Comments: Does music have a genome?

Wonderful Points and I was curious as well as to how Pandora decided to classify music. For example there are these two bands that I think sound very similar but none of my friends agreee (I think it is attributed to the time that I first listened to them both). Another good example is how I can like a genre of music but really enjoy listening to a certain band from a different genre

Posted by Chase at May 10, 2006 7:01 AM

Maria M’s Response to: Does music have a genome? Posted by David Jennings in section(s) Future of Music , Music and Multimedia , Playlists , Radio , Social Software, TrackBack on 28 November 02005

I discovered Pandora about six months ago. Although I think you brought up valid points, some of which I agreed with, and some that I do not. I felt that you were being a bit critical and somewhat bias. I have to say that there are occasions when I am listening and think “why the heck did they play that song”. However, more often than not, they are dead on with my musical tastes. At the same time I am not a musician and have learned a lot of new musical terms and the definitions of the terms when reading Pandora's song descriptions by having to look them up. However, as stated in your blog music is subjective to each listener, their associations, cultural undertones, and many other unique aspects as related to each listener's musical experiences. I am sure my experiences have shaped me to have my preference for Pandora’s style, as your experiences have shaped your liking for your personalized online radio player.

With that said, I think Pandora says somewhere on their "about the genome project" page that the project is just that, a "project". A project based on a theory being analyzed, categorized, and collected by thirty musician-analysts. By no means do they claim that it is as an exact science, nor is it actually meant to be taken so seriously. They want to have fun with it, as one can clearly recognize in the characteristic descriptions. They also want the listeners to have fun with it, while exploring musical genres as related to the listener’s tastes, while at the same time playing music from as many mainstream, underground, and unknown artists as they possibly can. Keep in mind that I am not directly quoting anything from Pandora and am just going from my memory of what I took from what I read on their website as compared to what you wrote on your blog here.

While writing this I am also keeping in mind that you wrote about Pandora in November 2005 and that it is now July 2008. I wasn't aware of Pandora then as I stated I have only been listening for the past six months; much might have changed and could even be quite different now. However, I am addicted and it plays on my laptop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I have had much fun while listening to Pandora these past six months, hearing old music that I had forgotten about, listening and falling in love with many new artists and songs for me that I probably would have never discovered if it were not for Pandora. I am surprised by how often they have gotten it right vs. wrong.

I have both Pandora and in my bookmarks and have to say that I much prefer Pandora. I must admit that I have never heard of The Global Jukebox System and am looking forward to checking that out if it is still around. I am interested if you have gone back and given Pandora a try again. If so, did you tell the truth about what you liked or did not like, did you exaggerate on your preference of an artist that you input? Maybe if you had done these things honestly the first time your experience with Pandora would have been more enjoyable. You had many questions in which you stated that Pandora did not explain or have answers for on their site. I am curious if you have since gone back to see if the answers you sought are now there. I think you would be surprised to find many of them are.

On my final note: Before I discovered Pandora I had all but stopped listening to music completely. This was due to the boredom I was experiencing from what I was hearing everywhere. As I stated above I am now addicted to Pandora; most importantly I am totally interested, delighted, and once again able to feel enlightened by music each time I listen to one of MY now finely tuned stations on Pandora;-) Does music have a genome? My answer from my experience with this would be yes. Do I realize the intent of the project is most likely for marketing research? Yes again, but at least I can enjoy what is being marketed to me, around 80% of the time. At least that’s what they say here Note that this link may or may not be related to Pandora. To be honest I have no idea. However, being based on the same theory I felt the information to be relevant and related enough to at least explore.

Maria Marineau
Hartford, CT USA
July, 14, 2008

Posted by Maria Marineau at July 14, 2008 9:11 AM


Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

I'm happy to admit I was being critical. I hope I was not being biased (biased how exactly?).

I agree with what you say about the genome project being just a project. Maybe it's not meant to be taken seriously as science — though as I write this I think of the Human Genome Project and the Manhattan Project, which were also "just projects", but required to be taken seriously for different reasons.

And the intent behind my post was to ask the question "what would happen if we did take it seriously?" If music really was organised like genomes, wouldn't that be an important and significant development in the way we understand human culture? I take what you say about the intent of the research, but there is a lot of language in the page that you reference about DNA and 'matchmaking', all of which is based on the genome concept and, I think, requires critical analysis.

That was my intent, not a criticism of the actual songs that Pandora produces or the effect that they have on listeners. My experience of Pandora, like yours, has been almost all good. I didn't say that their service was better or worse than the others on the market. Sadly, being based outside the US, Pandora is no longer available to me.

Never mind who provides the best service in the short term, my concern was with a model and an approach that might lead us to the best service in the long term — let's say 20-30 years from now. On that timescale, it's quite important to get the best approach — one that is closest to the way taste and music really works. This post outlines my concerns about the genome approach for that purpose. Other approaches also have their drawbacks.

Since this post in 2005, I've written a lot more about this topic in general, and about the music genome project in particular, in my book Net, Blogs and Rock'n'Roll.

Posted by David Jennings at July 14, 2008 10:25 AM
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