Tag: AllMusic

Alphabetization Is Not Fit for Music Libraries

Wikipedia’s article on alphabetization explains:

Advantages of sorted lists include:

  • one can easily find the first n elements (e.g. the 5 smallest countries) and the last n elements (e.g. the 3 largest countries)
  • one can easily find the elements in a given range (e.g. countries with an area between .. and .. square km)
  • one can easily search for an element, and conclude whether it is in the list

The first two advantages are things you almost never need to do with music libraries. And the third has been supplanted by now-ubiquitous search boxes: if you know what you’re looking for, you search; and if you don’t, an alphabetized list is not the way to find it.

Web visionary Ted Nelson (<mst3k>Dr. Ted Nelson?</mst3k>) has been paraphrased as pointing out that “electronic documents have been designed to mimic their paper antecedents,” and that “this is where everything went wrong: electronic documents could and should behave entirely differently from paper ones.” If the folder metaphor is inadequate for digital documents, no wonder it’s so pitiful at handling music. The proximity between pieces of music in a library should least of all be based on the first letter in a band’s name – it’s as arbitrary as sorting them by the vocalist’s month of birth – yet this is how it’s universally done.

Music library organization needs to be re-thought from the ground up. We need to consider how it is that people used to listen to music before it was all on their iTunes. How are your CDs organized (or disorganized) on your shelf? How are they organized in your head? What is it that prompts you to listen to what you listen to when you listen to it? And how can we use computers to adopt and enhance these ways of thinking, rather than forcing us to think like computers? Continue reading “Alphabetization Is Not Fit for Music Libraries”

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Intelligent browsing in foobar

Collecting my thoughts here…

foobarSo, ironically, music is becoming increasingly difficult for me to listen to. As though worrying about an extensive gauntlet of tagging procedures isn’t enough, I just have too much damn music. Browsing alphabetically through upwards of 500 artists is not the best way to go looking for something when you have no idea what you want to hear.

I’ve auditioned various methods of tweaking foobar to ‘deliver’ music to me more or less automatically, and I’m close to having something ideal. The playlist tree component allows for dynamic tree structures (which, unfortunately, can only be rebuilt manually or every time a new song begins); using the titleformatting language, I’ve generated five queries whose purpose it is to ‘coax’ certain albums to starker visibility from the featureless and indifferent music library, to greater or lesser success.

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AllMusic’s Tone Intersections

In a previous post about A Flat Hierarchy for Subjective mp3 Tags, I described the arduous and marginally rewarding task of tagging my entire library with as many ‘tones’ tags as AllMusic was able to provide. With foobar2000 0.9 final now less than a week away, these tags may prove useful soon enough. But a few weeks ago, impatient and curious, I decided to put them to another use:

tones intersection chart

By creating a tones/tones tree structure in foobar, I was able to count how often each ‘tone’ intersects with every other ‘tone.’ What you see above is the beginning of that data collection, which I ultimately planned to analyze in…some way.

After Googling around for ideas on tag clustering, I came across gCLUTO, a free piece of software that would, miraculously, do exactly what I needed — namely, magically figure out how best to cluster each tag with related tags. I figured four clusters would be a comfortable number, based on earlier reading I had done on a two-axis theory of musical emotion (intense/relaxed and positive/negative).

topographical cluster visualization

Unfortunately, my computer simply couldn’t handle even constructing and deconstructing the foobar tree without freezing up for about 45 minutes each time. Plus, collecting all this data would have meant hours and hours of work, for a goal whose benefits weren’t very clear to me at all, as well as a halt in incorporating new downloads into my library. It was a pretty exciting couple days while it lasted though.

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A Flat Hierarchy for Subjective mp3 Tags

I’ve always been anal about the way my mp3s are tagged. Before the iPod, Audioscrobbler, and foobar2000, it was an irrational obsession, since I keep my music well-sorted on my hard drive. But there’s something so “official” about mp3 tags that I find appealing.

A few years ago this fixation extended to a program called MoodLogic, which applies a user-maintained database of really specific information about songs to construct playlists to match particular moods. In the end it proved more work than it was worth for me, so I abandoned it, but I’ve always wished for a similarly intuitive method of music browsing and playlist creation (come on, alphabetically?).

The genre tag has always been the most elusive. The subjective if not totally baseless distinctions between “Pop/Rock,” “Rock,” and “Pop” are enough to aggravate even the mildest case of OCD. I never bothered with this kind of categorization until recently when I realized that foobar2000 can handle multiple values for one tag field. Interesting…

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