The financial meltdown, to a trance beat

August 20, 2013
By

(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

With the FMS Symphony by csv soundsystem you can listen to the Global Financial Crisis as you watch interest rates plunge while the Treasury floods the market with emergency funds. 

Csv symphony

The source data for the chart and music comes from daily emails (like this one) sent by the US Treasury summarizing the cash spending and borrowing of the Federal government. (Incredibly, this data is not available in any structured format ready for analysis.) The CSV Soundsystem team then used R data processing (plyr, reshape2), sonification (tuneR) and visualization (aplpack) packages to produce the chart, animation and music. 

We used principal component analysis to rotate the 52 line-items and plotted the 15 highest-loaded components as Chernoff faces. We plotted interest rate and federal account balance with line-width as standard deviation of all the line-items.

We represented similar data in audio. Chords were selected based on the derivative of account balance, and a melody was composed based on the federal interest rate. We also included a contrapuntal riff driven by the distance between accumulated federal debt and the legal debt ceiling.

If you enjoyed the house-trance stylings of federal treasury statistics, you can even download the music track for your playlist. If you want to embark on a similar project, you can find more behind-the-scenes details and the code at GitHub

csv soundsystem: FMS Treasury

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