ezyang’s blog

the arc of software bends towards understanding

Sources of music

I love listening to music, especially new and interesting pieces that I've never heard before. Unfortunately, being a somewhat frugal spender my own personal collection of music grows very slowly; perhaps a bit too slowly for my own tastes. When I need new music, where do I turn?

  • MixApp is a collaborative music listening application. At its worst, it can be simply used as an extension to your current music library; anyone who is your friend and who is online, you can search for music and queue it up for yourself. However, the serendipitous part of MixApp is when you've dropped into a room of people you don't know and music you don't know, but man, it sounds good and suddenly you're being taken on a sonic adventure across artists you've never heard of and a genre you've just discovered and wham: you just got MixApp'ed. Update: MixApp is dead (the founders went on to build Meteor), though there are replacements popping up like turntable.fm
  • Pandora and last.fm are both pretty reliable methods to get a stream of genre appropriate singles, one after another. The serendipity level is not as nice as MixApp, though, so I don't find myself turning to these much.
  • There's not really much that can beat a good radio host. People like David Garland and John Schaefer have such a diverse and deep palette of musical knowledge, and they've had every evening for who knows how many years to hone the craft of sharing this with the listeners of public radio. I was very pleased when WQXR finally managed to get a high-quality internet stream back online.
  • I was room-skipping on MixApp one evening, and was caught by the Kleptone's latest album Uptime/Downtime. I have nothing against mix artists: the whole tradition of music has been founded upon the borrowing, stealing, and building upon of earlier work, and in many cases, an adept mix artist can improve the "popular music" material it was founded upon. Or sometimes the source material is just really awesome, and should be listened to in its own right: one of the most interesting musical adventures I've had recently was taking the samples list for Uptime/Downtime and listening to each source piece in turn.
  • Orchestra, wind ensemble, small ensemble, or really any type of ensemble, rehearsal, affords time several months to get intimately familiar with a particular piece of music. I would have never have gotten the chance to fully appreciate contemporary works such as Bells for Stokowski or Persichetti's Masquerade for Band without this really in-depth exploration into a piece.

I should consider myself extremely lucky to be living in an era where new music is constantly at my fingertips. How do you seek out new and interesting music?

4 Responses to “Sources of music”

  1. Cesium says:

    I’ve noted before that I don’t have tastes in music, I have Markov chains of songs. This is accurate; I get some of my music from unlikely associations: related videos on YouTube, searching on Wikipedia and finding another song with the same name, hearing the guy in the next room play it on his piano all the time….

    A lot of it, though, comes from a series of music nights over the past semester, where a bunch of friends and I made playlists and listened to them together — kind of like MixApp, but on YouTube and over IRC; unfortunately those seem to have stopped now. (Most of my music comes from YouTube, because it’s free, you can find almost anything, and any reduction in sound quality is masked by laptop speakers anyway. As a corollary, I rarely have all the songs in a given album, or indeed more than three or four from any single artist.) Last.fm has also introduced me to interesting music, although I went and listened to Charalambides too much and now it’s skewed toward Texan psychedelic artists.

  2. Star Babe says:


  3. Anonymous says:

    Very true

  4. Haruna says:

    Music is just an art of keeping the nine at rest

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