Audio Flowers: visualising the sound of music

In order to give you an idea of what's going on in a song at a glance we are doing research on new techniques for visualising the variability, or structural changes of rhythm, harmony and timbre in a song. Our current answer is Audio Flowers.

Variability at different time scales is calculated directly from the mp3 file and averaged across a whole track. Then the average values are shown in the flower plot: rhythm, harmony and timbre with their respective colours red, green and blue. At the inner origin of the flower you see the average variability value of the shortest time scale (2 seconds), and at the tips the variability values of the longest one (64 seconds). The width of the opaque areas represents the median average - a very robust statistic that gives you the typical value across the song.

You will sometimes see translucent bits stick out under the opaque areas: the translucent bits represent the mean average: when this is bigger it usually means there are very significant, but rare changes going on, see the example of Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy, below.

Do you like the visualisations? Help us improve the science of detecting variability in music by comparing tracks on our voting site! We will publish the results openly at an international scientific conference.


harmony
rhythm
timbre

Fresh

Kool & the Gang - Fresh

As you might expect from a classic disco song, Kool & the Gang's hit Fresh doesn't have much rhythm variety going on: the red rhythm petal is quite slim. This is not to say they don't groove, it's just the rhythm pattern does not change much over the course of the piece. There is some melodic and harmonic variety going on on small time scales – the green harmony petal is quite thick close to the origin. Towards the tip the green petal goes very thin though, which indicates that the general tonality does not change much over the whole piece – no cheesy key changes there.


harmony
rhythm
timbre

Little Sister

Queens of the Stone Age - Little Sister

The Queens of the Stone Age give us some more rhythm variety: notice that the red rhythm petal is fatter. Quite intriguingly the rhythm pattern changes are mostly seen on the large scale - the red petal is thicker towards the tip than towards the origin. This is true for the blue timbre petal, too: thin stem, thick end. So you'd expect that the song is organised in sections that sound quite different from each other, while the timbre is relatively constant within each section. Is this true ..? Check on YouTube.


harmony
rhythm
timbre

Overkill

Motörhead - Overkill

The most obvious thing in the flower of Motörhead's Overkill is the apparent lack of timbre diversity (the blue timbre petal is quite thin). A quick listen confirms: quite a powerful sound, but it certainly doesn't change much. Interestingly, there's quite a bit of harmonic change, but only on longer time scales, no quick chord progressions - the part of the green harmony petal closest to the origin is very thin.


harmony
rhythm
timbre

The One and Only

Chesney Hawkes - The One And Only

This is seriously harmony-heavy: the green harmony petal is by far the greatest. Why is that so? At small time scales there's quite a bit of melody going on, and relatively quick chord changes. More unusually, his track modulates like mad (well, given that it's a pop piece): the key changes even within the first verse, and then again at the beginning of the chorus, then back to the verse ... you get the idea. This piece must have been written by an experienced writer (it turns out it was the prolific Nik Kershaw).


harmony
rhythm
timbre

Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy

Sonia - Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy

Talking of harmony, this song also has quite a bit of harmony going on. Notice the bulging green harmony petal. What's especially interesting though is that on long time scales (towards the end of the petal) only the transparent part bulges. This means that the big harmony changes happen in the song, but only rarely. In this case, there's a cheesy 'gear shift' key change at 2:18 in the piece (check it on YouTube). Usually when you see the transparent bit in a petal, it means that there's some considerable variability, but only in a small portion of the track. Mean spirits would say, there's fake complexity.




The projects we showcase here are still early prototypes. They might not always work, the results might not always make sense, and we might remove them without prior notice. The data used in the projects is only updated infrequently.