when a man is wrestling a leopard in the middle of a pond, he is in no position to run

Cas is currently at life, but at the reviewed piece of technology

Mata, this morning, flagged a new service, Pandora, as one that is worth a play. It’s a streaming radio-player with a difference – you put in a band/track you like, and it will automatically create playlists for you based on that. The people behind it have done it a little differently though. Rather than rely on genres, each individual song is analysed, catalogued, and the selections are based on things like influences, the key the music is in, the beat, vocal harmony, instruments used, and all sorts of other stuff I have no idea about.

I was dubious, I will admit it, but I couldn’t decide on what to listen to whilst I beat my head against ‘Electronic Publication‘, so I fired up Pandora and decided to make the most of their 10 hour free trial.

I plugged in “Matchbox Twenty”, *1* and, skeptically, settled back to see what was presented for my listening pleasure.

I have to say, I’ve been listening to Pandora for most of the day, trying it out, and at most it throws up something I don’t like every ten or so tracks that I do like. And when that happens, you just tell them ‘I don’t like this’, and your preferences get adjusted accordingly. About every third or fourth track, I adore, and I’ve added two new bands to my “must by their album when I have disposable income” list.

The implementation is spot on, the service has skipped just twice in the entire time I’ve been listening, unlike many other Internet radio stations, and I am seriously tempted to pay the subscription fee.

If I have a niggle, it is that even the ‘small’ version of the player is fairly hefty when you only have a 12 inch screen, and it requires pop-ups to be enabled. You don’t realise how many pop-ups are out there till you’ve forgotten you’d turned the blocking off. But that’s one niggle and there’s no law that says I can’t just leave the full version running in another tab, or minimize that one window. Maybe a nice little standalone app could be made at somepoint, though that does defeat the portability of such a sweetly coded in-browser flash application.

This, ladies and gentle-beans is what Flash should be used for, not for infuriating headers/display elements/flash-only sites that take an age to load and do nothing that standard HTML couldn’t have done for a fraction of the overhead and annoyance value… *2*

The nicely integrated ‘buy this at amazon or iTunes’ links are remarkably tempting, but I must practice my willpower, damnit!

So what has Pandora taught me today? Well, it turns out I seem to like music that features:
electric rock instrumentation
country influences
mild rhythmic syncopation
a subtle use of vocal harmony
major key tonality
With the occasional side order of:
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
acoustic rhythm guitars

They do say that, whilst your musical taste changes over time, certain forms and arrangements of music will always be your favourite. You’re just wired a certain way. Whatever kinked me along the road, I do seem to favour middle of the road lyrical light rock. With male vocalists. I can’t think of one track it’s given me today that had a female singer. Huh.

I do know why I am in a major beat today – I feel all down, and just the thought of listening to stuff in a sobbing minor key is enough to have me bursting into tears.

I wonder what will happen when I ask it to play me stuff related to Sweet (some good old fashioned glam rock, and the first band I ever remember actively liking. I wore the casette tape out I listened to it so much when I was younger) and




Sweet also it turns out have mild rhythmic syncopation, major key tonality, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, electric guitar riffs, and vocal harmonies.

So I know who is to blame for my musical taste now. My father.
Damn him playing T-Rex, Sweet, and Queen at full volume every time we went on a car journey.

Just goes to show, you never know what is going to scar your kids for life.

*UPDATE – 11th November 2005*
It is now possible to use Pandora without paying, as they have introduced an add-supported version. Currently this is only licensed for the States, so you need to plug in a US zip code to show where you live. I am a law-abiding citizen so I will refrain from pointing out the obvious holes in this system. Fingers crossed for international licensing soon!

*1*A band whose babies I have wanted to have since I first heard ‘Rest Stop’ in Torks’ car on the way back from the cinema in Taunton, July 2001Back
*2*Don’t get me started on my Flash rant, please, life really is too short.Back
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