The next music tastemakers – the computer programmers

There’s an interesting piece in the New Yorker about the future of listening. The article focuses on Pandora and MOG and the challenges of making the online listening experience.  Author Sasha Frere-Jones concludes with this:

While using these services, I kept thinking about an early-eighties drum machine called the Roland TR-808, which has seduced generations of musicians with its heavy kick-drum sound and the oddly human swing of its clock. Whoever programmed this box had more impact on dance music than the hundreds of better-known musicians who used the device. Similarly, the anonymous programmers who write the algorithms that control the series of songs in these streaming services may end up having a huge effect on the way that people think of musical narrative—what follows what, and who sounds best with whom. Sometimes we will be the d.j.s, and sometimes the machines will be, and we may be surprised by which we prefer.

Read the article:

You, the D.J. Online music moves to the cloud.

  1. #1 by jneal6 on August 4, 2010 - 10:10 am

    This is an interesting idea, but it would be more exciting and insightful if such music services could make even more unexpected choices for listeners… ones that can transcend the bounds of genre.

    I don’t use such systems, but my spouse uses Pandora. She has channels ranging from classical to rock, but each one focuses individually on genre. In fact, the choices seem only a little more dynamic than what one gets on traditional genre-specific radio stations.

    More impressive would be systems that make more subtle connections among genres, rather than falling back on genre as a safe standby. Instead of recommending Hector Berlioz on the Richard Strauss channel, and recommending Coldplay on the U2 channel (my spouse dislikes both Berlioz and Coldplay), why not have systems that find connections between Strauss and U2? (“Dance of the Seven Veils” and “Mysterious Ways,” anyone?)

    There are reasons why we feel drawn to certain types of sounds, and I think the confines of genre are too superficial to understand what we might really enjoy hearing. Not that such leaps are for everyone, but the ability to find unexpected connections across genre should break down the stereotypes of those who still think that rock is “a bunch of noise,” or that classical is too “high-falutin’.”

    Jason Neal

%d bloggers like this: