Archive for September 11th, 2005

Now this is really clever…

Last Friday (Geek Night) Dan made mention of something called Pandora. It’s fantastic stuff, although it does need broadband, so sorry if you’ve not got that…

The people who developed it did so on the back of the Music Genome Project, a project where a group of people got together, listened to music, and categoried it based on a whole heap of different categories (major/minor key tonality, importance of vocals, and a whole heap of things I never paid attention to before dropping music in the third year).

You get a ten-hour free trial of it (and you can get a years membership for 36USD, which is just under 20 pounds sterling, at the current rate). So Go visit it and set yourself up a “station;” a radio channel based on an artist or song you tell them you like. Assuming they’ve heard of it (they’ve not done the Oyster Band, yet, which was my first choice) they’ll scan the artist or song through their files and pick out a few key elements.

They then find other songs with similar elements, and play those. So I started off giving them Warren Zevon as an artist, and they played me his track ‘Excitable Boy’ to begin with, presumably to check that it was a song of his that I did like. Then they started sifting through the files and pulling out other things they expected me to like (and I got to say whether or not I did).

Five tracks later they were playing Richard Thompson, which was fascinating, because I do like Thompson very much, but I’ve always seen him as being Folk Rock, because he started off in Fairport. In retrospect, of course, there’s a lot of Thompson’s stuff which sounds like Zevon, which is the whole point of Pandora: it doesn’t actually matter what genre an artist’s been pigeonholed in, because all songs are different, which means songs by two totally different artists are capable of sharing several similar elements. My version of “Warren Zevon Radio” (you can, by the way, re-name them) just played a nice track from Fleetwood Mac, and now it’s doing an equally dinky one by someone called James Kochalka, of whom I’d never heard until two minutes ago.

It’s fascinating me, because it’s drawing in things I’d never be likely to run into, and which most people I know probably know even less of (the bulk of the people I know probably wouldn’t know Zevon to begin with, but I imgaine they’re even less likely to go “Cool, Richard Thompson!” – It took me ages to get over the fact Ruth wandered into my room one day back in the first year [at a time now mentally bracketed as the "confused bit"] and said “Is that Fairport Convention?!” thus becoming the first person under forty-odd I’d ever met who recognised them…).

It’s fascinating, too, because you give it tips on how it’s doing, and it chalks it up to experience without doing a full write-off. So if it plays me something from, uh, the Divine Comedy, and I say “no, I don’t like this,” it’ll skip right to the next song, and not play that one again. But it might play another Divine Comedy track at some point, to see if I like that more. And if I say “Yes, this is good,” then it’ll contrast that with all the other opinions I’ve given it, and add it to the list, so the stuff it plays gets closer and closer to the type of thing I really like, but keeps giving me new artists. You can ask it why it’s playing a certain track, and it’ll give you a vague idea – it turns out, for example, that I’m fairly keen on “a busy horn section,” which I never knew, but which keeps coming up on some really good tracks. And it took less than twenty songs before it played me a track because, amongst other things, it featured “political lyrics.”

It’s a bloody clever thing, frankly, amd I’m grateful to Dan for pushing me in the right direction. If you’ve got Broadband, do go and give it a whirl, and see what comes out of it; you’ll probably run into a few new things somewhere along the way.


In other news, I’m working 15:30-23:00 at Spar today, and plan to go and say “Er, by the way, I’m leaving you” shortly after getting there. I imagine they’ll make me stick out the shift anyway, but it’s not really something I can sustain. Especially not with the air conditioning broken and keeping the heat in there at a constant 30-plus centigrade, but I’m not really cut out for doing nine-hour shifts standing up the whole time, either. Christ, at least Halo gave you seats and regular breaks.

I suspect they’re going to be bloody livid with me, but they’re really not paying me enough to make the dehydsration headaches I keep getting anything like worthwhile, and they probably couldn’t afford to, even if they wanted to.

‘s all yours Andy. Get in there with a CV, I should.