Monday, January 28, 2008
Pandora and the Music Genome Project
Since 2000, Tim Westergren has been trying to decategorize music. For example, you say Elvis Costello puts out heavy rocking music, but what about that country album he did (The Delivery Man) that turned out pretty well? I'd call John Mayer "pop", but he lays down some pretty sweet blues in "Try!". So, why try to pigeon hole an artist into one little genre? Instead, Tim and his Music Genome Project takes a song by song approach to deciding what kind of music some body likes. They listen to each song (over half a million so far) and decide what it sounds like - emphasizing key, melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, orchestration, arrangements, lyrics, and vocal harmony. I'd say this approach to music analysis is pretty sweet. It's a bit more quantitative than broad genre's or popular opinion. Don't get me wrong, it's still pretty subjective, but its heading in the right direction. Want to read a bit more? Check out these interviews in the Tennessean and Inc. Magazine.
So, you want to take advantage of this sweet new technology? You're in luck, Westergren has it all set up at Pandora. You can go online and use music that you already like to set up a radio station that will play stuff that's similar. Best of all, it's free. So, I signed in and gave it a try. I tried three radio stations. One defined by Ox (a Canadian band that I've been digging on lately), one defined by Taj Mahal (sweet blues singer), and one defined by the song "Crow Jane" by the Derek Trucks Band. Here's what they spit out:
Ox: songs written by Ox, Eric James and the New Century, Thomas Cunningham, Golden Smog, Ox, Big 10-4, Revival, Landon Pigg, and Ox (in that order). Unfortunately, most of this seemed a bit more "poppy" than I was looking for. I can see how Ox songs can be imagined that way, but I think they have an extra edge that makes them a little different. Maybe Pandora missed that? I did enjoy Revival, whom I had never heard of, so not a complete failure.
Taj Mahal: songs written by Taj Mahal, Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Winter, Etta Baker, Stefan Grossman, Greg Douglass, Taj Mahal, Floyd Dixon, and John Mayall. This worked out pretty well for me. They mixed in some blues greats, some rockin electric guitar (Jimi), and some acoustic guitar instrumentals. I can't complain about this.
Crow Jane by Derek Trucks Band: song by Derek Trucks Band, Moka Only, ALO, Ryan Shaw, Dirty D, John Cleary, Jackson Browne, Little Milton, The Subdudes. I tried a song that I thought was pretty challenging, but was pretty happy how it turned out. They mixed in some standard blues as well as some funky stuff. I did not hear much slide guitar, which is Derek's forte, but I'll forgive that.
Anyway, it seems like a great way to check out some new music, hear full length songs, and break down the genre walls.