Tuesday, January 24, 2006

John Hancock's Blues

From 1996 to 2001 I worked at a classic rock radio station here in Boston. I had lots of different responsibilities, but my primary job was that of a production grunt. Basically, I created, dubbed and recorded various materials that would air on the station, whether they be studio commercials ("All Jordan's Furniture stores, including the fabulous Natick store, are open tonight until 10!'), public service announcements, or "bumps" - which are those small 30 second pieces you hear advertising the actual radio station and which are almost always played going into/out of music. When I was there, there was a fair amount of consistency to the content of the bumps. They all started out by saying the stations name and call letters and then in a down low, I mean business type of voice, "This is who we are." This was then followed by 15 seconds of music snippets from Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, The Doors, The Who, etc. After that time elapsed, the I mean business voice came back and said, "This is what we do," and then yet more snippets were played until the bump ended with the frequency, call letters and station slogan. All very simple, but the important thing to keep in mind when creating them was to carefully choose music that was representative of the station. We had to include snippets of songs that were easily recognizable and that tested well with the audience. Given that this was a classic rock station that repeated the same tunes ad nauseum this wasn't difficult, but regardless, it wouldn't do to say "This is who we are" and then follow that up with Beethoven's 4th. In a sense, you might say the bumps served as the stations signature. They let you know exactly what type of music the station played and what you could expect to hear.

Now, imagine how cool it would be if you could create a signature bump for yourself. Well, a gentleman (genius) named Jason Freeman has written a web based program called the iTunes Signature Maker allowing you to do just that. Best of all, it requires little to no effort. In fact, the program does all the work for you and in about 30 - 60 seconds. The way it works is simple, yet ingenious. Launch the program (as I said, it's all web based. No installation is necessary, although you will have to grant the java applet access to your iTunes music library by clicking yes at the prompt) and after selecting some small criteria, it will scan your library and make a music signature file for you based on what it finds. It chooses the snippets based on what tunes you play most, how high you rate them, etc... You cannot select the tracks. It will do this on its own based on the popularity of the songs in the library. Obviously, for this to work you have to have iTunes installed (and anyone who has an iPod, of course, does) as well as Java (should be installed by default, but if not your web browser will prompt you to install it once it sees it isn't there.) Other than that, you're golden.

I let the program run and it spit out a result I was absolutely thrilled with. It did a swell job with the mix, and the juxtaposition of tunes was interesting, to say the least. Upon hearing it I thought, "Perfect! This is me!! This is who I am!! This is what I do!!" Of course, all the songs in it were instantly recognizable.... to me. Almost anyone else listening to it would probably think, "Huh? What the hell? This guy's on crack." Still, have a listen and see how many of the tracks you can recognize:

Eric's iTunes Signature

(Hint: There are 17 different snippets in there and they are loosely layered - another great feature. Having somewhat obscure musical tastes won't help matters, but there's definitely
a good amount of pop. Answers at the bottom of the post.)

I'd love to hear the signatures that you guys come up with. Go ahead and throw a link up in the comments if you can host files. If you can't (and you're feeling bold) attach the file to an email and send it to eric@murkywords.com I can post it up here for all the world to see... or not. Have fun.

Signature Song List
(Note: All songs listed in the order in which they appear)

Song Title - Artist

Montana - Venus Hum
Pacific State - 808 State
Rhubarb - Aphex Twin (barely detectable)
Police On My Back - The Clash
The Worm - Jimmy McGriff
Dark & Long (Dark Train Mix) - Underworld
Brownsville Turnaround on the Tex-Mex Border - The KLF (barely detectable)
Do It Clean - Echo and the Bunnymen
The Trick Is To Keep Breathing - Garbage
Spooky - Dusty Springfield
Next Millenium - Radar
The Third Planet - Biosphere
It Could Be Sweet - Portishead (barely detectable)
Risingson - Massive Attack
Cascade - The Future Sound of London
Doin' It - LL Cool J
Nei Mari del Sud. Musica en Secca - Walter Marchetti


Blogger Tim said...

Heh, this is great! I left a tag on Sean's blog earlier today, one that was surprising. Here's a different one, sorted with a buncha different filters, as opposed to the default stuff, and it's probably more like what I'd make as a signature, for whatever that's worth. Here's what's supposedly on this one, though to me it sounds largely like one giant pile of blah:

Devendra Banhart: Mama Wolf
Spoon: I Turn My Camera On
Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra: Summer Wine
Dump: Pop Life
Broken Social Scene: Cause = Time
Slick Rick: Children's Story
Laub: Mofa
Horace Silver: Doin' The Thing
Herbie Hancock: Oh! Oh! Here He Comes
Calexico: Crystal Frontier (widescreen version)
Charles Mingus: Haitian Fight Song
Duke Ellington: Diminuendo In Blue & Crescendo In Blue
Pablo: Do What You Gotta Do
Marvin Gaye: What's Goin' On
My Bloody Valentine: Soon
Funkadelic: Maggot Brain
Luomo: Market
Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter
Joy Division: Transmission
Arcade Fire: Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

12:42 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

I don't know Tim. I kind of like yours better than mine. I was a little disheartened by the lack of jazz in mine (excepting Jimmy Smith of course), but that file is superb.

10:03 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home