Monday, November 26, 2007

Pandora classical

So, I've been a fan of Pandora, the internet radio station that claims to have "mapped music's genome", for ages. Type in the names of a few bands/songs you like, and presto pandora starts playing songs by those artists, other bands that share similar traits, and songs by people you've never heard of that totally suit your taste. Don't like something it suggests? Just click the little 'I don't like this' button and the player goes off in a different direction, eager to please.

But what was always sad about Pandora is that it wouldn't touch classical music with a 10-foot stick. Well, no more! On Nov. 15 Pandora announced the creation of "Pandora Classical", boasting of over 10,000 'songs' by over 500 different composers from baroque to contemporary. Cool! To commemorate this happy occasion I updated Pandora's wikipedia page!

As for the service itself... well... I'm going to hope that as they continue to upload more music by more composers, identifying more 'genes', their ability to read my mind will improve. On my first test of the new classical service, I created a station and told it that I like Bartok and Prokofiev. I was deliberately non-specific (meaning, I didn't say I like Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle and Prokofiev's 1st symphony) because I wanted to see where it would go. The player started off with Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, and followed that with Bartok's concerto for orchestra. Nice (if not particularly inspired) choices, both of which I like. I decided to just keep clicking 'Yes, I like this' for everything to see where we would wind up. Within 8 'songs' we were at Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. (Which, actually, I do also like.) But I was curious... why would Pandora think a Bartok/Prokofiev person would also like Swan Lake?? I hit the 'Why did you play this?" button and was told Pandora thought I would like it because of the 'non-pitched percussion instruments'!! Which in turn was due to me saying that I enjoyed it when Pandora picked Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin...

You can see why I think the service will need continued tweaking.

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