Friday, November 2, 2018

the shaping of my iTunes collection

Music is a personal indulgence.  Most of us like music.  Makes work more bearable, makes leisure more enjoyable, makes exercise less boring.  Dancing, singing and relaxing make us happy.  One's preferences are personal, but inevitably there is overlap with others. A few tips and some of the processes that led me to some music.

Previously I did a blog on how my music collection habits have changed over the past 60 years.  Most people of my age have undergone one variation or another of the same process.  It seems it is human nature to collect music and for over a century we have had the technical means.  Musicians (amateurs and professionals) could just play and/or had access to sheet music in previous eras but us ordinary listeners (and dancers) had to rely on actual musicians to get our enjoyment.  The technology has changed from phonographs, 8 track, reel to reel tape, cassettes, CD's and online streaming.   Read more:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/02/pondering-whatever-happened-to-my-old.html

At my stage in life I am hoping to be in final format, but realize that is subject to unforeseen events.   I am evolving in my methodology and would welcome suggestions.  Some would find my thoughts too mechanistic while others would notice I am not as technologically resourceful as possible,   Almost everyone would have different tastes, but if you go deep there are commonalities.  Tastes vary with history, gender, age, etc.

Music was very important when I was a teenager, but passing into my young adult years it was more of a background to working and parenting.  Became more focused on politics and news which is mostly depressing, but useful for social/business. Music relaxes one while the world brings a lot of stress.  Sometimes one can feel a sense of awe.  It can get your blood pumping. 

The challenge is what to include and by definition what not to include.  There are millions of pieces of music and undoubtedly something so far unheard might crowd out some of my current favorites, but no mortal human has the opportunity to listen to them all.  In reality it takes a few listens to evaluate any piece and I confess some of my favorites were not initially even liked.  Songs get over used, time presses us so we don't really listen,, saturation.  One's moods are subject to wide variations.  Too much repetition and your favorite song is boring.  How to make old favorites seem fresh?

We can transfer CDs' at no cost, use library services, free, but with limitations and promotional services, including tourist sites for free and you can pay.  iTunes offers a fair system of paying and my conscience always tugs at me, especially with relatively unknown musicians  I have looked at old record albums as reminders of what to search for.  Reading newspapers, books, magazines, online information can all lead to something enjoyable.

Using free services often means the composer and lyricist are missing.  I like to know that partly because they make a nice logical listening grouping and also  helps to research other songs.  Google is helpful when starting with the song title or even some of the lyrics.  I have also identified songs that I only knew a few words.

My tastes have evolved, but without forgoing everything in the past.  I love variety.  Although some might call me "weird" I take comfort in the notion that those with interest in a wider variety of musical genres are more open minded.   iTunes offers a shuffle feature which keeps reminding unexpected pleasant memories.  Constantly remembering old songs that have deep personal identification with--songs popular when among friends and with youthful courting   Investors are recommended to spread their money around the world to reduce risk why not listen to foreign music to spread enjoyment?.  Discovering new music is fun.

Trying to find old favorites is challenging.  Many songs are in different formats and for some reason not accessible.  Other songs are ones I heard as a youth, but although can remember little snatches can't recall the title.  Google and YouTube were useful for finding songs.

With all the choices what is needed is a filing system so you can find what you want when you want.  iTunes offers a rating system and a lot of flexibility.   Using *** rating merely means a selection is in my possession, but seldom listened to, except seasonally for Christmas and otherwise only when the mood is right.  **** rating is what I listen to, the most wide ranging often pleasantly surprising.  When I want my favorites they are ***** and I can manipulate them to the most listened to list.--there are times when I just have to listen to a favorite performer, composer or genre, all of which overlap.  I have adjusted the number in the two top categories.  10% of the most commonly heard are the ones I count on.  That number is much larger than the listed 25 most listened to.  I don't want to listen to the same tune all the time as if it is really the best it still needs some contrast--variety is still the spice of life.

Languages are used as genres, even when there is a wide range of musical styles.  I now have over 15 different languages.  Some of the more substantial ones include French, Italian, Tamil, Hindi, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese (mostly from Brazil), Maori and of course English.

Julieta Venegas was first heard when watching a Mexican movie.  I was so taken with a song and had great difficulty in tracing it.  iTunes did not carry it, although she was popular with many albums.  I eventually used YouTube with their movie clips to find her song and was able to transfer it.  She is Mexican, but it turns out she was born in  California and popular on both sides of the border.  I didn't realize that like a lot of singers she accompanies herself with an instrument, and it is not (usually) a guitar or piano, but the accordion.  Creates a different sound and she makes it captivating.

 Shakthisree Gopalan was discovered from a Facebook clip.  I was slow to catch on that she was singing in Tamil, a song written by A R Rahman.  Largely because of her I build up a selection of Tamil songs including other singers, but she is still my favorite.  She has also sung in English, Hindi, Malaylam and Telegu.  The original song is my most listened to on iTunes.  While in New Zealand I stumbled on an Indian restaurant showing videos and they were kind enough to put on her song.





Arijit Singh is fairly recent.  The first time I heard him was through a movie I enjoyed, only part of which was his song and the credit was a bit misleading.  Not too long after I stumbled on more of his songs and learned he was much sought after.  I attended one of his concerts which was way too loud for my tastes as I know him as a mellow nuanced singer with delicate arrangements.   I have come to appreciate he is now in such demand that a lot of the movies he sings for are not particularly good. 



Ricchi e Poveri (the rich and the poor) goes back to when I decided to trace my wife's Italian family tree.  I took a course briefly in Italian, but soon got too busy for that.   I thought it would be fun to listen to popular Italian music (as well as opera).  There was a record album at the library and I liked it right away.  There weren't too many other records through the local library, but I soon discovered an Italian music store and bought a number of albums and cassettes.  I have other Italian performers, but Ricchi e Poveri stand out and in fact is my most popular pop group in any language.  An Italian colleague at work reminded me of some other Italian performers.

My experience with Bollywood started like most of you.  I came across it while channel surfing even before remotes were available.  Mostly I skipped over instances of Bollywood quickly as just too weird to take seriously.  As I got older I developed an interest in foreign movies and my sister Rebecca suggested one title, "Lagaan" and I saw it through enjoying the story of the film.  A little later on I watched another movie I read about "Kal ho naa Ho" and was really sucked in.  In each case I stumbled over a top Bollywood composer, A. R. Rahman and a team Shankar-Ehassan-Loy.  Looking back each movie also included one of my all time favorite songs.  I had always liked musical theatre and more recently opera because emotions are brought out by the music.  Bollywood (and some Indian offshoots) are the biggest component of my music.  My daughter knowing my interest in Bollywood sent me Facebook rendition of a Justin Bieber parody that got my attention.

The  South American continent plus Mexico and Cuba have an awful lot of attractive music, split between Spanish and Portuguese. Pictured on the left is Adriana Calconhotto, a Brazilian with a soft touch..

My French music is dominated by Quebeckers like Celine Dion and Coeur de Pirate with a few from continental France like Charles Aznavour and Carla Bruni.  .

I have broken genres into more categories than are offered.  Classical is separated into piano, cello, bassoon, choral  and opera  iTunes can pick up some request from other fields--one problem was with chants--a lot of French female singers are called chanteuses and although I like them too, they are not Gregorian chanters so I have had to find another genre term.  iTunes allow double genres listings which allow the same musical piece to show up on two (or more) lists.

Like most music lovers I like what I like.  Without getting too technical it seems the more one understands the more one appreciates.  read an interview with Ehsaan Noorani that discussed a bit about their methodology--work with lyricist and jam--one not particularly popular song was discussed in more detail about how they brought in outside musicians to create a bluesy mood--that led me to listen more carefully and came to appreciate the artistry.

My son has been in Korea and I developed an interest in Korean movies that carried over to some music.  He now is in New Zealand- one of my favorite opera singers has been Kiri te Kanawa who also did an album of Maori songs that I copied but unable to transfer it I bought the album on iTunes. I discovered Bic Runga, Sons of Zion, Fat Freddy Drop and a few other odds and ends

Randomness appeals to me except I sometimes become impatient and obsessed with one genre, one singer or one composer (they overlap)--that is how new favorites get attention. Shuffle is a solution.  At the same time I get in different moods including nostalgia.

Movies are where traditional composers are most often found.  They are well trained and I find a lot suitable for me.  A bonus is that sometimes the music reminds me of the movie.  The music is adapted to the dictates of the story, but there is room for creativity.  Movies are a big source of music, partly because a lot of original music is written, but also because they borrow from other sources.  If I like the movie, the music helps me remember, one of my biggest concerns.  Television themes--one of favorite series was the British "Line of Duty" written by a Hamiltonian, Carly Paradis.

I was once very turned on by a rock version by the Left Banke of "Don't Walk Away Renee", but when I searched for it I came up with a flute version that turns out to be very relaxing.  Later I found the first version and bought it.  Neil Sedaka  made a famous transition with "Breaking up is Hard to Do" from a rocking teenage hit to a more mature ballad--both are enjoyable depending on your mood.

The convenience of an online collection means I do not have a physical clutter, but more mental. Again suggestions are more than welcome. 

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