As jazz music evolved alongside sound recording technology and the record industry, so too did the study and cataloging of sound recordings, or discography. From the early discographies of Charles Delaunay through the work of Brian Rust, Tom Lord, and many others, jazz discographers have published thousands upon thousands of pages of highly structured data about jazz records and jazz musicians.
The free database software BRIAN (in honor of Brian Rust), by Steve Albin, allows users to compile their own discographies in the Rust style and easily output this information as HTML. By web-scraping and parsing this data, we can visualize musicians’ performance and recording careers, and better understand the professional relationships of working musicians. Continue reading Visualizing jazz discography
Over at Tumblr I have an ongoing project I call Audio Litter. When I see a discarded CD, cassette, pair of earbuds, or other audio carrier or listening device, I snap a photo and post it. Simple. Most of the photos I’ve taken so far have been on my walk between my apartment in the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island and the SI Ferry terminal.
I was inspired by the changing character of our audio litter — more cheap earbuds, fewer CDs — and I had been thinking along the same lines as Atlantic writer Adrienne LaFrance who last year filed a piece on deteriorating CDs:
Disc drives are disappearing from newer models of laptops and cars. Many of the places we used to buy CDs—Tower Records, Sam Goody, Borders—are gone. The memory of jogging with a Discman in hand seems absurd now, but that rain-slicker-yellow Sony Sports model was once top of the line. Even the iPod that replaced it feels like a brick compared with its slim successors.
Yes, the ubiquity of a once dominant media is again receding. Like most of the technology we leave behind, CDs are are being forgotten slowly. Eventually, even the fragments disappear. No more metallic shards of broken discs glinting from the gutter. No more old strands of tape cassette tangled in tree branches like tinsel. We stop using old formats little by little. They stop working. We stop replacing them. And, before long, they’re gone.
But once I started keeping my eyes peeled for this musical trash, I was surprised at the number of CDs and even cassettes I found on sidewalks, streets, and medians. Of course, in my neighborhood there are a lot of cars, and older cars do still have players for these things. That would explain the shattered Belkin cassette adapter I found last December. But I expect to make fewer discoveries like these in the years ahead.
“Shock plunge in kid test scores,” screamed the New York Post in late July 2010. “New York City test scores plummet year after officials makes statewide exams tougher,” was the Daily News headline, while the sober New York Times went with, “Standards Raised, More Students Fail Tests.” At the time I was working for the United Federation of Teachers, the labor union that represents New York City’s public school teachers, so I remember the story well. In a way, it’s a simple cause-and-effect: after New York State education officials raised the standards for proficiency in math more kids failed the math test. But thanks to NYC’s commitment to open data we can dig into the test data and hopefully learn a little more about what happened in 2010.
Continue reading Diving into the 2010 “shock plunge” in NYC math test scores
From June through December 2014, I served as the metadata intern at the American Museum of Natural History Research Library, working on their CLIR Hidden Collections project. My primary responsibility was evaluating archival content management systems to determine the best way to manage both EAD and EAC-CPF records. I mostly looked at ArchivesSpace, Access to Memory (AtoM), and xEAC.
I wrote a blog post about my work:
As somewhat-early adopters of the EAC-CPF schema the museum is a few steps ahead of the leading software applications for archives. Our robust records, created via Excel macros and stored on shared network drives, are waiting for a good home where they can interact with other archival records and help link together collections housed in various divisions within the museum. That potential repository is currently being built in some form or another, and it’s not yet ready for move-in. A couple of these applications get us some of the way there, so it’s possible that we may have to get creative with customizations, foot the bill for the development of new features, or link two systems together in order to firmly establish a place for our stuff.
The Linked Jazz project has derived most of the social relationships in its dataset from the transcripts of oral histories given by jazz musicians. One question we began to ask some time ago is: what other jazz historical material in digital form would be a good source of additional relationship data? One answer to that question is digitized photographs, specifically those with good-quality metadata.
Tulane University has a rich collection of historical photographs of jazz musicians living and performing in New Orleans and around the world. The Hogan Jazz Archive Photography Collection and Ralston Crawford Collection of Jazz Photography are two such collections, and we received two tab-delimited text files from Tulane, exported from their CONTENTdm system.
Some numbers: in this set we have 1,787 images, at least 681 unique individuals, and more than 2,700 depictions. Depiction is the FOAF term that we later used as a predicate in our triples from this dataset. One group photograph might depict several individuals, and one individual might be depicted in several photographs. People depicted in the same photograph can be said to “know” each other in some way.
In this post, I’ll describe the process we used to first standardize and reconcile the photograph metadata, and then describe the photographs and the people and relationships depicted using RDF triples. Continue reading Connecting musicians through the photo archive