Data scientists, are you ready to rock?
From Brooklyn comes Big Data, a conceptual music project with a technology back story to rival that of any Silicon Valley start-up. Founder Alan Wilkis is an early member of Facebook Inc., having attended Harvard University the same time as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The name for the band comes from a good friend, Jeff Hammerbacher, who built and led Facebook’s data team. Mr. Hammerbacher then went on to co-found Cloudera, a rising star in the growing field of data analytics, where scientists mine large volumes of data to provide businesses a competitive advantage.
But Big Data, the music, has some issues with Big Data, the technology and questions whether the data we so willingly share online can be used against us. Mr. Wilkis, together with co-conspirators Daniel Armbruster, who contributed vocals on Big Data’s first EP 1.0 and resident hacker Rajeev Basu, mine the ambiguities surrounding the rise of the Facebook’s and Google’s of the world to create some pretty catchy, definitely paranoid electronic pop.
People–and perhaps an algorithm or two–are paying attention. Last week ‘Dangerous,’ a song with an playful, but ominous bass-riff and some Big Brother-y lyrics —-”But they’re right inside my head because they know”–was ranked number two on satellite radio SirusXM’s Alt Nation channel.
The song’s ranking followed the band’s release last year of a Facebook app that pulled in a user’s past photos and previous statuses in rhythm with the music. “The more it goes on the more you think jeez, all my stuff is out there,” explains Mr. Wilkis. “It sort of perfectly encapsulates the inspiration for the band.”
Mr. Wilkis talked about Big Data and why he can’t stop using technology, no matter how much it makes him paranoid.
From your songs it sounds like you’re uneasy with technology.
So are you hoping to dissuade your tech fans from working in analytics?
As a musician you can’t escape contributing to the problem, so to speak.
Another irony, you’re using machine music to talk about machines.
What role does electronic music play in delivering your message?
I think of how Kraftwerk found a soul in the machine.
Your lyrics shares that paranoia that runs through much of pop music. It is not technology-specific.
You want people to rock.