Shuffling Answers

The latest “meme-like” thing I’ve seen (on Facebook):

  1. put the ipod on shuffle
  2. use it to answer the question
  3. hit “next”
  4. try not to cheat

Sounds fun. The result is that we notice patterns in pseudo-randomness.

I decided to use a slightly different method. I’m using the last twenty tracks which appear in iTunes as “recently played,” after I sync my iPod touch. For some reason, this list doesn’t include the most recent tracks but it does include a series of tracks which played in sequence, last night. I was brewing and my iPod touch was in shuffle. It all sounds less random than the original rules would make it but I decided on that method before using it. Not intention of cheating or tweaking the results. After all, there’s no such as a guilty pleasure, in music.

Without further ado… (These are put in reverse chronological order.)

  1. How am I feeling today?
    • Attention Mesdames et Messieurs, Michel Fugain, Gold
  2. How far will I get in life?
    • I Want Tomorrow, Enya, The Celts
  3. What is my best friend’s theme song?
    • Hand in My Pocket, Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill
  4. What was high school like?
    • Summertime, Al Jarreau, Tenderness
  5. How will today be?
    • Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais, Serge Gainsbourg, De Gainsbourg à Gainsbarre (disc 2)
  6. What is in store for me this weekend?
    • Real Estate, Chelsea Bridge (Big Band), Double Feature
  7. What is the best thing about me?
    • Le baiser, Alain Souchon, Au ras des pâquerettes
  8. What song describes my parents?
    • Storms in Africa, Enya, Watermark
  9. How is my life going?
    • Farafina Dembe, Mali Compil, Mali Compil
  10. What song will they play at my funeral?
    • Sweet Lullaby (Q-Bass mix), Deep Forest, Sweet Lullaby
  11. How does the world see me?
    • Ghost World, Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2 (or, The Last Remains of the Dodo)
  12. What do my friends think of me?
    • Viajar Canção, Paulo Ramos, Futuro
  13. Do people secretly think I’m good looking?
    • Alice au pays d’Arto (valse), La Bottine Souriante, Rock & Reel
  14. How can I make myself happy?
    • Bungalow, Valérie Lemercier, Chante
  15. What should I do with my life?
    • Croquis et agacières d’un gros bonhomme en bois: III, Erik Satie, Piano Works (Daniel Varsano)
  16. What is some good advice?
    • Super Bowl Sundae, Ozomatli, Ozomatli
  17. Will I get married?
    • J’ai oublié le jour, Beau Dommage, Où est passée la noce?
  18. Where will I go in life?
    • Shepherd Moons, Enya, Shepherd Moons
  19. Will I have kids?
    • Alexandre – Danse Bulgare, Malicorne, Le Bestiaire
  20. What is my current theme song?
    • Cherokee, Big Band De Lausanne, Spring Song

Some of these I find quite funny. For instance, Souchon’s «Le baiser» (“The Kiss”) as the best thing about me. Or that people would see me as a ghost, suggested by Aimee Mann’s song. Not to mention that the answer about marriage comes from an album which has «noce» (“wedding”) in the title. At the same time, some answers only seem to make some sense, if I try quite hard. So I can see some connection between secrets about physical appearance and «Alice au pays d’Arto» (“Alice in Arto’s Land”) through some interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s work.

I do notice that there are several tracks by Enya. There are 24 Enya tracks out of 1665 on my iPod touch so I don’t really think it’s an artefact of the pseudo-random shuffling algorithm. But my iPod touch playlist isn’t that representative of my music collection (tracks are selected automatically by iTunes). And I found those tracks rather fitting for my mood at the time.

Yes, I’m preemptively responding to “playlistism.” While I sincerely think that no music listening should be deemed “guilty,” I know that people do judge others based on their musical choices. And I get defensive.

In this case, there are some tracks I enjoy more than others. Some tracks are quite representative of my musical tastes. And there’s some level of diversity in this selection.

All in all, a fun exercise.

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

7 responses to “Shuffling Answers

  • enkerli

    @Maria Thanks for all of this! Nice use of Sibelius.
    As you expected, Spotify is unavailable here. But Deezer.com and Last.fm are available. Not the same thing, of course, but the fact that some sites are available everywhere should be somewhat reassuring.

    Thanks again!

  • Maria Lj

    My blog about this doesn’t have links to all the music, but I added some new ones today to what I published yesterday. It’s a pity you are in Canada, since the Spotify music streaming service is probably not available in North America yet. That means you can’t access the Spotify users’ play lists, which are part of the current music discussions in the Swedish blogosphere. I have a mix of references: a concert video at YouTube, a Spotify playlist, score pages (with mp3 demos) at SibeliusMusic, and pages at my own domain.

  • enkerli

    @Maria The randomness thing isn’t that essential, in my mind.
    Good idea to actually include the musical examples.

  • Maria Lj

    Well, I am slowly writing that blog post (and a couple of other things) so the list will soon be available for readers (and listeners, there will be links to music examples)! I will also try the 20 tunes thing you published, when I have figured out another method again to get the random tracks from my collection (some collection, any collection, or the computer’s music library).

  • enkerli

    @Maria
    I like your list. Too bad you don’t provide your own soundtrack. In this case, I’d be interested in your (non-random) choices. Applying the soundtrack concept to other domains is quite fun. I do it less, now that I either listen to podcasts or shuffled tracks.
    Converting your albums to MP3s is a bit time-consuming, but it eventually makes a number of things convenient. I did it three years ago (but only for my CDs). It helped me discover some music in my collection and it made it much easier to build playlists for classes. There are a few issues such as CDs which produce artefacts or a few glitches in MP3 encoding. It also requires a lot of hard drive space. But hard drives can be quite cheap, these days.
    As for a portable audio player, I must say that it’s been hard to live without one on those occasions when the one I was using broke. The last time this happened was in late April, as I was moving back from Texas. I did a stupid thing and fried my iRiver H120. For a few months, I was sans MP3 player. Couldn’t really listen to podcasts, my music collection was stuck on my desktop machine… And it was a period of big transition, for me.
    I now live on my iPod touch. I only put about 9 GB of music on it (and 1-2 GB of podcasts) but I change this list on occasion and it works rather well.
    One “issue” is that I only rated a relatively small portion of my music collection and most of the tracks on my ‘touch are selected (randomly) from this set of rated tracks. Which means that a rather large proportion of the music I listen to is music I already know, even though there’s a lot of music I don’t really know, in my collection. The thing I should do is add a randomly selected tracks from my general collection. This will force me to listen to other tracks and, since I can rate them on the fly, to rate more music.
    In a way, though, the proportion of new tracks on my ‘touch is sufficient for a pleasing kind of “surprise effect.” The current proportion of old and new tracks is “comfortable.” It’s just that, in part because I read Levitin’s Brain On Music, I try to break away from the “comfort zone” in music listening. I do listen to some music I don’t know, especially from podcasts, but I don’t update my music collection in this direction.

    At any rate, thanks for your soundtrack scenes. I might select tracks to fill it in.

  • Maria Lj

    (Stupid comment function converted the ) and 8 in the text of my comment above to silly emoticons!)
    [Ed: solved it by replacing ‘)’ with the ascii code: & #41; (without the space)]

  • Maria Lj

    I got another version of this iTunes shuffle meme on Facebook in July 2008, from a friend who is a film music composer, and whom I met on Myspace a couple of years ago when I was looking for Swedish musicians. Found the note I posted with it again today when I looked at my “boxes” page on FB, and recalled that I had read your blog about the same thing!

    My iTunes library isn’t very large, since I never bothered to convert all my cd’s to mp3’s and I don’t use portable players very often, so I don’t buy or download any commercial recordings. I’ve got a nice little iAudio U2, with really good sound, but it can’t carry more than a few albums at a time, so I use it mostly as a mass storage device for other files! When I listen to music at the computer it is nowadays through streaming audio, or my own works in progress.

    The challenge: If your life was a movie, what would the soundtrack be?

    (There were 17 “questions” in the challenge, but I added a 18th scene/cue, to improve the meme and make the idea of a film sound track complete.)

    1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, etc).
    2. Put it on shuffle.
    3. Press Play.
    4. For every question, type the song that’s playing.
    5. When you go to a new question, press the Next button.
    6. Don’t lie and try to pretend you’re cool.
    7. Don’t skip songs.

    Your soundtrack:

    (1) Opening credits
    (2) Waking up
    (3) First day at school
    (4) Fight song
    (5) Breaking up
    (6) Happiness
    (7) Life’s okay
    (8) Mental breakdown
    (9) Driving
    (10) Flashback
    (11) Getting back together
    (12) Wedding
    (13) Birth of a child
    (14) Final battle
    (15) Death scene
    (16) Funeral song
    (17) End credits
    (18) When people are walking out of the theatre

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