Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mapping Girl Talk samples

Andy Baio at has done an impressive number-crunching job with the 264 samples on Girl Talk’s album Feed the Animals.

Using Wikipedia data and’s crowdsourcing program Mechanical Turk, he charted out exactly what moment each sample appears on the songs, graphically illustrating the spacing and density of samples on the record. It’s pretty dense — out of 14 tracks, the average number of samples per track, Baio says, is 19.8. (Though I don’t totally understand that computation: 264 divided by 14 is 18.9; maybe it’s a typo.)

Other interesting visual aids show how old each of the samples are across Feed the Animals. They stretch back to the mid-’60s but most are very recent:

Very impressive work, though it’s not a big surprise given Baio’s record: on two posts in May, he did some incredible data-mining in the Billboard singles charts, looking at the track length of Top 40 songs over the last 50 years as well as the staying power of one-hit wonders. Highly recommended reading, and not just for people like me who already spend too much time reading pop charts.

In related news, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote in the New Yorker this week about laptop music, and he talked to Gregg Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk) about how he does the show live. It’s very labor intensive: “To perform a live set, Gillis has to turn a new loop on and off every few seconds, or choose to let several go on longer if he feels like getting up and dancing. The software is not set up to execute a long, complicated series of decisions on his behalf. He has to re-create the mix every night.”

1 comment:

Rob said...

Wired did a very similar analysis of GT's "What It's All About" in their last issue, albeit with a little less data crunching and a little more eye candy. The buzz around this guy is just staggering.