Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Heart-Shaped Box



I heart Pandora.

If you're not familiar, Pandora.com offers a chance to start as many as 100 streaming radio stations that allow you to, if not program, at least set the tone of the music you'll hear. Certainly one step better than the AM of Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap.

It's a free service if you don't mind the innocuous Amazon ads at the top of the efficiently designed Flash player, but if you're among the squeamish that are ad-free (liars!), then you can opt for the paid subscription. I highly recommend dealing with the fact that an algorithm will decide to show you .jpgs of things that you can ignore.

The point is, in two days of use, I've already heard some great songs by artists I'd never have heard of before by simply telling Pandora one or more of my favorite artists or songs. The more you qualify, the more it specifies.

For instance, I started my first station (Pandora will store up to 100 for you) by typing "The Beatles" (all-time #1). Pandora immediately played "Hello, Goodbye."

This tells me Pandora is a specimen among unique species whose branch thrives somewhere between broadcast radio and your iTunes since you'll have trouble finding that song on either, while it's longed for on both.

[My "bookmarked" songs can be found above or below by clicking on "Craig's Radio."]

I had the option to one-click an up thumb or a down to declare my appreciation for that song. So very gladitorial...and can I admit, satisfying.

It should be said at this point that your participation is not necessary, but facilitated excellently by an unobtrusive design that lets you approve, deny, or ignore a song as you like.

[Due to licensing issues, Pandora can only allow 6 "skips" per hour and no rewinding or back-tracking. The reason being to avoid a "song-on-demand" situation. The legalities escape me because I used to tape "One Night in Bangkok" and "Oh, Sherry" off of Casey Kasem's American Top 40 and then play them however I chose.]

But I digress.

An interesting feature found with two clicks is "Why did you play this song?" It summarizes for you why Pandora played the selected song, giving you insight into the beauty behind Pandora.

According to what I've read, there are around 400 specific criteria. Based on your approvals/denials, Pandora suggests a song that fits your profile.

I added more favorite bands and the favored criteria contracted accordingly. I added a band that diverged from the conventional list and it expanded.

The process is called, not too preciously, The Music Genome Project. This, being the tracking of certain objective qualities of every genre of music except the most boring and pretentious; Classical and World.

I'm okay with that.

Timbre, tempo, instrumentation, dominant vocal, and apparently, mood all seem to be in play...effectively, in my experience.

Look, we've all had friends of like-mind that try to implore, admonish, or insinuate their desire to have us listen, no really listen to songs that they think will move us. Now, the ego has been removed and some dispassionate robot is doing the same without having to sit next to us at the bar.

Now, we need to find something else to slur unintelligibly about.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Chris said...

Craig, great blog. I read it in your voice, which is a great reminder of home and things I miss. I checked out your pandora and it looks pretty good. I actually have a pandora link on mine as well. It's mostly alt-country, as you might expect, but that's mostly because I abandoned tinkering pretty early on. I feel like I've already got too much music to get thru. Anyway, I bookmarked the blog, so I'll be a regular visitor. I'm not so sure I'll be continuing my own, however.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Moxy Jane said...

I was a huge fan and (ab)user of the yahoo custom radio station (launchradio), but when we moved from pc to mac, I was no longer compatible. It was a crushing blow to my fragile grasp on hipdom.

A friend introduced me to pandora, but I haven't liked it nearly as much. It seems to be way too random and disconnected in its choices. Just because Fleetwood Mac might have similar song structure and harmonic stylings as Belle and Sebastian doesn't mean I want to hear them both on the same station. And I don't ever want to hear Jack Johnson or FastBall.

OH...and I had the inspiration to use song titles for all of my blog entries, too! You've been much more faithful (and creative) than I have been.

But that's the songwriter in you, eh?!

2:30 PM  

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