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Apr 29, 2009
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Pandora Internet Radio

Pandora Internet Radio

I found that I was getting into a musical rut and had a hard time finding new music I liked. Then I stumbled on Pandora Internet Radio. On Pandora, you create your own “radio station” by naming a favorite song or artist. Pandora scans thousands of pieces of music that have been analyzed by something called the Music Genome Project to identify those with similar attributes to the one you named. Voilà! New music for you to enjoy.

For example, I put in “Warren Zevon” as a seed artist and “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” as a song. My station playlist started with “Hand in Hand” by Dire Straits, and continued with music by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Joe Cocker, to name a few.

Pandora also tells you why a particular song was selected. In the case of Dire Straits, I was told that, “Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features mellow rock instrumentation, a subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, acoustic rhythm piano and mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation.”

The Music Genome Project was founded by Tim Westergren in January 2000. A team of musician-analysts listen to music, one song at a time, collecting 400 musical details on every one. Westergren says, “Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or ‘genes’ into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song ? everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony.”

What makes this interesting is the remarkable ontology that’s behind it, and how powerful a tool ontology is to help in understanding and describing complex phenomena, like music (or maybe even model-based drug development).

If that knocked your socks off, just wait until you see our next cool topic.
Only one way to find out – come back soon.

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