Christmas music: Rockin' around the data tree

Written by Glenn McDonald on . Posted in Culture

To heroically understate the situation, I am not personally a fan of Christmas music. But it's my job to help you enjoy the music you enjoy, not the music I enjoy. If you are one of the many, many people who do enjoy Christmas music, this is your time of year and to help you make the most of it, the genre system I work on at Spotify actually has several subvariations of Christmas music.

But according to our data, this is still just the surface of the seasonal alternate reality. With a sufficiently jolly bias for inclusion and a merry tolerance of error we can find at least one maybe-genre-related maybe-Christmas song for more than 1200 of our 1300+ genres.

And, in fact, we can not only attempt to make Christmas playlists for all genres, but we can then even rank the genres by how Christmas related they are, which is interesting information for both people who want to find Christmas music and people who want to avoid it.

But this sorting and filtering is all stuff I do normally, for my own purposes. If there is to be a non-denominational Xmas cleanly separable from the religious Christmas, it should probably revolve around the spirits of generosity and giving, which call for gestures that you don't merely do for yourself.

And so, in what I hope is this spirit, I have also made you the gift of a Christmas music tree (see right). This is an algorithmically generated Christmas specific manipulation of my genre map. Click on the image to see it in detail and listen to a sample of Christmas music from each genre.

The tree is based on data tracked and analyzed for 659 christmasy genres by The Echo Nest. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general up is more christmasy, down is less (although totally Christmas-less genres are not even shown), left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.

It is the ultimate ornament, I think, a symbol mosaic composited out of unsilent nights. I didn't draw the tree, I manipulated the math so that the tree would self-organize that way. (Drawing it would have been faster.) Math doesn't believe or disbelieve, but it can multiply anybody's joy.

 

This article first appeared on Glenn's furialog personal blog.

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