13 February 2008

Choice Goods Wednesday!

Okay, there might be two problems with this post, but you're all going to have to just tough it out. First problem: I've actually mentioned this item on on the blog before but it was just a sentence and it was just in passing. Second problem: It is a website, not a thing you can buy, but oh well. Choice Goods Wednesday is my post and I can do it however I want. Right?


I really feel that not sharing about Pandora Radio is a disservice to humanity. So, to ease my conscience, I must share this amazing website. What is Pandora? To really understand, read this. But if you want a paraphrase, here it is. You know the human genome project? Where they were mapping out each of the genes in human DNA? Well, Pandora is the music genome project. They decided to do the largest musical analysis ever. They listened (and continue to listen!) to tens of thousands of songs, categorizing them according to their attributes. In essence, mapping out musical "genes," or the aspects of songs. They listen to a song and determine instrumentation, vocals, rhythms, harmonies, literally hundreds of musical qualities. By determining the different aspects of a song, they can "capture" the essence of what the song is.

What is the point? Well, this is the cool part. By breaking a music into its musical elements, they are able to put music together, not based on a subjective "genre" but by its specific qualities. For example, I like the band Feist. I'm in the mood to listen to it. I type in "Feist" and Pandora instantly creates a "radio station" based on the qualities of Feist and plays songs that have similar qualities. Right now I'm listening to Norah Jones because her song, "Not Too Late" has mellow rock instrumentation, acoustic rhythm piano and major key tonality, as does Feist. You don't have to know what all that means to understand that Pandora is a wicked awesome site.

While I was painting my back bedroom, I was totally in the mood for Jack Johnson. If I would have known about Pandora then, I would have had Pandora create a station off of Jack Johnson. The characteristics of his songs would have become the base of the station choices and I would have an entire radio station built of songs that perfectly suited my mood.

My son had a ninja birthday party. For the ambient music, I just created a station of "Traditional Japanese Music" and let it play in the background. It was perfect.

One of the best parts is that Pandora remembers you and learns from you. I was listening to traditional Irish music and American country started playing after a while. There are some basic similarities between the two. All I had to do was tell it I didn't like the songs it was picking and it changed the playlist. Now, I rarely have to deal with country because it "remembers." I love it.

You can base your stations on an artist or even a specific song. The problem is that you can't listen to a specific song. Due to copyright law, Pandora can only choose songs that are similar. But all is not lost, if you listen for awhile, the song usually plays. Also, Pandora only allows a certain number of "skips" during an hour of play. That has something to do with copyright law as well. There is advertising on the page, but not audible ads that music sites, such as YahooMusic, have on their radios.

I haven't found an artist yet that Pandora doesn't know. I have some pretty obscure bands that I like and Pandora knows them all. The cool part is that I am constantly hearing new artists that I really like but have never heard before. And they add new stuff every day. They want to have as much of the world's music as possible. I can't emphasize the variety of music they have. I have stations based off artists ranging from Frank Sinatra, the Chieftains, Beethoven, the Housemartins, Bossacucanova, Billie Holiday, it's all over the place. Whatever music you like, you can make a station out of it.

Pandora is an amazing music site that I absolutely love. It would be wrong of me to not let you all know of it's capabilities. I had to share. If you have any questions, ask me or, better yet, check out their FAQ. It is very comprehensive.

Pandora Radio...it's choice!

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