Have you Heard About Pandora?

From Wikipedia- “In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman. As Hesiod related it, each god helped create her by giving her unique gifts. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to mould her out of Earth as part of the punishment of mankind for Prometheus‘ theft of the secret of fire, and all the gods joined in offering this “beautiful evil” seductive gifts. According to the myth, Pandora opened a jar (pithos) in modern accounts referred to as “Pandora’s box“, releasing all the evils of mankind— although the particular evils are not specified in detail — leaving only Hope inside once she had closed it again. She might have opened the jar out of simple curiosity and not as a malicious act.”

From the Greek, Pandora means “all-gifted.” A specific gift she was given from Apollo was the Gift of Music.

A few months ago, a co-worker gave me a gift. He told me about Pandora.com. I opened it, used it, and flooded my musical tastes with all sorts of new music. Not to mention my iPod.

Pandora is a product of the Music Genome Project. Created by Will Glase, John Kraft and Tim Westergren to “capture the essence of music at the fundamental level” using over 400 attributes to descrive songs and a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them. Again, from Wikipedia- ” A given song is represented by a vector (a list of attributes) containing approximately 150 “genes” (analogous to trait-determining genes for organisms in the field of genetics). Each gene corresponds to a characteristic of the music, for example, gender of lead vocalist, level of distortion on the electric guitar, type of background vocals, etc. Rock and pop songs have 150 genes, rap songs have 350, and jazz songs have approximately 400. Other genres of music, such as world and classical music, have 300–500 genes. The system depends on a sufficient number of genes to render useful results. Each gene is assigned a number between 1 and 5, in half-integer increments. Given the vector of one or more songs, a list of other similar songs is constructed using a distance function.

To create a song’s genome, it is analyzed by a musician in a process that takes 20 to 30 minutes per song. Ten percent of songs are analyzed by more than one technician to ensure conformity with the standards, i.e., reliability.”

Wow. 20-30 minutes per song? They add 15,000 analyzed tracks to the Music Genome a month. They must have millions of songs in their collection!

Okay. So what? Big deal. What does that mean for me, you ask?

With Pandora.com (which I listen to at work to drown out the large ambient noises) you can set up “stations” using your favorite artist or genre. They will then play songs that are similar (using all those attributes and vector thingys) to what you initially like. For example (and don’t laugh) my stations are:

  • Stone Temple Pilots Radio
  • Billy Joel Radio
  • Queen Radio
  • Christian Rock Radio
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers Radio
  • Traditional Folk Radio
  • Soundgarden Radio
  • Rockin’ Holidays Radio
  • Swingin’ Christmas Radio
  • Classical Christmas Radio
  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams Radio
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Radio
  • Panic At The Disco Radio
  • Fortune Faded Radio
  • Ramones Radio

Currently, I’m listening to “How’s it Going To Be” by Third Eye Blind, on the Red Hot Chili Peppers Radio. Now it’s “Rearviewmirror” by Pearl Jam on the Stone Temple Pilots Radio. I’m using QuickMix- you can check the Radio stations you want to hear, and they’ll “shuffle” for you. So I never know what I’m going to get, but I will know I’ll like it. The Music Genome said so.

“Hello Hopeville” by Michelle Shocked just popped up on the Traditional Folk Radio.

I also loaded Pandora.com onto my iPod. And I have a two page list I compiled this week of all the songs I need to buy from iTunes. Why? Because the Music Genome knows what I like.

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