Hear 1,500+ Genres of Music, All Mapped Out on an Insanely Thorough Interactive Graph

If you are ready for a time-suck internet experience that will also make you feel slightly old and out of step with the culture, feel free to dive into Every Noise at Once. A scatter-plot of over 1,530 musical genres sourced from Spotify’s lists and based on 35 million songs,  Every Noise at Once is a bold attempt at musical taxonomy. The Every Noise at Once website was created by Glenn McDonald, and is an offshoot of his work at Echo Nest (acquired by Spotify in 2014).

McDonald explains his graph thus:

This is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 1,536 genres by Spotify. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.

It’s also egalitarian, with world dominating “rock-and-roll” given the same space and size as its neighbors choro (instrumental Brazilian popular music), cowboy-western (Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, et. al.), and Indian folk (Asha Bhosle, for example). It also makes for some strange bedfellows: what factor does musique concrete share with “Christian relaxitive” other than “reasons my college roommate and I never got along.” Now you can find out!




Click on any of the genres and you’ll hear a sample of that music. Double click and you’ll be taken to a similar scatter-plot graph of its most popular artists, this time with font size denoting popularity and a similar sample of their music.

I’ve been spending most of my time exploring up in the top right corner where all sorts of electronic dance subgenres hang out. I’m not too sure what differentiates “deep tech house” from “deep deep house” or “deep minimal techno” or “tech house” or even “deep melodic euro house” but I now know where to come for a refresher course.

Spotify and other services depend on algorithms and taxonomies like this to deliver consistent listening experiences to its users, and they were attracted to Echo Nest for its work with genres. Echo Nest was originally based on the dissertation work of Tristan Jehan and Brian Whitman at the MIT Media Lab, who over a decade ago were trying to understand the “fingerprints” of recorded music. Now when you listen to Spotify’s personalized playlists, Echo Nest’s research is the engine working in the background.

McDonald says in this 2014 Daily Dot article this isn’t about a machine guessing our taste.

“No, the machines don’t know us better than we do. But they can very easily know more than we do. My job is not to tell you what to listen to, or to pass judgment on things or ‘make taste.’ It’s to help you explore and discover. Your taste is your business. Understanding your taste and situating it in some intelligible context is my business.”

If you’d like a more passive journey through the ever expanding music genre universe, there's a Spotify playlist of one song from each genre (all 1,500+) above. See you in the deep, deep house!

via Kottke.org

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Watch Brian Eno’s Experimental Film “The Ship,” Made with Artificial Intelligence

“How is Brian Eno still finding uncharted waters after half a century spent making music?” asked The Verge’s Jamieson Cox after the release of Eno’s 25th album, The Ship. Calling it a “dark near-masterpiece,” The Onion’s A.V. Club expressed similar astonishment. The album “can hold its own among the very best in a career full of brilliant work…. Forty-one years after Another Green World, Eno is still foraging for new musical ground, and what he’s able to come up with is nothing short of miraculous. When listening to The Ship, we get the sense that he will never stop.”

Should you think that an exaggeration, note that since The Ship, Eno has already released yet another critically acclaimed ambient album, Reflection—like its predecessor, a somber soundtrack for somber times. And like another endlessly productive multimedia artist of his generation, Laurie Anderson, Eno hasn’t only continued to make work that feels deeply connected to the moment, but he has adapted to wave after wave of technological innovation, this time around, harnessing artificial intelligence to create a “generative film” drawn from The Ship’s title track (below).

You can see a trailer for the film at the top of the post, but this hardly does the experience justice, since each viewer’s—or user’s—experience of it will be different. As Pitchfork describes the project: “On a website, ‘The Ship’ plays, and the user can click on tweets of news stories, which appear alongside historical photos.” The film utilizes “a bespoke artificial intelligence programme,” the site explains, “developed by the Dentsu Lab Tokyo,” exploring “various historical photographic images and real-time news feeds to compose a collective photographic memory of humankind.” (Dentsu received a prestigious prize nomination from the European Commission for their work.)

It’s a conceptually grandiose project—which makes sense given its source material. The Ship, the musical project, takes its inspiration from the Titanic, “the ship that could never sink,” Eno told The New York Times, “and… the First World War was the war that we couldn’t possibly lose—this mentality suffused powerful men. They get this idea that, ‘We’re unstoppable, so therefore, we’ll go ahead and do it….’ And they can’t.” Eno continues in this vein of tragic exploration with the film, remarking in a statement:

Humankind seems to teeter between hubris and paranoia: the hubris of our ever-growing power contrasts with the paranoia that we're permanently and increasingly under threat. At the zenith we realise we have to come down again... we know that we have more than we deserve or can defend, so we become nervous. Somebody, something is going to take it all from us: that is the dread of the wealthy. Paranoia leads to defensiveness, and we all end up in the trenches facing each other across the mud.

The interactive visual representation takes these themes even further, asking how much we as spectators of hubris and paranoia are complicit in perpetuating them, or perhaps changing and shaping their direction through technology: “Does the machine intelligence produce a point of view independent of its makers or its viewers? Or are we—human and machine—ultimately co-creating new and unexpected meanings?”

You be the judge. See your own personalized version of Eno’s The Ship film here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Behold the “Book Wheel”: The Renaissance Invention Created to Make Books Portable & Help Scholars Study (1588)

Devotees of print may object, but we readers of the 21st century enjoy a great privilege in our ability to store a practically infinite number of digitized books on our computers. What's more, those computers have themselves shrunk down to such compactness that we can carry them around day and night without discomfort. This would hardly have worked just forty years ago, when books came only in print and a serious computer could still fill a room. The paper book may remain reasonably competitive even today with the convenience refined over hundreds and hundreds of years, but its first handmade generations tended toward lavish, weighty decoration and formats that now look comically oversized.

These posed real problems of unwieldiness, one solution to which took the unlikely form of the bookwheel. In 1588's The Various and Ingenious Machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli, the Italian engineer of that name "outlined his vision for a wheel-o-books that would employ the logic of other types of wheel (water, Ferris, 'Price is Right', etc.) to rotate books clockwork-style before a stationary user," writes the Atlantic's Megan Garber.




The design used "epicyclic gearing — a system that had at that point been used only in astronomical clocks — to ensure that the shelves bearing the wheel's books (more than a dozen of them) would remain at the same angle no matter the wheel's position. The seated reader could then employ either hand or foot controls to move the desired book pretty much into her (or, much more likely, his) lap." This rotating bookcase gave 16th century readers the ability to read heavy books in place, with far greater ease.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kuc40J6iQH4&start=190

In his 1588  book, Ramelli added:

This is a beautiful and ingenious machine, very useful and convenient for anyone who takes pleasure in study, especially those who are indisposed and tormented by gout. For with this machine a man can see and turn through a large number of books without moving from one spot. Moveover, it has another fine convenience in that it occupies very little space in the place where it is set, as anyone of intelligence can clearly see from the drawing.

Inventors all over Europe created their own versions of the bookwheel during the 17th and 18th centuries, fourteen examples of which still exist. (The one pictured in the middle of the post, built around 1650, now resides in Leiden.) Just above you can seen a bookwheel reconstructed and operational in a virtual reality MMORPG, a technology beyond the wildest dreams of Ramelli and his colleagues in imaginative engineering. Even architect Daniel Libeskind has built one, based on Ramelli's design and exhibited in his homeland at the 1986 Venice Biennale. Alas, after it went to Geneva for an exhibition at the Palais Wilson, it fell victim to a terrorist fire bombing. Innovation, it seems, will always have its enemies.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Musician Taryn Southern Is Composing Her New Album with Artificial Intelligence: Hear the First Track

“Break Free” is a new song by Taryn and Amper. The former, Taryn Southern, is a musician and singer popular on Youtube. The latter, however, is not human at all. Instead, Amper is an artificially intelligent music composer, producer and performer, developed by a combination of “music and technology experts” and now put to the test, being the engine behind Taryn’s single and eventually a full album, tentatively called I AM AI.

To understand what is Taryn and what is Amper in this project, the singer talks about it in this Verge interview:

The way it works is to give the platform certain input like BPM, instrumentation that I like, genre, key, etc. The platform will spit a song out at me, and then I can iterate from there, making adjustments to the instruments and the key. I can even change the genre or emotional feel or the song, until I get something that I’m relatively happy with. Once I have that, I download all the stems of the instrumentation to build actual song structure.

What Amper’s really good at is composing and producing instrumentation, but it doesn’t yet understand song structure. It might give you a verse or the chorus and it’s up to me to stitch these pieces together so that it sounds like something familiar you would hear on the radio. Once I’m happy with the song, then I write the vocal melody and lyrics.

The key sentence for cynics is the second to last one. Amper delivers the familiar, or rather, Taryn makes Amper work until she gets something familiar. AI is not at the stage yet where it might surprise us with a decision, except in the cases where it goes spectacularly wrong. Right now it’s very good at learning patterns, at imitating, at delivering a variation on a theme. (That’s why it’s really good at imitation Bach, for example.)

We could imagine, however, a future where AI would be able to take a number of musical elements, styles, and genres and come out with a hybrid that we’ve never heard before. And would that be any better than having a human do so?

By the way, you can try out Amper yourself here. Your mileage may vary.

via Electronic Beats

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Laurie Anderson Introduces Her Virtual Reality Installation That Lets You Fly Magically Through Stories

While the sci-fi dreams of virtual and “augmented” reality are now within the grasp of artists and game designers, the technology of the adult human brain remains rooted in the stone age—we still need a good story to accompany the flickering shadows on the cave wall. An artist as wise as Laurie Anderson understands this, but—given that it’s Laurie Anderson—she isn’t going to retread familiar narrative paths, especially when working in the vehicle of VR, as she has in her new piece Chalkroom, created in a collaboration with Taiwanese artist Hsin-Chien Huang.

The piece allows viewers the opportunity to travel not only into the space of imagination a story creates, but into the very architecture of story itself—to walk, or rather float, through its passageways as words and letters drift by like tufts of dandelion, stars, or, as Anderson puts it, like snow. “They’re there to define the space and to show you a little bit about what it is,” says the artist in the interview above, “But they’re actually fractured languages, so it’s kind of exploded things.” She explains the “chalkroom” concept as resisting the “perfect, slick and shiny” aesthetic that characterizes most computer-generated images. “It has a certain tactility and made-by-hand kind of thing… this is gritty and drippy and filled with dust and dirt.”




Chalkroom, she says, "is a library of stories, and no one will ever find them all.” It sounds to me, at least, more intriguing than the premise of most video games, but the audience for this piece will be limited, not only to those willing to give it a chance, but to those who can experience the piece firsthand, as it were, by visiting the physical space of one of Anderson’s exhibitions and strapping on the VR goggles. Once they do, she says, they will be able to fly, a disorienting experience that sends some people falling out of their chair. Last spring, Chalkroom became part of an ongoing exhibit at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, a “Laurie Anderson pilgrimage,” as Mass MoCA director Joseph C. Thompson describes it, that also features a VR experience called Aloft.

In August, Chalkroom appeared at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, where the interview above took place. Watching it, you’ll see why the piece has generated so much buzz, winning “Best VR Experience” at the Venice Film Festival and visiting major museums around Europe and the U.S. “Mostly VR is kind of task-oriented,” she says, “you get that, you do that, you shoot that.” Chalkroom feels more like navigating catacombs, traversing dark labyrinths punctuated by brilliant constellations of light made out of words, as Anderson’s voice provides enigmatic narration against a backdrop of three-dimensional sound design. It’s an immersive journey that seems, as promised, like the one we take as readers, pursuing elusive meanings that can seem tantalizingly just out of reach.

via @WFMU

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

New Study Reveals How the Neanderthals Made Super Glue 200,000 Years Ago: The World’s Oldest Synthetic Material

It's become increasingly clear how much we've underestimated the Neanderthals, the archaic humans who evolved in Europe and went extinct about 40,000 years ago. Though we've long used them as a byword for a lumbering, beast-like lack of development and intelligence — compared, of course, to we glorious examples of Homo sapiens — evidence has come to reveal a greater similarity between us and Homo neanderthalensis than we'd imagined. Not only did they develop stone tools, they even invented a kind of "super glue," one that, as you can see in the NOVA segment above, we have difficulty replicating even today.

"Archaeologists first found tar-covered stones and black lumps at Neanderthal sites across Europe about two decades ago," writes the New York Times' Nicholas St. Fleur. "The tar was distilled from the bark of birch trees some 200,000 years ago, and seemed to have been used for hafting, or attaching handles to stone tools and weapons. But scientists did not know how Neanderthals produced the dark, sticky substance, more than 100,000 years before Homo sapiens in Africa used tree resin and ocher adhesives." But in a new study in Scientific Reports, "a team of archaeologists has used materials available during prehistoric times to demonstrate three possible ways Neanderthals could have deliberately made tar."




The process might have looked something like that in the video above, an attempt by archaeologists Wil Roebroeks and Friedrich Palmer to make this of oldest known synthetic material just as the Neanderthals might have executed it. Their only materials: "an upturned animal skull to catch the pitch; a small stone on which the pitch would condense; some rolls of birch bark, the source of the pitch; and a layer of ash, to exclude oxygen and prevent the bark from burning."

Image by Paul Kozowyk

They technically get it to work, managing to heat the bark to just the right temperature, but the experiment doesn't produce very much of this ancient super glue — certainly not as much as Neanderthals would have used to make spears, which might turn out to have been the very first industrial process in history. Innovation, in the 21st century as well as 250,000 years ago, does tend to come from unexpected places.

You can read more about archeologists latest theories on the making of Neanderthal super glue over at Scientific Reports.

via Gizmodo

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Lynda Barry on How the Smartphone Is Endangering Three Ingredients of Creativity: Loneliness, Uncertainty & Boredom

The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from. - Lynda Barry

In the spring of 2016, the great cartoonist and educator, Lynda Barry, did the unthinkable, prior to giving a lecture and writing class at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

She demanded that all participating staff members surrender their phones and other such personal devices.

Her victims were as jangled by this prospect as your average iPhone-addicted teen, but surrendered, agreeing to write by hand, another antiquated notion Barry subscribes to:

The delete button makes it so that anything you’re unsure of you can get rid of, so nothing new has a chance. Writing by hand is a revelation for people. Maybe that’s why they asked me to NASA – I still know how to use my hands… there is a different way of thinking that goes along with them.

Barry—who told the Onion’s AV Club that she crafted her book What It Is with an eye toward bored readers stuck in a Jiffy Lube oil-change waiting room—is also a big proponent of doodling, which she views as a creative neurological response to boredom:

Boring meeting, you have a pen, the usual clowns are yakking. Most people will draw something, even people who can’t draw. I say “If you’re bored, what do you draw?” And everybody has something they draw. Like “Oh yeah, my little guy, I draw him.” Or “I draw eyeballs, or palm trees.” … So I asked them “Why do you think you do that? Why do you think you doodle during those meetings?” I believe that it’s because it makes having to endure that particular situation more bearable, by changing our experience of time. It’s so slight. I always say it’s the difference between, if you’re not doodling, the minutes feel like a cheese grater on your face. But if you are doodling, it’s more like Brillo.  It’s not much better, but there is a difference. You could handle Brillo a little longer than the cheese grater.

Meetings and classrooms are among the few remaining venues in which screen-addicted moths are expected to force themselves away from the phone’s inviting flame. Other settings—like the Jiffy Lube waiting room—require more initiative on the user's part.




Once, we were keener students of minor changes to familiar environments, the books strangers were reading in the subway, and those strangers themselves. Our subsequent observations were known to spark conversation and sometimes ideas that led to creative projects.

Now, many of us let those opportunities slide by, as we fill up on such fleeting confections as Candy Crush, funny videos, and all-you-can-eat servings of social media.

It’s also tempting to use our phones as defacto shields any time social anxiety looms. This dodge may provide short term comfort, especially to younger people, but remember, Barry and many of her cartoonist peers, including Daniel Clowes, Simon Hanselmann, and Ariel Schrag, toughed it out by making art. That's what got them through the loneliness, uncertainty, and boredom of their middle and high school years.

The book you hold in your hands would not exist had high school been a pleasant experience for me… It was on those quiet weekend nights when even my parents were out having fun that I began making serious attempts to make stories in comics form.

Adrian Tomine, introduction to 32 Stories

Barry is far from alone in encouraging adults to peel themselves away from their phone dependency for their creative good.

Photographer Eric Pickersgill’s Removed imagines a series of everyday situations in which phones and other personal devices have been rendered invisible. (It’s worth noting that he removed the offending articles from the models’ hands, rather that Photoshopping them out later.)

Computer Science Professor Calvin Newport’s recent book, Deep Work, posits that all that shallow phone time is creating stress, anxiety, and lost creative opportunities, while also doing a number on our personal and professional lives.

Author Manoush Zomorodi’s recent TED Talk on how boredom can lead to brilliant ideas, below, details a weeklong experiment in battling smartphone habits, with lots of scientific evidence to back up her findings.

But what if you wipe the slate of digital distractions only to find that your brain’s just… empty? A once occupied room, now devoid of anything but dimly recalled memes, and generalized dread over the state of the world?

The aforementioned 2010 AV Club interview with Barry offers both encouragement and some useful suggestions that will get the temporarily paralyzed moving again:

I don’t know what the strip’s going to be about when I start. I never know. I oftentimes have—I call it the word-bag. Just a bag of words. I’ll just reach in there, and I’ll pull out a word, and it’ll say “ping-pong.” I’ll just have that in my head, and I’ll start drawing the pictures as if I can… I hear a sentence, I just hear it. As soon as I hear even the beginning of the first sentence, then I just… I write really slow. So I’ll be writing that, and I’ll know what’s going to go at the top of the panel. Then, when it gets to the end, usually I’ll know what the next one is. By three sentences or four in that first panel, I stop, and then I say “Now it’s time for the drawing.” Then I’ll draw. But then I’ll hear the next one over on another page! Or when I’m drawing Marlys and Arna, I might hear her say something, but then I’ll hear Marlys say something back. So once that first sentence is there, I have all kinds of choices as to where I put my brush. But if nothing is happening, then I just go over to what I call my decoy page. It’s like decoy ducks. I go over there and just start messing around.

Related Content:

How Information Overload Robs Us of Our Creativity: What the Scientific Research Shows

The Case for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts & Doing Valuable “Deep Work” Instead, According to Prof. Cal Newport

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Lynda Barry, Cartoonist Turned Professor, Gives Her Old Fashioned Take on the Future of Education

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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