Syncing to Apple music

I have now made my chimpwithcans playlist available on Apple music as well as Spotify.

See the following link: https://music.apple.com/za/playlist/chimpwithcans/pl.u-r2yBBvqC3Exe1

This will sync with the Spotify playlist when I update it each week. Something that’s not so easy to do…. But for you dear readers/listeners, anything…. Actually I did this four my mum who can’t get Spotify in Kenya, but that’s another story.

Happy Thursday chimps!

Limits on Spotify

There used to be a 10,000 song limit for liking songs on Spotify. As of May this year this is no longer the case.

This is good news for my chimpwithcans playlist project. It means I can influence the Spotify algorithm and like all the songs from this book: link

Then I can pick the favorite recommendations i receive in my discover weekly playlist.

The things I do for a good playlist. Oh, speaking of which, if you want to hear it, then follow this link.

Happy Wednesday chimps.

Songs on a Monday

Every week I add a few new songs to my playlist on Spotify (See the link to the playlist here: link).

Choosing the songs is the end of a rather convoluted process:

  • On Spotify, I ‘Like’ all songs and albums (I’m about half way through) included in the following book: link
  • I listen to the resulting recommendations from Spotify in my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist.
  • I Pick a few standout songs and add them to my chimpwithcans playlist (link here).

The results are broad in their musical genre. It has turned into a pretty chilled playlist and I really enjoy pressing shuffle now. It has so many songs I never would have heard. Importantly I feel like I have had a say in training and filtering the Spotify algorithm to spit out something interesting.

This week, my Discover Weekly gave me the following standout tracks:

  • Fela Kuti – “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”. Below is a great review of the song:

Released as part of a quartet of albums from the most productive year of Fela’s career, “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” has all the hallmarks of a classic Fela single, a languid, self determined instrumental warm up that goes on for several minutes, putting the listener in the right frame of mind, and setting up a tonal theme for the rest of the performance, a choral style, call and response chorus in conjunction with Fela’s omnipresent band, and long winding verse that defy the laws of composition and march at a tempo that only Fela decides. But what really distinguishes this song from the rest of the master’s oeuvre, is the masterful storytelling that Fela employs. Fela had always understood that at the core of his sway over his fans was his ability to empathize with their terribly oppressed lives, and the skill with which he consumed their stories, ruminated on them and regurgitated them back, defiance milled into the broth.

“Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” is brimming with defiance, delivered subtly as an exchange, reflected through a lens of righteous justice. Fela sings of the oppressed, and personifies the oppression of Nigerian people. He asks through a direct chorus and series of vignettes, that the suffering of oppressed be respected and that if it is not, then the oppressed is justified in their decision to revolt, to take arms against the persons who mock their suffering and remain unempathetic to their oppression. He substitutes the government for smaller, more relatable avatars of power, like the landlord who wields the power to deny shelter, or the policeman who can take away a man’s freedom, or even closer. Never to look away from intrigue when the opportunity presents itself, Fela subverts his own theme in the third vignette about a husband, citing that sometimes it is our own avarice and pride, not an external agitator that puts us in trouble.

https://thenativemag.com/music/shuffle-trouble-sleep-yanga-wake-fela-succinct/
  • Sidney Bechet – “Blue Horizon”. Holy moly please listen to this man play a clarinet! I remember when I was about 11years old my Mum tried to get me to play an instrument and I tried clarinet. I had zero idea it could sound like this. My efforts sounded more like a strangled ibis making an escape from the torture chamber…..But this man…..The control, the wary tension of the small group surrounding him. The sharp tone, a vigorous vibrato. This is an absolute master and I had NEVER heard of him until today. More fool me. Have a listen, just beautiful.

That’s it for this week. Happy Monday chimps!

Do I only like Songs in my voice?

I shared some songs with my sister on Spotify. There was a chilled Japanese pop song song and an Irish folk song. Her feedback was interesting. She said both these songs sounded like I was singing, if I was from Japan or Ireland.

This got me thinking – are we more likely to like a song if it is within our range, has similar tone to our own, or generally sounds like us?

I don’t think this is necessarily true, although I do think it makes us more likely or fun to sing along to a song if it is within our range.

Conceptualising myself as a Japanese pop star is fun. It feels like the premise for a computer game – you can transfer your voice from one human to the other, bouncing across the world into different situations, languages and accents. Sort of like you can take control of any avatar in Watchdog – Legions – but focused on the voice. Maybe you could transfer yourself into great speeches of the past, or great album recording sessions. It’s a ridiculous premise but an interesting one. 🙂

That’s day two of streaming to Twitch. Perhaps a habit is forming?

Happy Thursday, chimps.

Music plus tech

As a teenager I used to think I would listen to my walkman for the rest of my life. It was so essential to me – the cassette tapes I had painstakingly curated, the stock of fresh AA-size batteries, the headphones I found in an airport in England. The ritual of plugging it all in and pushing play. It just didn’t get any better.

One day in my early 20s I found my dad’s LP collection and an old hifi setup. I heard classics like Otis Redding and Springsteen in such clarity and power. Besides the fidelity, there was the long beautiful process of choosing the record, cleaning it, playing one side through and flipping it over, reading the liner notes, poring over the album covers, adjusting the needle and the audio settings. A new ritual was born. My life changed.

Now in my 30s I have my iPhone and an Apple watch. New tech, new ritual. I can call up any song I want no matter where I am. The digital liner notes are getting better every day and the sheer convenience of Bluetooth and music on the go is changing my life again. Don’t even get me started on Spotify’s daily mix and discover weekly playlists. That revolution in curation is a topic for another post.

Older forms of technology can all still be used of course. And often they retain their original power even though the convenience factor is low. Vinyl has made a come back. Audiophiles also tout the benefits of CDs and cassettes. For me this means I now have an arsenal of ways to access the Music drug. The music is the constant, Platonic form while the tech revolves and morphs around it in a clumsy, circular dance.

Perhaps one day the headphones will be nothing more than chips in our brains. A neuralink device Elon Musk sells for a fee. What might a music listening ritual look like for this scenario?

I get comfort from the fact that the music never changes. Taste and quality may vary, but a song is a song no matter what. The catalogue keeps on growing, but the essential form and function of a song is set. It is information in the form of a sound wave being received by the brain. Only the tech for delivery varies.

Who’s number 1? Plus an infographic

I just spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out who is the number 1 streaming artist on Spotify. (FYI it’s Justin Bieber). Spotify doesn’t make it very easy to find this out – I ended up getting the figure from Wikipedia. This search led me to the below chart showing how the music industry is making money again through streaming. (link)

What these figures point to is a very complex formula for ever declaring an album as “Number 1”. Gone are the straightforward days of measuring LPs sold. It is a weighted calculation, subject to bias and change over time.

Spotify itself is not making much money. For now the Company is beholden to the record companies (link) for their back catalogues (and to a lesser extent, their A&R and recording infrastructure). But one day perhaps it will break free from this like Netflix has from Hollywood.

Waste, tension, and music

The garden waste piles up each week in the corner of the property. Each time the gardener cuts the grass, sweeps up the leaves, or cuts down a branch he puts the waste into bags, and these bags pile up until a truck is organized to cart it off for composting. As the owner of the property this system can stress me out. Watching the relentless growing piles of waste sometimes feels like one of those awkward “white lie” situations – you know the one – you’ve told a little lie or made a transgression which is never confessed. The lie gets bigger and bigger, worse and worse until there is inevitably a release. Either you and your lie are found out, or you tell the truth. The pickup truck taking the waste away feels like eventually telling the truth.

Great music is just like my home’s waste management system. When a song is well written, a tension builds for the listener. The verse builds up to the chorus. The verse places bags of musical notes and dead ends in the corner of the listener’s head. Repeated phrases and hooks. A story in need of some resolution. Eventually the tension is too great and a switch to the chorus is like a clearing out of all the accumulated rubbish. The verse is the lie and the chorus is the truth.

This is most obvious for me in blues music. Think of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man”. The verse is simple and repetitive to the point of ridicule. The harmonica’s five notes over and over moaning and groaning that Something huge is coming. Trust me he’s coming. Gypsy woman told my momma. Muddy is coming. Just now……Wait for it. It’s almost unbearable until Muddy grants us sweet relief with “But you know I’m here!” The chorus plays and all the rubbish in our mind is cleared away. Then the cycle starts again with verse 2. What a song.

Audio, Resistance and Caring

It’s not cool to care. Generally, those who care deeply about something are a pain in the butt for those who would rather brush over the details and move along to the next thing with as little fuss as possible.

If you are happy to take the music that is fed to you, that’s fine. Spotify has you covered. You will likely never annoy anyone with your opinions, the cost of your listening equipment, or the attention you give to the sound in your ears.

However, if you care about what you hear – if you appreciate the art involved in making a song, if you are curious about where a piece of music comes from or what is available that is not on the charts or in the format everyone is used to – get ready to meet some resistance.

Audio Responsibility

Who is responsible for the music you listen to? And the interviews you hear? Who decides when your voice gets recorded or not?

In a post industrial world, we have more choice than ever as to how and when we consume things. Take your music streaming service of choice – it likely has ~50m songs to choose from at the tap of a button. This can be overwhelming, which explains the success of Spotify and its algorithms. These ‘tailored playlists’ take the responsibility away from you and the music you hear.

The idea of audio responsibility then, asks us to behave in a more engaged way around music and anything else we feed our ears.

A couple of tips to get started on the road to audio responsibility:

  1. Read about it before you listen to it. This forces you to be an active participant and it makes the experience so much more satisfying. Check out this book to get started: Link
  2. The equipment you use makes a difference. Headphones, amplifiers and speakers are the best places to start investing (responsibly) in your audio experience.
  3. Nobody knows what you want to hear better than you. Not even Spotify.

Here’s to taking responsibility. 🙂