I Can See My Sounds From Here

Charts, graphs and visual representations of all sorts of data have been washing around for a long time now – for music, the classic visual guide is the trusty VU meter. As technology and computers became more evolved, more sophisticated means of visualising data emerged. If you take a modern audio mastering and processing package such as Steinberg’s Wavelab, you can choose between a variety of very psychedelic visual representations of what is going on in the sound signal, from FFT graphs to phase scopes and the more traditional spectral analysis bars.

From a music consumer’s point of view, however, there are relatively few ways to graphically plot one’s listening patterns over time. This is something that Lee Byron, studying design and HCI at Carnegie Mellon University, has addressed in his layered histogram approach to music tracking.

Byron's Histogram

This histogram graphically represents the listener’s music consumption over an 18-month period. Artists with more listens are rendered with a ‘thicker’ stripe, which narrows and fades away (from left to right) as the listener reduces their number of listens for that artist. Thus it is possible to see how one’s listening preferences change over time, in a very immediate and accessible chart. The data for this histogram were collected through Last.fm.

Byron sums it up nicely: “…while this is interesting to look at, it is more significant on a personal level. When viewing your own music listening history you are reminded of past events that caused the trends to emerge.”


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