets.

Artist Aaron Koblin takes vast amounts of data — and at times vast numbers of people — and weaves them into stunning visualizations. From elegant lines tracing airline flights to landscapes of cell phone data, from a Johnny Cash video assembled from crowd-sourced drawings to the “Wilderness Downtown” video that customizes for the user, his works brilliantly explore how modern technology can make us more human.

Found on FlowingData.com and Infosthetics.com

The video is now also available on YouTube:

Thursday
May262011

The Definitive Daft Punk...Visualized!

 

Cameron Adams, aka “The Man in Blue”, created a live visualization of the audio mashup he created between 23 different songs from Daft Punk.  The Definitive Daft Punk Visualized combines a circular waveform of each of the songs concurrently being played with an audio map timeline at the bottom showing each song color-coded.

In order to explain the layering and interplay that goes into something like a Girl Talk album or The 139 Mix Tape I decided to take my own mashup of Daft Punk’s discography – Definitive Daft Punk – and reveal its entire structure: the cutting, layering, levels and equalisation of 23 different songs. By dividing up the sound data for each song and computing its appearance in realtime, the resulting visualisation gives you an understanding of the unique anatomy of this particular mashup.

The entire piece is composed from the latest HTML5 and CSS3 technology (canvas, audio, transforms & transitions) so you’ll need a newer browser to view it in. I recommend Chrome because it pulls off the best performance with my mangled code. All of the waveform and spectrum visualisation is performed in realtime, so your browser is rendering a music video on the fly!

Hopefully it gives you a new insight into the artform of the mashup, otherwise you can just stare at the pretty shapes.

Found on Twitter via @kmcostello