Visualizing the Evolution of Rock Music

February 18th, 2014

Rock ’n’ roll is one of the most popular music genres today, but that wasn’t always the case. When did it begin? In 2011, the Guardian published a list of one hundred songs that represent milestones along the history of rock music. This was the seed that sprouted into our investigation into the evolution of rock.

We enriched the original data with information about the bands from Last.fm, scores of song characteristics from Echo Nest, and band-to-band influences from Music Bloodline. Abstractly we were exploring a network of collaborative product development over time analogous to other multi-dimensional datasets of relationships. The final visualization presented here unites a network graph and a timeline into a cohesive view of influences on the one hand, and an understanding of time series on the other.

Looking beyond individual band stories to overarching patterns, two stories emerged once the data was visualized. First, the songs that made the list were overwhelmingly produced near the beginning of a band’s lifetime. Second, song after song stacks up around the 1970 year marker on the timeline—a visual confirmation of the Golden Age of rock.

We encourage you to explore the visualization to discover your own trends and data-stories, at http://rockandroll.svds.com.

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