Although I haven’t written on the trend yet, there have been many recent efforts to map modern social networks, such as those that people create via MySpace or Facebook. Those networks, created by regular people, are flighty and forever in flux and don’t seem to hold much significance in any particular connection. The same can’t be said for this fascinating map of the connections between classical composers throughout the centuries. The map shows how 444 composers, starting with Hildegard in the 11th Century AD, influence each other and build on one anothers work through time.
This visualization was created by the Anonymous Professor, using data derived from the Classical Music Navigator created by Prof. Charles H. Smith at Western Kentucky University. Here is the Anonymous Prof’s description of the map:
What we see here is a 3D representation of the 444 composers. Each white sphere is a composer and each line represents a connection. For this visualization, a connection represents a point of influence. In other words, every time The Classical Music Navigator indicated that composer A was influenced by composer B, a link was created. The size of the spheres represents the number of direct influences that a composer has had. This resulted in 2,618 direct relationships. The bluer the line the younger the composer (bottom) and the redder the line, the older the composer (top).
The graphic shows that major composers such as Schumann, Stravinsky, and Ravel have influenced a great number of other musicians. The number of musicians Beethoven affected is staggering, and appears as a large tree-like structure on the map. Click here or on the picture above to see the full map.
The visulaizer also allows the composers to be grouped by country, demonstrating the influence of compositional powerhouses like France, Germany, and Italy. Below, I’ve embedded the Anonymous Professor’s brief video tour of the map:
The Anonymous Prof includes some interesting analyses of the data on his site. For instance, veyr few composers had more than five immediate connections with other composers. But factor in indirect influences (“composer A may have influenced composer B who in tern influenced composers C, D, and E”), and the numbers start to change. This analysis shows that some of the major composers had indirect influences on hundreds of future composers. Moreover, this influence is not a perfect function of age; whereas older composers did, on average, have more influence on future composers, there are many older composers who had virtually no influence on future generations of musicians.
And why couldn’t poor Mozart ever find his teacher? Becuase he was Haydn!