100 Years Of Rock Music In Less Than A Minute

From gospel to grunge, this timeline shows the evolution of rock with addictively clickable audio samples.

Keeping up with the endless spawning of new sub-and sub-sub-genres of music can be hard. Just when you catch up with seapunk and witch house, they’re not cool anymore. Everyone’s already moved on to Nintendocore.

To help you brush up on how rock music evolved into the many-tentacled beast that it is today, designer Brittany Klontz created an interactive infographic for ConcertHotels.com that maps 100 years of genres in less than a minute. It not only provides the names and birth dates of each style, but also offers sample songs allowing you to finally know what skiffle sounds like.

"When you think about it, it's pretty incredible what's happened with music in just the past 50 years and how genres like 'German Electronic Metal' and 'Ska Punk' have developed from common roots," Klontz tells Co.Design. "To truly acknowledge the influence of each genre, we felt the need to tell the story not just graphically, but also musically."

Starting with rock’s pre-1900s roots—hymns, gospel, and even Hawaiian Folk—the visualization’s clickable genres turn this musical family tree into an addictive game. Next it's the jazz and boogie-woogie of the 1910s followed by the rhythm and blues of the 1940s. Musical inbreeding got complicated in the '60s, when, to the horror of suburban parents everywhere, experimental new styles like surf, psychedelic, krautrock, space rock, and heavy metal started cropping up. And things would only get weirder in decades to come, with the advent of cowpunk (demonstrated with a ditty by the Meat Puppets); rapcore (think Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill); and industrial (if you haven't listened to Throbbing Gristle yet, it's never too late to start!)

"The influence of music isn't a perfect science, as each genre subtly affects every other one," Klontz says. "However, to create a clear framework for design, we worked hard to pinpoint specific years when each genre began to take shape, using key albums or singles."

Color-coded arrows show which styles gave birth to which. For example, progressive rock, like Yes, more or less spawned symphonic rock, like Genesis, which, sadly, got together with heavy metal to sire symphonic metal, like Nightwish. Sometimes beautiful parents make ugly children.

Says Klontz, "We initially wanted to display all of these genres on a single page, but quickly found that there was just too much info. So instead of trying to keep things neat and compartmentalized, we decided it might be better to lean into the chaos of piece."

Klontz says the infographic takes less than a minute to browse through, but just try not to spend far longer than that clicking around and reliving your musical past, whether you're a fan of Venom and Morbid Angel or Cat Stevens and The Byrds. Maybe you'll even discover a newfound love for both Napalm Death and doo-wop and start your own genre—grindwop? Doo-core? The possibilities are endless.

Click to expand

For the full infographic with clickable audio samples, go here.

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7 Comments

  • Love it! You explain each and everything in good way. I'm a music lover & always try to find new discoveries in music,. especially when I found some history of music I save it into my diary.

  • Hmmm, the blues may have started pre 1900s, but it would have been in the cotton fields with hollers and call-and-response, not Robert Johnson's "Crossroads Blues", which he recorded in the late 1930s (he was born in 1911). the infographic also implies that Jazz cropped up on it's own, with no predecessor but my understanding is that it too came from the work songs of the South.

  • Jeroen Bergen

    Damn, I did exactly the same research 6 years ago for my graduation project for my master in graphic design (I made a giant map), but since I graduated I never had the time to finish the project as I wanted it to be finished… Maybe this is the time to do that ;)

  • Tom Riley

    Finally a piece of well-researched content on the web! This is so good that there may actually be NO IDIOTS ARGUING.

  • @indiesongaday

    This is very nice... great work! Adding the music samples makes it great. I'm a big fan of music history and how it's evolved over time. I'm on Allmusic all the time. This is a nice graphic providing similar info.

  • Suleman Ali

    Fascinating how it can all make sense when looked at in this way. Nothing comes from nothing, and though something can sound awful it opens the way to much better.

  • Brittany Klontz

    I like the way you think, Suleman :) That is so true. Thanks for checking it out!