Thorough analysis of the collection makes a modest assessment of the contents possible. I have created two charts, which break down the collection by year and genre.
This graph can be used to develop a historical perspective on popular music. A sharp spike in the number of songs between 1963 and 1973 suggests this is the greatest period in modern music history. Although the right shoulder of the graph is broader and taller, the spikes during 1927-1928 and especially 1937-1940 may be the next most important. The robust inclusion of songs after 1980 reflects a continued quest to find great songs; the modern era of music making is characterized by great talent, with limited frontiers to create truly novel music. There are few major innovations after about 1970. In addition, older music is devoid of the electronics and perfect production techniques sapping its soul. Arhoolie Records founder and collector extraordinaire Chris Strachwitz has spent a life’s work objecting to what he calls Mouse music, the incessant polishing to make the people’s music palatable to the masses. My collection contains thousands of songs he would consider too smooth and trite, but my goal is a balanced perspective highlighting the artistry inside and outside the so-called mainstream.
I have the raw data available, but for this blog entry, it felt right to post the pie chart without the numbers. In general, the collection has grown organically to this point, though during the last couple of years I made a concerted effort to add more jazz.
Characterizing songs by one genre is simplistic. Some songs are true hybrids of classic styles. In many cases genre selection is arbitrary, and the default choice is often the general descriptor “Pop”. The genre data is still a bit sketchy, but the proportions shown are about right.
The days of growing the collection organically and without specific intent are essentially over. The search for new music will be informed by the existing data. I am motivated to add songs to categories that are slivers of the whole pie, and I don’t like the yearly breakdown spiking so sharply around 1968. The data suggests the mining of new songs will best in those less explored areas. As always, I’ll read what the experts say, give the songs a test drive, and add them if they bring breadth and artistry to the collection, and if I like them.
Poking Fun At Self
Recently, Brian Wansink and Aner Tal of Cornell University School of Applied Economics and Management, revised their study called “Blinded with science: Trivial graphs and formulas increase ad persuasiveness and belief in product efficacy”. The abstract is shown here:
“The appearance of being scientific can increase persuasiveness. Even trivial cues can create such an appearance of a scientific basis. In our studies, including simple elements, such as graphs or a chemical formula, increased belief in a medication’s efficacy. This appears to be due to the association of such elements with science, rather than increased comprehensibility, use of visuals, or recall. Belief in science moderates the persuasive effect of graphs, such that people who have a greater belief in science are more affected by the presence of graphs. Overall, the studies contribute to past research by demonstrating that even trivial elements can increase public persuasion despite their not truly indicating scientific expertise or objective support.”
This study was mentioned in a 2014 article titled “7 Ways To Fake Credibility To Build Your Confidence”, by Ms. Samantha Cole in Fast Company Magazine. The article includes this chestnut of an observation:
“Doing everything yourself isn’t a sign of masterful work ethic — it’s a symptom of mistrust, unhealthy perfectionism, and a precursor to burnout.”
— Samantha Cole
It’s not easy for an introvert to let others help do the work, nor do I have the resources to pay for an assistant. This project evolved from a desire to create something of value using my knowledge, and strengths as a “table maker” and lifetime music enthusiast. The last nine months of poring through the data was taxing, and perhaps no one could do it exactly the way I wanted it done. The point of the exercise is to report the perspective of one person who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the sixties and seventies, so I could analyze my own biases, and slowly reveal a diverse list of recommended songs. I resist the temptation to produce the full list, as I hope it has market value as an appendix. The next step is to write a well researched essay on how I built the collection, and how to best build your own — building the perfect iPod collection. In addition, I will develop a variety of descriptive lists to highlight various aspects of the collection. For instance, favorite albums, or favorite solos.
The data and methodology aren’t scientific, but the sample is large enough that I can tell a good story. Most of all, the music soars and makes me feel wonderful.
The Perfect iPod Collection blog is more or less complete. I will modify some existing posts to reflect the current song listings, and edit selected posts for content and grammar. If I can figure out how, I may recirculate a few of my favorite posts to the top of the stack.
The quest for new music is unquenchable, and soon I’ll return to reading reviews and adding songs. I am particularly keen on adding more traditional songs from both foreign and domestic sources, and finding classic versions of much beloved standards. I doubt it will be an all-encompassing activity like the last few years. I’m ready for a more balanced existence, with a chance to devote time and energy to the next big thing.