“Space Oddity” came out in 1969, and it was David Bowie’s second charting single—”The Laughing Gnome” was the first. For many fans, however, the song represents the true start of Bowie’s career as a world-changing superstar.
Timed to mark “the first trip around the sun since Bowie’s passing,” Valentina D’Efilippo and Miriam Quick, two data designers working out of London, unveiled their Oddityviz project a few weeks ago—the idea being to release ten 12-inch albums in ten weeks, each one with a visual design featuring a circular data visualization representing some aspect of the song. Each visualization is laser-engraved onto a 12-inch acrylic disc. Even though this isn’t how records actually work, for the purposes of the visualization on its surface, a single rotation of the record equals the duration of the song, which is 317 seconds long.
As they explain:
The project visualizes data from Bowie’s 1969 track “Space Oddity” on a series of 10 specially engraved records with accompanying posters, plus a moving image piece. Each 12-inch disc deconstructs the track in a different way: melodies, harmonies, lyrics, structure, story and other aspects of the music are transformed into new visual systems.
The art of data visualization depends on numbers to function—if you’re curious to see what the statistics that each visualization used, you can check the work yourself at a Google Spreadsheet that was created for the project.
Seven of the records have been released. As D’Efilippo and Quick explain, the final record, “10 Emotions,” is “a bit different. It visualizes the emotional responses people had while listening to ‘Space Oddity.’”
Here’s an example of what the prints look like:
This video attempts to explain what’s going on:
“1 Narrative illustrates our interpretation of the story of ‘Space Oddity.’ It is a story with two characters: Ground Control and the doomed astronaut, Major Tom.”
“2 Recording deconstructs Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ into its eight original master tracks.
“3 Texture. In the third record of the series, we chronicle which voices or instruments can be heard in each bar of the song.”
“4 Rhythm deconstructs the bass guitar and drum parts of ‘Space Oddity.’”
“5 Harmony shows the chord progressions in ‘Space Oddity.’”
“6 Structure visualizes the structure of Bowie’s vocal line, showing repetition on the phrase and section level.”
“7 Melody visualizes the melody notes in the lead vocal track. Groups of lines show which pitches occur in each melodic phrase, with higher notes towards the middle of the record.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ as a children’s book
David Bowie: Early performance of ‘Space Oddity’ on Swiss TV, 1969