Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pandora - Love it!

I've been using Pandora for a few years now and I love it. Pandora is like an Internet radio station that allows you to build your own channels based on artists and songs that you like. So, for example, I can type in "Light My Fire" and Pandora will create me a music channel that plays other Doors songs and songs similar in musical style to "Light My Fire."

As Pandora plays each song, you can tell it whether you like or dislike the song it has chosen for you. Doing so, will result in more intelligent choices on its part. I find that after minimal training, Pandora plays almost all songs that I like. It's really very interesting.

I think the coolest thing about Pandora is that it seems to use musical theory and analysis to choose the songs it plays for you. It will actually explain to you why it chose a given song. It will say something like "this song contains soaring lead vocals and rhythmic snare cadences" - or whatever.

You can create multiple channels and switch between them whenever you want. The one thing you can't do is control the flow of the music. You can't choose your songs manually. The only control you have is that you can say that you don't like a song and Pandora will skip it.

Anyway, I highly recommend Pandora for finding new music that you will like.


mymathematicalmind said...

I agree with your assessment of Pandora, but I feel it's important to stress that Pandora is not a real radio station.

Radio stations have real people -- DJ's -- selecting the music. It regards, unlike Pandora, radio as a cultural and social phenomenon. The manner in which DJ's address their audience, select records on a different set of criteria and so on, create a varied, complex form of communication that has been, for decades, incredibly meaningful. (Look at the outpouring of sadness over yesterday's passing of Hy Lit, or John Peel's death. InDeep's "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life" could never be rewritten as "Last Night A Pandora Playlist Saved My Life".)

Of course, it's really easy to see why people flock to Pandora -- and rightfully so. Deregulation of the airwaves let companies like Clear Channel buy up stations. Then they programmed them from one central location, stripping places of local identity. There's also a cultural reliance upon science and statistics in the U.S. permitting us to rationalize that mathematical analysis of music creates something "better" -- it's the same beliefs that allow us to think the "shuffle" mode on the iPod is "speaking to us."

Discovering new music is a process one has to learn on its own. Sometimes you get it wrong, and other times you get it right. But it's your taste, something absolutely unique and meaningful to you -- not a mathematical model a computer generates for you. In short, you're a man, not a number.

Chris Mustazza said...

This is, of course, correct. But, I do disagree that a programmed algorithm cannot make informed, accurate music recommendations based on a sampling of other songs that you like.

Of course, there is no way to prove this in the general case, but I can speak for myself on it. The proof? I rarely wish to skip songs that Pandora chooses.

I fully agree that radio is a separate entity than Pandora (I should have made that more clear in the post!) and I do listen to the radio when I'm in the car. But, I feel that Pandora is a good complement to the radio. I think any media that promote discovery within the arts are good.

Anyway, thanks very much for this well thought out comment, and thanks for reading my blog!

Derek said...

I was going to post a fluff comment, and then i noticed actual analysis is going on here. I'll duck out in shame. No thinking here, nosiree.