You’ve probably seen musical genres represented visually: lines connecting artists or eras, shapes and colors defining interrelationships (with varying purviews and degrees of similarity). Sometimes they look like subway maps, constellations, or large, elaborate plants. They’re all visually pleasing, but they’re never quite the same–which is good, as it gives them each a unique insight into one specific aspect of music. Genres don’t fall on a linear scale. You could sort them by instrumentation, tempo, key, origin, lyrics, mood, relation to other music, to fans, critics, or any number of variables representing a piece of the noise.
Every Noise at Once, an incredibly detailed visual representation of musical genres, defines its range by two general variables: “down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.” Other than that it is minimalistic, a rainbow of small words on an empty white page. Many genres are familiar, like blues-rock, tin-pan-alley or opera. Click on indie r&b, for example, to hear 30 seconds of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” (or the link at the bottom for the whole song on Spotify). Click on the little arrow button to further explore the genre. Exemplifying artists splatter this next page, multitudinous and fascinating. Phantogram, Chvrches, Yeasayer, Grimes, Macy Grey, Drake, Pharrell, Aaliyah, Wyclef and 500 other musicians we all know and love are messily strewn in a generally red-to-green pile of words. Listing them all would be counterproductive, because exploring them yourself–realizing how many you know, how far apart they are from each other, why they are categorized similarly–is the whole point of the site. It’s something to sit and look at for hours. It is stimulating and satisfying.
Now multiply that by a thousand and you start to understand what ENaO really is. See, that was just one example: the enormous world of indie r&b, a world quite familiar to millennial interneters like myself. But the list of Every Noise at Once’s genres lists 1,371 distinct types of music, each with an equally detailed picture of music. Many genres are regionally specific, like swedish punk or didgeridoo, or simply obscure like musique concrete or liturgical. Spoken word genres are well represented, including poetry, oratory, comedy, and drama (Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” is the main example for drama, LOL). You might think that’s pushing the definition of musical genre, but I got news for you buddy: we’re just getting started. Ridiculous alleged “genres” abound, some overly specific (dark-electro-industrial, progressive-uplifting-trance), some completely absurd (hauntology, corrosion, skinhead reggae). But they are all rooted in an active or historical musical community, and the most interesting ones lie somewhere between “I can’t believe that’s a thing ” and “oh I guess that does make sense now that I think about it.”
Consider abstractro, a type of abstract electronic music, or laboratorio, an avant-garde, old-timey-tech thing. Both make theoretical sense, but I’m sure I’ve never met anyone in my life who has used those completely made-up words. Abstractro? Laboratorio? They’re straight out of a cartoon like Marvin the Martian. Maybe I’m wrong and my upstairs neighbor really loves abstractro (or dansktop, witch house, footwork, discofox, etc), but I’m probably not, and the only way I’m ever going to experience laboratorio (or grave wave, sleep, dark jazz, riot grrrl, etc) is through Every Noise at Once.
They know this–that ENaO is insanely detailed and uniquely comprehensive–and actively work it to their advantage. The juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated genres is insightful and thought-provoking; who would have thought that deep jazz fusion and mellow gold could be so similar? What does it mean that nepali music and crack-rock-steady are similarly organic and atmospheric? What is the algorithm they’re using to define these relationships, and does it completely ignore details like time-period/location of origin? What is the deal?!
After clicking deeper into a genre and exploring the musicians within, you are encouraged to explore nearby artists (same as the main page) or artists representing genres on the complete opposite end of their respective spectrum. Take meditation, for example, a genre full of incredibly relaxing noises. The bottom of that page has two boxes: the meditation box (with green genres like meditation, healing and new-age), and the opposite-of-meditation box (with orange genres like edm, house and bubblegum-pop). You might not have known that house music is the opposite of meditation. Perhaps you’ve found peace at the club, dhyana in the edm. No shame.
Every Noise at Once is the most complete visual representation of musical genres I could possibly imagine. If you spend your days thinking about music, their histories and interrelationships, then spend a little while pouring over the site. You’ll learn completely new things about fascinating music from around the world, and–if you’re not careful–you just might have a little fun in the process.