When he’s choosing your music for you, Carl Chery, 37, is in Culver City, California, sitting at his desk in an office with no signage, trying to decide whether Drake and Future’s “Jumpman” (jumpman, jumpman, jumpman) has jumped the shark. Or sometimes he’s at home in his one-bedroom apartment on the border of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, walking around in his living room with new Gucci Mane blasting from a Beats Pill. Or at the gym going for a morning run on the treadmill, thinking about your gym and your treadmill, listening through headphones for changes in tempo and tone: Will this song push you through the pain? Is that one too long on the buildup?So how does this work?
Try any of the major music streaming services today and you’ll find variations on a common theme: thousands of ready-made playlists (“Rich Girl Pop,” “Inspired by Jeff Buckley,” “Songs to Sing in the Shower”) for every conceivable genre, activity, or mood. In the two years since the Beats acquisition, three of the largest services, including Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music (and smaller ones like Tidal and Rhapsody, too), have increasingly relied on these playlists to accomplish two important goals at once: 1) helping users inundated by a catalog of more than 30 million songs more easily find the ones they actually want, and 2) creating difference in a market where everyone has more or less the same goods.Ok, well, none of those precisely fit what I want to listen to... What I need is something like "Music to accompany a furtive meditation on humility" or "Something with a lot of hemiola" or "Dyspeptic music while reading the news about the latest jihadist attack in Europe" or "Something with just a touch of transcendence plus some rhythmic verve." Surely in 30 million songs this should be easy? No? Is it because most of those 30 million songs display a dreary backbeaten sameness? Oh, right.
The thing is, I know fairly well how to find good music, and avoiding streaming services is probably a good place to start. Hey, I think I qualify as a "veteran music nerd" (how these professionals are described), but I am probably the last person to be hired to help choose playlists. This is what I might come up with for my last category: "Something with just a touch of transcendence plus some rhythmic verve:"
- Mozart, Symphony No. 41, last movement
- Bach, Dona nobis pacem from the Mass in B minor
- Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians
- Prokofiev, Symphony No. 5
- Giovanni Gabrieli - Canzon XVI for 12 Parts
Hey, let's have a listen to that last one for our envoi: