Celebrate Miles Davis With This Interactive Website Mapping HIs Creative Universe

Miles Davis died 25 years ago, and there are 2,452 Wikipedia pages that note his legacy. Here’s a visual way to tour through them.

Celebrate Miles Davis With This Interactive Website Mapping HIs Creative Universe

Tracing the legacy of Miles Davis could easily be a full-time job. While he’s been gone for 25 years, his influence remains staggering–and not just in the world of jazz. (Although, sure, if you want to look there, look no further than the fact that contemporary piano great Robert Glasper is releasing an innovative tribute to the legend this week for proof.) Miles Davis continues to inspire creativity not even just in music–as the number of designers who’ve taken to creating a visual representation of the size of his creative galaxy.

Polygraph–the online publication that used visualization to craft compelling, uniquely formatted essays about things like how much women talk versus men in movies and more–is the latest to get in the game of visually celebrating Davis’s impact. The Universe of Miles Davis is a project that captures the breadth of his influence by tracking the 2,452 Wikipedia pages that mention the trumpeter. As you can see from the size of the circles in the graphics, he’s all over the page on “Jazz,” as well as those of contemporaries and collaborators like Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk–but also on less likely pages like the one for Millstadt, Illinois (where his father was born in 1898).

Beyond just the “here’s where Miles Davis’s name comes up on Wikipedia” part of the project, though, the Polygraph team also looks at what that data means. Davis’s name comes up a lot in the ’60s, as you might expect, and the years between the release of Kind of Blue and Bitches’ Brew–perhaps his most career-defining albums–are the years of peak activity. But the mentions pick back up in the mid-’00s, as projects like the 33 1/3 series cataloging great albums take off, and as Davis-influenced artists from the Mars Volta to Kanye West to Lana Del Rey break through, as well.

Those “influenced” artists weigh heavy on the project–Polygraph tracks 87 different artists in a variety of media who cites Davis, and contextualizes their quotes, so we can see what novelist Don DeLillo’s page says about him, as well as what fellow trumpeter Cannonball Adderley’s does. The project definitely serves as a reminder of just how big a star Davis was in his active years, and how important his legacy remains. As we celebrate 90 years since the birth of the man who defined the cool, the fact that he’s inspiring people to innovate even as they pay tribute to him seems especially apt.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.



More Stories