Jazz Genius is an experimental Digital Humanities project that interrogates the conventions and trends of jazz lyrics. The website contains thousands of songs collected from Genius.com and enables users to browse this collection and explore connections. Jazz Genius also offers several tools for analyzing this collection—including topic analyses, TEI markup, and various data visualizations.
Inspired by the Linked Open Jazz Project, our project develops novel exploratory analyses of the application of Digital Humanities methods to a corpora of jazz lyrics from American jazz singers in the 20th century. This includes the use of web scraping, TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) encoding, text classification, topic modeling, and various forms of data visualization. Specifically, we are interested in exploring how these methods can be applied to a non-standardized form of text like song lyrics and, as important, what the social, political, and discursive power of song lyrics can tell us about American history throughout the 20th century. This project demonstrates the utility of digital humanities methods to answer research questions about texts that are considered figurative and discursive in nature.
The best way to understand the project is to just dig in and start exploring!
Navigating the Project
You can use the songs page to browse the collection in a number of ways, ranging from specific targeted search to broad exploration. From here, you can access pages that contain information from each individual song. Here, you can also listen to a short preview of the song as well as view the full lyrics on Genius.com. If we have produced TEI markup for that particular song, you will also be able to view and download the associate XML files here.
Beyond the song browsing pages, we have provided several visualizations of aspects of the dataset. These are based on our analyses of the data and offer examples of various ways to explore and understand jazz lyrics with Digital Humanities methods. These may also serve as useful examples of the kinds of visualizations you might like to try and use for your own projects! Take a look at the Visualizations menu above to view these various approaches.
Finally, we have included some preliminary close analyses of some specific subsets of the data. These are the product of the small "huh?" and "aha!" moments that we encountered throughout the project. As we gathered and analyzed data, and worked through various Digital Humanities tools, there were many cases where interesting questions and revelations came up. Many of these have the potential to spin off into their own fully fledged research projects, but for now we have simply provided some of our initial thoughts. You can view these via the Narratives menu above.
We have approached this project as a form of exploratory research. We aim to determine the utility of a resource such as Genius.com and to determine the feasibility of applying Digital Humanities to lyrical texts. One of our primary goals, therefore, throughout the project was writing documentation and generating resources that could support future research projects. To that end, Jazz Genius is very transparent about its methods. If you are interested in learning more about how we produced this project, or if you are interesting in adapting this work for your own projects, please visit the various About Pages linked in the menu above.
We have provided detailed descriptions of our methods and our thinking, and have also provided samples of the actual code used throughout the project.