I happened to mention the word computer and music to someone else in English Studies and I witnessed their defenses go up, immediately. Umm, hors d’oeuvre anyone? As much as I’d like to continue the conversation, I know there are some situations when no matter what I say, the other person will remain a staunch critic.
When it comes to music, strictly speaking, yes, technologies such as those used by Pandora do mean that a computer is choosing music for me. Is the computer making me stupid? Well, no! How is using that service different than, say, me hiring a mechanic to help out when I don’t have time to handle the maintenance work on my car or bike myself? I know how to change the oil in my car and bike — that does not mean that I choose to do it myself each and every time. I have other priorities right now. Thank you very much.
There are some times, such as when I’m writing, that I just want music to play so that I can concentrate on something else that I am working on. I don’t want to be an active participant in choosing and listening. In this case, I want to use it as a tool to aid my concentration elsewhere.
There are other times that I am in the mood to discover new artists. IMHO, Pandora’s technology is better than LastFM because the folks at Pandora have done more precise analysis, at least in my experience. When I tune in to my station on Pandora, I don’t get just any country song (pick your genre), but one with the same qualities as the original song. In this case, the new media tool is helping me discover possibilities that I didn’t know existed. How is that a bad thing?
You could argue that smaller bands aren’t as well represented. I’d acknowledge that as a constraint. Let’s have a conversation now. What is your best way of finding new and less well known artists?
However, let me just add this caveat: must I always be in control, choosing, and analyzing in order to be considered involved/worthy/academic/smart and not being led around by my computer? Ok, maybe that is more snarky than a simple caveat.
Still, I would argue that observing the behavior of the tool makes me more appreciative of the human work that went into building the tool and makes me much more aware of the many different layers or elements in a composition. In this case, I am discovering more of my own preferences and learning more about music with the help of the tool.
BTW, did you catch that senioritis recommended John Mayer’s CD, Continuum, a few days ago? I’d have to 2nd that recommendation. Now, not only am I enjoying a little Mayer on my internet radio station, but I’m also finding, with the help of the tool, more artists that play similar stuff.
The people at Pandora.com have analyzed more than 4,000 pieces of music on so many different levels than I could ever have the time to do myself, unless I suddenly decided to pursue graduate study in music, which is not on my list of things to do.
We enjoy music in so many situations. Why get all stressed by a computer helping you out once in a while? Can’t we just put on some music and chill?