The Global Pulse

Explore the world. Click a pulse to enjoy the most popular music of the week!

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Variations in Popular Music

We're interested in a few key variations present in today's popular songs around the globe. While there are lots of ways songs differ, we're looking at a few (mostly) objective quantitative measures of song variation.

It's all about the BPM. The overall pace of the song.
Mode (Major vs Minor Scale)
The foundation for the "mood" of a song. A minor scale often makes a song sound "serious" or even "melancholic" while a major scale often gives a "positive" or "happy" vibe.
The perception of a song along the "quiet" to "loud" continuum. Consider an acoustic solo to dubstep. Not to be confused with "volume" or sound pressure.
A perceptual measure of the power or intensity of a song. It's a measure computed by The Echo Nest and roughly a function of the tempo and loudness of the song.

The Data
A UK-based online community in which users "scrobble" their song plays. With over 40 million users from around the world, particularly Europe and the Americas, has logged some 43 billion song plays and counting. Aggregates weekly charts of regional listening habits.
The Echo Nest
A music intelligence service offering data on over 30 million songs, providing data points on the common attributes of music including tempo, loudness, danceability, and energy.
iTunes Store
Among the most popular digital music distributors in the world. Publishes a weekly top-10 sales chart for over 20 countries around the globe.
Provides embedded player for streaming tracks.

Visualizing: The Anatomy of a Dot

A representation of this week's most popular songs for a given region is mapped to visual attributes of a dot as follows.
The color represents the overall mode (or mood). Mostly major scale songs will tend the dot towards yellow, while mostly minor scale songs towards purple. An equal balance remains a neutral grey.
Base Size
The base size of a dot reflects the overall loudness of popular songs. Songs often perceived as "loud" will reflect as a larger dot.
Dots pulsate at a rate representative of the tempo of regionally popular songs. The extension of the dot's pulse reflects the energy level in the songs. A "strong" pulse is indicative of high energy music.


This project was created by Clay Gregory, John Lee, and LJ Wong in Feb 2013 as part of CS467: Social Visualization, instructed by Karrie Karahalios at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

On to the Visualization