Thursday, July 27, 2006

open that box

've written before about Pandora, the free internet radio site. Yes, I know that most if not all radio stations are free on the Web, but with Pandora, everyone can set up their own styles of stations, then refine them by telling the site whether they like or dislike each track played.

I have four stations so far, each for a particular mood or time of day. The first is based on Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, Talking Heads and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. The next is on 'Garden of Paradise' by Steve Hillage, and the third on Sarah McLachlan. I'm still experimenting with the fourth, using it to try out various groups I know little about.

Due to the licensing agreements arranged with publishers, however, you don't get complete control of playlists. Instead, you specify one or more tracks or artists, and the site selects similar music based on a detailed analysis of between 200 and 400 possible styles and attributes for each track. For example, the summary of 'Four Ever Rainbow' by Steve Hillage is 'idm influences, electronica roots, ambient soundscapes, downtempo influences and intricate rhythmns'. (I'd never even heard of 'idm' until now. Apparently it stands for Intelligent Dance Music.)

This level of analysis of indivdual tracks means that surprising connections are sometimes made that introduce you to groups or artists that you would never have thought of.


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