Emojis and Classical Music

Despite all the strange and confused looks I get , I always pride myself as a modern classical music lover, and no, not just for studying. I have tried to “invite”/drag many of my friends to concerts with me. Their reactions varied widely: some tolerated the music with the occasional head nods and others retrieved into hibernation. It saddens me  that classical music might truly be outdated but on the other hand, I am fascinated by how differently we react to music. I wanted to know more what and how people are talking about classical music, and like any tech-savvy youth and 20/30 year-olds would say when in doubt, ask Twitter!

This blog is modeled after the wonderful tutorial by Prismoji with some modifications and additional analysis. To start,  the hashtags used were #ClassicalMusic, #Composer, #MusicHistory, #Opera, and #Classicfm. I downloaded a total of 3687 tweets from 8/25 to 9/2/17.  If geolocation information was available, many tweets can be traced to larger concert halls; for example, the Royal Albert Hall in London for BBC proms.



It’s no surprise that 5 out of 10 of the most popular emojis used were music related, such as musical notations or instruments. When most people think of classical music, their first thought tends to be  or . The other five were expressions, such as  and ❤️ . My general observation is that musical notations or instruments were more likely to be used to promote a classical events or news, while expressions were used for personal experience at concerts or musical events.


Here are some of the examples:

1. Using music related hashtags to promote guitar transcriptions.

2. Tagging a piano competition in Helsinki

3. Retweeting opera news

4. Concert experience



The keywords in tweets were mostly music genre related (e.g., soundtrack/film, jazz, new music) and musicians/instruments (e.g., piano, conductor, drums, singer). Many film, TV, and video game composers have integrated some elements of classical music into their works (e.g., John Williams and Hans Zimmer, who performed live at Coachella this year). The popularity of film music has generated some renewed interest in classical music. This is evidenced by the increasing live film music performance from orchestras all around the country. For example, the prestigious New York Philharmonic is performing music from all three of the original Star Wars in September.

Compare to other popular hashtags, classical music tweets generated a lot less traffic and retweets. However, many US orchestras and philharmonics will be returning from their summer vacation and starting a new season soon, and we might see more performance related tweets in the next couple of months. Additionally, I am personally very excited to see the association between classical and film music, because this is a sign that people are still interested in the more classical and orchestral sound, which was thought to be outdated. Perhaps classical music is not dead but simply just lost, lost in its own complexity. This umbrella term ☂️ that embodies music from the past 500 years and its formality often intimidates listeners from feeling the emotion and passion in the music. This is an opportunity to transform classical music to better connect with the audience today, and I am excited to see the new trajectory for classical music.

Codes from this blog can be found here! Enjoy

A Social Music Experience?

How do you find music? Most people will probably just say music streaming: Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon. But I have to say, most of my favorite artists are mostly recommended by friends. Just now, I heard this song by Ray LaMontagne and I shared it with my friend right away. I have an Evernote list filled with recommended artists from friends and family that I still have to go through.

My point is that music is becoming such a social experience, particularly with social media. For example, there are musicians that solely use social media as their outlet – SoundCloud. Additionally, I love it when people share their music/concerts on Facebook, well, partly because I get to judge them. There are just an abandon of information on social media now that are related to music. Just think about it, how many tweets were related to Adele’s Grammy Performance this past week.

I thought it might be interesting to gather some information on how are people talking about music on social web. I wanted to start with Twitter, because tweets are 1) brief and 2) real-time. As a first step, I need to find the hashtags that will help me to identify the appropriate tweets. I went through a couple different websites, such as hashtagify.me, hashtags.org, keyhole.co, ritetag.com, and quora.com. Using #Music as the search word, these are some of the most frequently mentioned hashtags (I only included terms that have been mentioned on two different websites):

1. #rock

2. #radio

3. #pop

4. #np

5. #nowplaying

What other hashtags do you think I should look into? I developed a short python program to help me keep track of the hashtags, and you can find it here. Let me know if you have any thoughts!

What’s in your iTunes?

As far as I can recall, I have been using iTunes as my primary media player/library. I still remember downloading iTunes to my old school Acer laptop and trying to sync it with my 1st gen iPod. Yes, I am referring to that white/silver little brick long before the day of touch screen. From then, the same library has followed me through different computers and devices.

Over the years, I have acquired a lot of music and I mean it. According my status bar, I have approximately 38.81GB of music, videos, and podcasts that is equivalent to 18.2 days of playtime. Before music streaming became the norm, I mostly acquired my music through iTunes Store purchase or import from CDs. So honestly, I did not track what I have collected. For all I know, you can probably still find me rocking to I Try from 1999 (Macy Gray).

I decided why not pull together a short python programs to do some descriptive analysis on my library. While I mostly just stream music now from Apple Music or Spotify, as a self-proclaimed music connoisseur, I thought I should know what music I have on my computer. In addition, this will be a good place to start when I am trying to free up my computer down the road.

So here’s a few things that found out:

  • I have a total 6,851 songs/podcasts, and movies on my computer


  • There are a total 1,492 artists in my collection, and here are the top 5:top 5 artists
    1. NPR 298
    2. Various Artists 153
    3. De Cosmo 98
    4. Barbra Streisand 90
    5. Nujabes 84

I had no idea where that 298 songs by NPR were from at first. So I did a little bit of investigative work, and I found out that I had subscribed to the Tiny Desk Concerts Podcast series a long time ago. It has been automatically downloading all the content to my computer. Also, I didn’t know I was such a Streisand fan.


  •  There are a total 100 genres in my collection, and here are the top 5:Top genres
    1. Soundtrack (21.02%)
    2. Classical (14.70%)
    3. Pop (12.17%)
    4. Jazz (10.99%)
    5. Podcast (4.35%)

Note that I combined everything from 5 onward into one others category for the pie chart. The genre results were pretty similar to my own prediction. I do listen to a lot of soundtracks and instrumental music.


  •  The average duration and median duration were 4:15 and 3:35, respectively. The duration ranged from as short as 5 secs to 103:17.

When I review the 20 longest track on my list, I realized that most of them were lectures or podcasts that I have downloaded, such as The Fall of the Berlin Wall 18 years later: Lessons from East Central Europe. Most of my songs are in the 3 – 5 minutes range, but I do have quite a few of symphonic/classical tracks that last about 30 minutes each movement. I ended focusing on media that were less than 20 minutes long which accounted for about 99% of the files. Here’s the distribution graph.

Track duration count <20

What have I learned so far? Couple things:

  1. I have acquired a lot of random stuff throughout the years, and I need to go back to determine if I still need them. For example, all the tracks from De Cosmo were from a text book of jazz improvisation. Without the actual text book, the tracks are pretty much useless – do I need to keep them?
  2. Be mindful of what your iTunes is automatically downloading for you. For example, my large collection of NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. Don’t get me wrong, I am listening to Son Little’s Concert on Dec, 18th, 2015, as I type this blog. They are great, but I can probably just stream them online.
  3. I do have a lot of world music in my collection, and that did not go so well with python. I will have to figure out how to deal with track titles, artists, composers in foreign languages.

Give it a try, you can find the code I use HERE (p.s. This is the first time I wrote a long code, so be nice!). Feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions or what other analysis or data you would like to see. Enjoy!

Wait, I made a short film last year? – Alone, Along

So last quarter, I decided to enroll in this class called “making your first short film”. Without reading through the course description carefully, I thought  I would just help out on someone else’s project and hopefully, I will get to contribute some music. It would be a great opportunity for me to meet other film makers and network a bit.

I was wrong. This class was basically a bootcamp for film makers to crank out a short film in 3 months. Everyone has to present their own rough cut at the end of the quarter. Somehow, I missed the drop date entirely, so I got stuck with the class.

It was a pretty intensive/interesting process, and I learned a lot about film making and how stressful it actually is. I had about 8 weeks for pre-production/scripting/casting and all that. After that, we shot the entire film on one saturday, and a couple of my friends came and helped as DP, sound mixer, assistant director and PAs (@Hetong, Deb, AJ, Mitchell, Pallavi, Elaina, and Andy: Thank you!). The cast was fantastic (@Pavel and Calvin). I presented a first cut to the class. I have been in editing hell after that, but here’s the final version! I would like to share with you guys.

So here’s my first short film “Alone, Along”; it’s basically a story about two best friends at the end of the world and how their relationship develops in that last couple minutes. I was inspired after watching Lars Von Trier’s beautiful film, Melancholia, and trying to imagine how I would have reacted to the end of the world.

I was able to put in a little short cue at the end of the film. I hope you like it, and let me know what you think!

Alexandre Desplat and the Oscar goes to…

Oscar night is in well an hour. It usually entails red carpet showdown, opening monologue (LEGENDARY), music, food, and of course, the awards. Unfortunately, I will be missing them all. I will be in class tonight, but I will be checking my phone constantly.

The wonderfully talented composer, Alexandre Desplat, is the star of the night. He has been doubly nominated for his original music in The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game. I am a huge Wes Anderson fan. His films are a perfect blend of quirkiness, awkwardness, and realism. I love Fantastic Mr. Fox among many others. However, I have to confess that The Grand Budapest Hotel is not one of my favorite Anderson films. Somehow the story seems a little bit disjointed for me. I don’t want to spoil the movie, so go watch it.

I want to focus on the equally quirky music by Mr. Desplat. His somewhat minimal and almost impressionistic approach to music in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button caught my attention initially. Musically speaking, the score for The Grand Budapest Hotel is very different. Mr. Desplat developed a new type of folk music for this fictional country where the hotel is located. Drawing inspirations from Central Europe, the score used both orchestral and traditional folk instruments, such as balalaika, zither, and cimbalom. High energy (driving tempo), use of exotic instruments, and simple melodies help to enhance the humor and quickness that are standard in Wes Anderson’s films, and effectively convey a sense of nostalgia and wistfulness that resonated with the film.

All in all, this is still a great film, and the visual is stunning with the usual Anderson style picture book-like framing and coloring. I challenge you to pay attention to Alexandre Desplat’s unique take on scoring for this film, and I believe you will thoroughly enjoy it. This is his 6th time nomination, and I hope tonight will be his night.