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The Perfectly Imperfect Rhyming Logic Of Hamilton

A new visualization shows how Lin-Manuel Miranda’s prose was influenced by everyone from Lauryn Hill to Gilbert & Sullivan.

The Perfectly Imperfect Rhyming Logic Of Hamilton

Photo: Theo Wargo/WireImage/Getty Images

Hamilton has taken the world by storm. But whether it’s the shockingly apropos social statement that grabs you, or the Shakespearean layers of allusion within the lyrics that hooked you, it all stands upon the musical’s fundamental draw: its rhymes.

See the interactive graphics here. The Wall Street Journal

Over at Wall Street Journal, Joel Eastwood and Erik Hinton built an algorithm to actually map how the rhymes of Hamilton work. In doing so, they've created a must-try visualization that can translate any verse you type into an image of its rhyming scheme—not just Hamilton's.

See the interactive graphics here. The Wall Street Journal

The software itself actually isn’t that complicated, at least the way the team was able to articulate it. Code breaks down words into syllables, and the syllables have been assigned phonetics. The algorithm scans the text for the strongest possible phonetic repetitions. Then, these repetitions are charted almost like notes (rather than using staffs and flags like musical notes, they’re presented as squares rendered in various colors).

Without spoiling the whole story, Eastwood and Hinton make a compelling audio-visual argument as to how show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda spun the rhyming schemes of both hip-hop and classical musicals themselves into a modern hybrid.

But truth be told, my favorite part of the whole thing is that, at the bottom of the story, the team invites anyone to type whatever they want into the system to chart out the rhyming scheme. A few minutes building beats, and you’ll find yourself looking at rhyming structures that feel every bit as complex as Hamilton.

Don’t be fooled however. To paraphrase Jesse Eisenberg, if you could have invented Hamilton, you would have invented Hamilton.

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