Evolution Of Genres - The Montreux Jazz Festival

June 30, 2016

Last year we organized a little contest of data-science visualizations on the Montreux Jazz archive in my lab. The results were kept in the closet for a long time and I thought it would be interesting to share them with a broader audience. Here we will focus on the evolution of musical genres throughout the years at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Each musical genre found in the dataset is assigned to a color. The higher the number of songs in a genre, the wider the genre area is. The hills and valleys are dependent on the number of songs that I could match online from the original dataset (see my previous post about the connexions between popular artists), they closely follow the real distribution of songs at a particular year in the festival.

You can interact with the data by moving your mouse on the different part of the chart. Credits to Maximilien Cuony for the visualization.

So what is happening there?

First observation: we notice that the Jazz in green in the center is the genre with the longest lifespan - it's in the name Montreux Jazz Festival. Interestingly, the number of Jazz songs is more or less constant over years as opposed to the number of songs of other genres that continually grows. The explanation is simple, to attract a less specialized crowd (some might say elitist), the festival diversified itself with a broader set of artists.

A noticeable increase in the number of songs per genre is visible in the 90s. It is explained by the fact that the festival switched location to a bigger auditorium, the Stravinski while also hosting concerts in the Miles David hall. In addition, the festival started to propose free concerts around the main event to attract people, incidentally creating the "off" festival.

Want more?

It is also interesting to witness the appearance of genres like Hip-Hop and Rap in the 90s, or the New Age revival in 2011 from the 80s. The first Metal band came in 2001 at the Festival for instance.

To help you navigate in the visualization, I found helpful to have an open tab with the dedicated Wikipedia page of the festival. Each variation in genres can be explained by looking at the different venues and the performing artists per year at the bottom.

The evolution of genres reveals the incredible journey of the festival from a small Jazz event 50 years ago to a very renowned and eclectic music festival now. Witnessing the appearance of genres interactively can also be used as a historical tool for musicologists.

Pretty cool huh?

As always, stay tuned for more :)

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