Rachel Ratner’s Cartographic Study of Musical Incest

This cartographic study of musical incest started out as a personal (and let me add, super nerdy) project of mine. I was trying to map out how the bands I’m in (Disclaimer: I’m in a few bands around town, including Partman Parthorse and Butts), and my friends bands, were interconnected. Kind of a 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon thing... only with the Seattle Music Scene and not Kevin Bacon (although if anyone can figure out how to connect any Seattle Bands to Kevin Bacon you’ll be my hero).

The map started out looking like this:

Map 1


There was just 20 or so bands on the first draft, all connected via shared band members.

Then... well... it became an obsession. I quickly realized that just about every band I knew was connected to dozens of other bands via shared band members. I started talking to friends about it. Other KEXP DJs, music nerds, etc.

You should have seen my apartment. There were literally scraps of paper strewn about everywhere. Maps taped to the wall. Piles of CDs everywhere.

Fast forward a few weeks: the first version of the map is finished. Suddenly, there was almost 300 bands on the map, connecting everyone from Fleet Foxes to Botch to Nirvana to The Intelligence to the Fastbacks.

It looked like this:

Rachel_Map-2

I showed my friend, a local poster designer, the map, and he offered to re-draw it.

It’s now 8 FEET TALL. Here’s a small corner of it:

Map 3

At this point, in an unrelated twist of fate, KEXP asked if I could put together a podcast and I thought, I’m already working on this crazy project, might as well turn it into a podcast. So that’s what happened. I created a podcast with 30 local bands, each band connected to the band before via shared band members.

The podcast starts off with The Shackles. The Shackles (who are playing KEXP’s Audioasis live Broadcast December 6th at the Sunset) share a bass player with the now defunct band, The Charming Snakes, which is the next band on the podacst. The Charming Snakes went on to form the Coconut Coolouts. A member of the Coconut Coolouts is in the Lamborginiz. And so forth.

You can download the podcast today and take a listen here:

Music That Matters, Vol. 174 - Rachel Ratner’s Cartographic Study of Musical Incest:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

There’s hundreds of other bands I would have loved to include on this podcast (And believe me, the original podcast was twice as long, but due to technological restrictions, I had to pair it down to it’s current length).

It’s my hope that in listening to this podcast, and looking at the map, you’ll get a sense not only of Seattle’s vibrant music scene, but how even when folks don’t realize it, we’re a lot closer to each other than we may think.

The map in its entirety (all 60 sq ft of it) will be on display at Cairo Art gallery on November 20th at 8pm as part of their Expo 87 music festival.

I’m excited to hear your feedback (yes, I know there’s mistakes, and bands that have been left out. Email me about them! rachel@kexp.org).

Also, if you’re in a different city, I’d love to challenge you to do the same... see if you can connect the scene you’re a part of, and let me know how it works out.

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30 Comments

  1. Posted November 13, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Great Scott!

  2. A. Hamilton Church
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    That is genius.

  3. mary ratner
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    absolutely fabulous...a tremendous project with serious cultural value...

  4. L.K.Berdan
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Holy Cow Rachel! I am really enjoying this podcast and your mental mapping project. If you frequently like to organize things and draw connections between them you should check out Cmap tools: http://cmap.ihmc.us/conceptmap.html
    Cheers.

  5. Do Some Homework
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Lame. A flow chart of Fastbacks drummers alone would be more thorough than this lazy piece of shit.

  6. solo piano
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I agree that most Seattle-area bands are well connected with each other. But in my time that I spent learning piano in Renton, I had one thing on my mind and that was to be exposed to as many musicians as possible. And it worked, best scene in the West.

  7. Carlos L-pez
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    I believe I gave you some wrong information concerning a Danzig connection.
    Here’s how I’m making up for it:

    Mudhoney was in the movie Black Sheep with Tim Matheson who was in Animal House with Kevin Bacon.

    As your hero I expect a full ticker-tape parade plus the keys to the city! Also a baseball cap and matching coffee mug that says “World’s Greatest Hero”. I expect payment upon nightfall the next morrow. Thank you.

    Good job on the podcast btw.

  8. Leigh
    Posted November 14, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I’ve thought of doing this to keep my memory straight but I can’t believe you actuallly did it. That is so awesome! This would make a great website a la wikipedia!

  9. matt nice
    Posted November 15, 2009 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I love the pop shapes!

  10. Kevin
    Posted November 15, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Good try, but you missed some connections... It’s amazing that the Rookies aren’t connected to Trent and Popular Shapes aren’t connected to the Ninja Boners!

  11. matt nice
    Posted November 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I love the pulses!

  12. dan10things
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Do you want corrections for the stuff that’s wrong?

  13. rachel marie
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    this is really something to be proud of. your tenacity, the artistic vision, and this city of musicians it represents. cheers Rachel!

  14. rachel
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your feedback everyone! Dan (and everyone else) - I’m making a revised map - email me any corrections/missing bands and I’ll include ‘em in the next version! rachel@kexp.org

  15. graham
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Very nice. I want a reproduction (NOT full size) for my office/listening space to hang next to my chart of the nuclides.
    The two seem like they would go well together (atomic relations/auditory relations).

  16. Jill
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Rachel, I really like your Seattle-based cartographic map. Would love for someone to do that for the Austin area too. You may also be interested in this web site that links bands in a similar way from a national (international?) perspective; although, their map probably doesn’t include all those great, lesser-known local bands: http://www.liveplasma.com.

  17. Joel
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    This is neat but I don’t (subjectively) think it’s a map. Much like a family tree isn’t one. It’s more of a diagram of connectivity or hierarchy. The number of points between nodes allows you determine some meaning about relationships yet the physical distances are meaningless due to arbitrary spacing and placement. What is the scale? Is there a beginning? An end?
    A collection of lines and points does not a map make. Nonetheless, nice work and congrats.

  18. Posted November 18, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Could you use this info to find a “slutty center” to the Seattle music scene? a la the actual Kevin Bacon-esque study of who is most easily connected to anyone else... (I’ll dig up the link for ya)

  19. Miss Michael
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    This is incredible! Kudos to you, doll!

  20. Posted November 18, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Regardless of whatever errors there may be, this is an amazing piece of work! True dedication!

  21. TooMuch
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Sean Nelson was in My Effortless Brilliance with Basil Harris who was in Mulletville with Cynthia Geary who was in Rich Girl with Allison Caine who was in Diner with Kevin Bacon

  22. JasonT
    Posted November 19, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Really fun to look at! Where is my fave band the Purrs? =)

  23. Ian Edmunds
    Posted November 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    What? No Wildildlife or Emeralds dangling off the Broken Noble dongle at the southern part of this bubble fiasco?
    Also seems like there are more GGNZLA bands out there than on the chart. WHAT ABOUT THIS CHILLWAVE THING TOO?

    One million points for the inclusion of STEAMING WOLF PENIS.
    Their bubble should be at least half the size of the whole diagram.

  24. Greg Vandy
    Posted November 21, 2009 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Rachel! Fawking GREAT

  25. James Joyce
    Posted November 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I like the artistic quality of the project. I did mine for Atlanta on a more data-centric level: http://yourpalmark.com/projects/bandgenome/BandGenome.html

    Here is another project done on a global level, which is a great resource out there for these types of discussions: http://www.bandtoband.com/

    Excellent work!

  26. LordTion
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Steaming Wolf Penis! Marry me now! The missing link to The Greatest Actor In The History Of Everness: Jerkbeast, drummer for S.W.P. is a humongous piece of bacon himself. How many kids are we having again?

  27. Rip van Ryo
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Rachel, this is AWESOME! Do you have Asperger’s syndrome? I have Asperger’s, and am darned proud of it! (I’m also a cartographer--or GIS technician, to be more jargony about it.) That first draft looks like a lot more than 20 bands. Did you have all that in your head?? If so, you are genuine Rain Man material (and I mean that in a good way).
    --Ryo van Winkle

  28. Kevin Bacon
    Posted December 2, 2009 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    R.

    You are really a trip - good job - saw the Butts – if you want to call it a map just add a foot note that says “Not to Scale” that should silent some of your critics.

    Peace

  29. Mark S
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Mudhoney -> Pearl Jam -> Chris Cornell -> The Singles Movie -> Kyra Sedgwick -> Kevin Bacon

  30. toby
    Posted March 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    did i miss death cab on there somewhere?
    smoosh?

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