Friday, October 2, 2009

Playing Ohio Like a Piano

Ohio has 88 counties. Maybe this little bit of information leaves you underwhelmed, but it occurred to Andy Woodruff, the proprietor of the Cartogrammar blog, that those 88 counties corresponded to the 88 keys on a piano. So he made a map of the state that you can play like a piano.

Each county on his musical map is assigned a note based on demographic data, like population, median age, and housing prices. If you select population, for example, the most sparsely populated county is assigned the lowest note and the most populous gets the highest. Then the music starts. You can have the map play a route like, say, Akron to Cincinnati. Or you can play a metropolitan area, which produces a chord based on its demographic data. The map will also play you a slightly off-sounding version of the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth, with counties lighting up as each note is played.

I especially like the way the map lets you play a route, which comes awfully close to translating travel into music. Granted, some routes don’t make the most beautiful music. But maybe if you selected just the right data set and just the right route, you would have a masterwork on your hands. Who knew Ohio could sound so good?


  1. Hmm. I need to figure out how to play the sonata entitled "Ohio used to be a drive-through state but then I got stuck here."

  2. yeah, cause the first line of a blues song is always sung a second time...