Thursday, July 2, 2009

Zen and the Art of the iTunes Playlist

I first got an iPod in 2005. Getting an iPod versus having a CD player is one of those enormous leaps on the technological timeline that really is life changing. I don't want to overstate the idea when I say it's life changing. It's not like having a kid or anything, but at the same time, for someone who likes to listen to music (and I assume that everyone falls into that category. Like making a subgroup of people who like breathing), having an iPod changes the way you live your life. First of all, you don't have to buy CDs anymore. Secondly, you can carry your entire music collection on one iPod. I'm guessing that I have a relatively large and eclectic music collection that has grown pretty steadily since roughly 1989. My collection, combined with my wife's comprises roughly 30GB of memory on my iPod, which is cabaple of holding 80GB. So I've got a ways to go.

Incidentally, at the time i bought my current iPod, the choices in terms of memory (side note: I really hate people who use the term vis-a-vis and also people who use the suffix -wise. For example in this current sentence, if you would say "my choices vis-a-vis memory" or "my choices memorywise" then you suck. If you use the first one, then you are a pretentious douche, the heir to the Masengill fortune, if you will. If you use the second one, then you need to gain a firmer grasp on the English language to more clearly state what you mean.) were to get an iPod that held 4GB, 8GB, 80GB, and 160GB, and nothing in between. I really only needed like 40GB to hold my existing collection and potentially grown into a slightly larger one, but that choice was lacking. At the same time, I seriously considered buying the 160GB one because it was actually a good value vis-a-vis paying like $50 more for twice as much memory, but then I decided I would never use the 80GB, so there was no way I'd ever use the 160GB.

All of this is sortof beside the point I want to make, except that it's all related iPodwise. My real point is that since I got that first iPod in 2005 I've been working on creating the perfect iTunes playlist. It's much harder than it seems it should be. The nature of the iTunes playlist is that you are not limited by things like space and time (Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.) and as such, you can make the playlist as long as you want. On a CD you've got to pare the choices down to basically 15 or so songs, so you end up with a pretty tight mix every time (it's in the gies) although it could get boring to listen to in a couple months or so. My working theory was that I should be able to create one playlist that I could listen to forever. It would basically act as what I would consider to be the perfect radio station with songs from every genre with different energies and really the only thing they have in common is awesomeness.

With awesomeness as my copilot my first iTunes playlist, creatively titled "Jerry's Playlist", consisted of about 600 songs. I would put my iPod on shuffle, and listen to it wherever I went. In the car, running, walking to places, you get the idea. The problem with the 600 song playlist is that there are too many marginally good songs and not enough awesome songs. I would end up skipping a lot of songs and that kindof defeated the purpose of the perfect playlist in my mind. The second playlist I made, "The Short List", was created to remedy that song skipping situation. I knew the problem was that there were too many songs on the list and I needed to limit myself to only songs that I really liked. That list had about 350 songs. The second list ended up being only the second step in the evolutionary process. Still there were some songs that were not good enough to stand up to repeated listening, which is to say forever.

About three weeks ago I created what, to date, is the greatest iTunes playlist ever created. It's titled "Frabulous", obviously, and it has 192 songs. I went through my entire music library and picked only the songs that I was confident I could listen to over and over for eternity. The other day something happened that has never happened before. I was listening to the playlist at work and the music stopped. I thought it might be a really low intro to a song and then I thought that the battery may have died, but when I looked at the iPod, it turns out that I had actually listened to the entire playlist all the way through. Again, this is something that has never happened. Typically I'll listen to the playlist until I get in the mood to listen to a particular album or a specific song and then I'll back out of the playlist to do that and then come back to it. When you come back to the playlist it reshuffles the songs and the count starts over again.

In short, this playlist is amazing. It's as close to perfect as I've come so far vis-a-vis playlistwise. I was initially confounded by my ability to make what was essentially a neverending playlist, but now I realize that all good things must come to an end. Like this post.


The Notorious LJT said...

what's on the playlist, songwise?

Open Bar said...

One thing that bothers me about shuffling is that the songs can't get into a rhythm or coherent flow, which is something you can do when listening to a playlist in specific order. Though I suppose the element of surprise adds something.

And how could you write that whole post and not mention a single song on any of the playlists? You're a dick, vis-a-vis personalities.

ChuckJerry said...

On the original 600 song playlist I put any song that I ever liked at any point that I happened to have in my collection. For example "Cryin'" by Aerosmith, which is surprisingly not good when you don't get to watch Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler in their underwear. Or I would just put a whole album of songs if I liked an album rather than just picking the 2 or maybe 3 best. I don't need every song off of "August and Everything After", I really only need "Anna Begins" and "A Murder of One".

On the 300 song list, I tried to put that into effect, but the mistake I made was taking the existing list, and just deleting songs from it. I still had a bunch of marginal songs.

For the newest list I started from scratch. So the list is more current in addition to being much tighter.

Walt Clyde Frazier said...

1) I'd love to hear your playlist.

2) There are a small amount of people out there that just don't really like any music. There's a bigger number who don't like any particular music - they'll just say, "Oh, I just like whatever's on the radio".

Both groups perplex me. All genres of music have their virtues. But how could somebody not have any preference at all?

Side Bar said...

Yeah, now you have to put the list of songs up here.