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Classical Notes: September 5, 2006 Archive

Opening Pandora to the Bachs

Posted at 2:05 PM on September 5, 2006 by Don Lee

A piece in Sunday's New York Times led me to investigate a Web site called Pandora. It's driven by the Music Genome Project, an enterprise that collects "literally hundreds of musical attributes or 'genes'" in order to "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." Taking the attributes of songs users say they like, Pandora can point the way to new songs that, in theory, they will like just as much.

Pandora focuses on pop music and a few other genres. Classical is not one of them.

But I can imagine a market for such a service. I encounter people all the time who've had a taste of classical music and can't figure out where to turn for the next sample. Pandora might have to do a little more work to identify all of the classical genes in the Music Genome; the handful of classical pieces I managed to find in Pandora had only these attributes associated with them: "ensemble horns" and "ensemble strings." When they get to "dodecaphonic," we'll know they've gone the extra mile.