A Growing Website Visualizes and Archives Every Music Genre in the World (or Tries To)

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As my colleague Maddie Oatman wrote in her interview with the musician Jake Blount back in December, “genres” are neatly parceled networks of marketability, a bit of code to construct artistic expression as a workable commodity. The banjo player and fiddler feels “compelled,” he says, to unpack “boundaries between genres that were created specifically to divide music by who was playing it and who was listening­—because that’s where genre comes from.” He wants instead to “highlight the interconnectedness of very different traditions” of Gullah music, blues, jazz, bluegrass, and spirituals.

His interview has stayed with me. It jumped to mind as I scrolled and stumbled through Every Noise at Once, a living archive of all genres in the world. The website maps “an algorithmically generated…scatter-plot of the musical genre space based on data tracked and analyzed for 5,304 genre-shaped distinctions…as of 2021-03-30…Click anything to hear an example of what it sounds like. Be calmly aware that this may periodically expand, contract, or combust.”

Scroll through. After, take a deep dive into the multiplying meanings of “genre” in Ross Simonini’s excellent new Q&A with the pianist Vijay Iyer in the Believer.

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