Welcome to the Recent Music Performance Database’s (RMPDB) inaugural post! Today I’d like to very briefly introduce this project and then take a long look at the California-focused data that forms the initial core of this dataset.
RMPDB began as a personal collection development project to identify trends in the performance of contemporary music in California. Why California? Because I, Scott Stone, am the Research Librarian for Performing Arts at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and decided that our collection would serve both the music needs of UCI and the greater community best by acquiring music that is making an impact in the local music scene. This certainly doesn’t mean we aren’t acquiring other materials, but that we are consciously making an effort to collect contemporary music that is of local importance. I decided to focus on music being performed at festivals and concerts series (hereafter collectively referred to simply as “festivals” ), because these type of events normally have some sort of Board and/or collective decision making process occurring. In my mind these pieces are more likely to reflect a broader swath of programming, instead of just the tastes of one person. That’s certainly an arguable statement, but it helps to keep the scope of this project defined. Feel free to visit the About page for more background of this project.
The data forming the core of this project all comes from festivals based in California. A quick overview of this data tells us it includes:
- 14 Festivals
- Time span of September, 2005 – December, 2015 (N.B. – Most of these festivals have not existed since 2005 and many do not offer good online archives. Much of the data prior to 2014 was gathered using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.)
- 2,376 pieces performed over the course of 338 concerts
- 189 pieces performed more than once, accounting for 422 performances
- 2,143 pieces performed only once
- 856 different composers
- 378 composers performed more than once
- 34 composers performed 10 or more times
- 104 composers performed 5-9 times
- 478 composers performed a single time
- 32 composers performed at 5 or more festivals
- 219 composers performed at 2-4 festivals
- 605 composers performed at a single festival
- 378 composers performed more than once
What struck me immediately when I began to look at (rather than just compile) the information was how few composers were being selected to perform multiple times (16.1% performed 5 or more times) and at multiple festivals (29.3%). When I think about purchasing sheet music for the library, this helps me begin to narrow my focus down to the composers who seem to be making the most waves and are regularly being selected for inclusion. There are, of course, other possible factors involved, most notably personal (e.g., many festival directors or curatorial board members might be composers who program their own music of that of their friends); however, this does not negate the fact that this frequently programmed music is more likely to be heard by the active contemporary musician who might then want to perform and/or study this music themselves. In my ideal world, they will turn to their local library to scratch this itch.
Analyzing large amounts of data can be difficult. As I’ve been working on better understanding what is being shown here, I’ve begun to experiment with different data visualization programs. Google Fusion Tables, while not extremely robust, do offer a nice network graph view that helps one to more easily discover the patterns and connections. Take a look below:
Note: The graph defaults to only showing 163 nodes. To see all of the data you can simply update the number in the top left of the window. Hover over a composer’s name to highlight the links to the festivals that have programmed their music.
Initial analysis of this data has already changed the sheet music purchasing at UCI. Composers who were not previously on my radar (e.g., Nicholas Deyoe and Christopher Cerrone) are now regularly being purchased and others, who were being purchased (e.g., Stephen Paulus and Vincent Persichetti), have since been removed.
Certainly much more could be said about this information, but let’s leave something for next time. Stay tuned for my next post that takes a look at the data currently in RMPDB after it has expanded to include festivals outside of California!