Tag: music

Creativity Culture Music

Taste in choice

gif by Emma Darvick

Pick a playlist and let it roll. We leave little of no time for hand-selection or any form of curation because we let the algorithm take over.

Since when did algorithms become the arbiter of taste?

Great art intends to stretch taste rather than follow mathematical formulas. The best music is unpredictable, spontaneously discovered in digging through the crates.

Researching new music, books, etc., is an active and selective process. We remember where we were when we find something new — there’s a story. Like an appreciation for wine, hand selection is subjective and tastes extra good because we found it!

Playing tastemaker is time-consuming. But that’s the point. Better to seek different than sucked into the generic maelstrom of style that pulls from the so-called wisdom of crowds.

Culture Music Social Media

Digging in the crates

It had that barber shop vibe, the relaxed atmosphere where people kicked back, dug the crates, and talked music.

There were posters and promotional displays but they couldn't outshine the album artwork. Marketing started from the bottom up. Consumption was based on peer recommendations.

The record shop was a place of giver's gain, where the information shared up front by one crate digger to another got reciprocated down the road.

Back then, music collecting was truly social. Today, social algorithms make recommendations.

While the data is getting smarter, popularity reigns because the wisdom of crowds leans popular, making music suggestions more mimetic and less random. Pop music exists because people are too shallow, lazy, or genuinely uninterested in looking deeper.

You only need to listen to a few DJs and curators to know what's good. These are the same crate diggers you used to speak to in the record stores which are now mostly nonexistent.

Taste is not universal. It's personal yet relatable and trustworthy, especially if it's coming from a respected source.

Stepping into a particular record store once meant openness and experimentation, the willingness to try new sounds and share tracks with others.

In the absence of music shops, music lost some of its frequency and culture fell on deaf ears.

Books Productivity & Work Tech

What do we read next?

jan-mellstrom-242087

We suffer from the infinity of choice, to what type of books we're interested in, all the way down to the format we want to read them in.

Amazon's recommended book algorithms allay the frustration of making decisions by taking into account your past reads and what others have read to suggest what to consume next.

Algorithms (or recipes) therefore resolve two things: Indecision fatigue caused by the avalanche of choice and the wisdom of crowds.

Spotify Discover Weekly works the same way — after it gets to understand your habits and preferences it recommends prebuilt playlists to appease your taste.

Algorithms free up our brain space to do rather than toggle between the options. They are the antidote to the chaotic linear 21st-century feed.

The more time we spend consuming rather than selecting what's next is time well spent. By outsourcing our digging, we create more time to learn.

Even the proactive tastemaker must yield to the occasional “if and then” statement to build on top of the symphony of algorithms. A remix is not always artistically lesser than its origins.

In an increasingly algorithmic world, there can still be an element of human touch to prove we're not headed toward complete thoughtlessness after all.

Culture Fashion Music

Vans honor David Bowie with sneakers designed after his album covers

Vans honor David Bowie with sneakers designed after his album covers

Vans released a line of shoes themed to commemorate the late David Bowie and his artful genius. Each of the four designs in The Vans x David Bowie collection mimic the artist's album covers, including Blackstar and Aladdin Sane from his earlier glam era.

 

You can read more about the special collection here.

Creativity Culture Music

The obsession with Kate Bush, explained

kate bush eat the music tricky

I first heard of artist Kate Bush on Tricky’s Back to Mine album in 2003. The former Massive Attack frontman also had this to say about the singer:

“I don’t believe in god, but if I did, [Kate Bush’s] music would be my Bible.”

Watch any of her iconic music videos. Her unique fashion sense and dances inspired the likes of Bjork and Tori Amos. Like David Bowie, she interpreted music as an act and sang and danced in a way that befitted the character of the song. So why wasn’t she a star like Bowie? One of her biggest admirers, Andre 3000 of Outkast, once explained:

“Kate Bush’s music opened my mind up. She was so bugged-out, man, but I felt her. She’s so f*ckin’ dope, so underrated and so off the radar.”

Before Bush became a recluse, she made 50 demo tapes by the age of fifteen, got signed, and eventually went on tour in 1979 to promote her first album The Kick Inside. As Emmanuel Happsis writes for KQED writes:

“And then she stopped touring completely, as if to say, I don’t need your validation. I will release life-changing music on my own schedule whenever I want and you will flake on your friends to stay home and cry to it.”

Like the release of any new iPhone, her life secrecy inspired ever more interest. She even made fans wait 12 years between album releases — she released Aerial in 2005 after 1993's The Red Shoes. And finally, 35 years later, she’s back on tour in London.

Bush took an unusual, slow route to making music – making her fanbase beg for her reappearance. After a long wait, it is a relief to have her back.

Do yourself a favor and catch up on everything in ‘Kate Bush: A Crash Course for the Non-Believer.’

Culture Tech

Before the popular rise

Gif of sound volume or channels going up and down

Some people enjoy the process of discovery. They have access to niche communities and discrete resources, tending to “get it” before everyone else.

These people are also the incubators of trends, filtering the good from the bad before deciding what goes mainstream. Naturally, they lose interest as soon as something or someone like an artist becomes a commercial sensation.

But the internet flips the trendsetters on their heads. It connects a mass of niches and then builds on top of their ideas. Take a walk around New York–hipsters are a cohort that share similar interests and look the same.

There will always be an exception; the authentic curator enjoys digging the abstract art before saying a word to anyone else. But what's also cool is to educate and share artifacts. If few are interested in uniqueness, let it be.

Popularity is rarely a barometer of what matters.

gif by @linski101