Who knew? The NY Phil are a bunch of data nerds


Professional orchestras play a lot of shows. As a player the sheer quantity can overwhelm. You get to the tail end of a season and it’s impossible to remember how it started, let alone what you played last concert series. When somebody asks what memorable shows you’ve played you inevitably draw a blank.

Luckily, a fastidious orchestra devised a plan to combat historical memory drain. The New York Philharmonic filed away info from every show — performers, programs, notes, attendance, soloists, etc. — going back to its inception in 1842. And it’s all searchable.

So if I were to enter “10/23/1981” into the NYP time machine I’d see that Rafael Kubelik conducted Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, the Stravinsky Violin Concerto in D with soloist Kyung-Wha Chung, and after a boozy intermission the orchestra played Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. I can then search those personnel to see the other show(s) they’ve played with the orchestra.

Thanks to CDA reader Alison who tweeted me this great 538 article + podcast about the New York Phil’s database. To get your hands dirty head here.


By Will Roseliep

Writer for different outlets. Personal work appears here first:

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