Boom & Bust
Boom & Bust tells the story of the US economy since the late 1960s – through data sonification.
It’s a rollercoaster ride of growth and decline, told through a UK jungle track that maps the Amen break to the state of the US economy each quarter. One bar of track time represents one financial quarter in the data. When the drum loop plays forwards, the economy is going strong. But when the US economy starts cooling down and spinning backwards into recession, so does the music. Listen out for the airhorn when the US economy starts growing again.
Additionally Boom & Bust sonifies the value of the Dow Jones industrial average, which tracks the performance of 30 leading companies in the United States. It’s mapped to a gentle, wispy synthesizer, which rises in pitch as the Dow Jones rises.
The track also tracks the dramatic rise of inequality since the late 1960s. In 1968, when the data begins, the poorest half of the US population took home about 20% of national income, while the richest 1% laid claim to about a tenth. Today, those proportions are reversed. The volume of the ‘badman’ sample represents the share of national income going to the richest 1%.
Samples of politicians and other notable figures are scattered throughout the track, telling the story of what’s happening at approximately that point in time. Finally, the bass drops in years when there was a presidential election.
The US economy is like a party: not everyone’s invited.
The track covers the time period from Q1 1968 to Q1 2020 inclusive.
Recession data was provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/JHDUSRGDPBR
Quarterly historical figures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average come from Stooq: https://stooq.com/q/d/?s=%5Edji&c=0&d1=19670101&d2=20200903&i=q