The Music Explorer’s Toolkit

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PinonMusicWith an open mind and passion for music, the act of discovering new styles and artists can be an enthralling experience; it provides a wonderful opportunity to step outside of our musical boundaries and explore all sorts of sounds that we weren’t even aware of prior. However, without the proper tools, this process can be relatively difficult considering how broad and expansive the world of music is. Websites such as Pandora and Spotify exist to help us, but there is only so much they can do; unless used to their absolute fullest potential, they tend to be quite limited and mostly provide musical discovery experiences that cater to the “comfort zones” of their users. That’s why I would like to present you three websites that, when used in conjunction with one another, can take you on a sonic adventure like you’ve never experienced before.

Every Noise at Once is a project by Glenn McDonald which makes use of algorithms from The Echo Nest, a music intelligence system which provides its services to clients such as VEVO and Spotify, to generate comprehensive Spotify playlists known as “ENtros” for well over a thousand different musical genres. The home page provides options to “scan” all of them, which shuffles through representative tracks from each genre’s playlist, as well as an option that lists all of the genres for more independent exploration. The genres are grouped together based more on acoustic similarities than actual historical ties to each other, so it’s easy to find a style that’s entirely foreign to you right near one you’re actually familiar with. (ex. Japanese R&B and “drill and bass” next to pop as opposed to, say, rock and jazz). This is extremely ideal for finding new styles, but that’s not all! Every Noise also contains subsections including, but not limited to, A Retromatic History of Music, which follows the genres throughout the years from 1950 to the present, The Spotify New-Release Sorting Hat, which groups together records released this week (or whatever week in which you happen to be viewing the site) and Genres by Country, which does precisely what its name suggests. On its own, Every Noise at Once is quite a sufficient tool for music discovery when used properly, something I’ll get to shortly.

Neverending Playlist essentially involves the same concept as Every Noise, except it uses individual artists rather than genres and makes use of YouTube rather than Spotify. It’s as straightforward as it gets: type in the name of an artist and the site will create a YouTube playlist based on it. This can be used whenever you happen to be in the mood to listen to a certain artist you’re familiar with, but it’s particularly useful for exploring the catalog of one that you recently found out about and would like to hear more from. Unfortunately, music owned by Warner Music Group has been blocked on the site, so you may be better off with sites such as Pandora or Grooveshark for major label artists. Lesser known acts, though, shouldn’t be a problem. While Neverending Playlists does have a feature that recommends artists similar to the one you’re listening to, there happens to be a website solely dedicated to that known as Music Map. Much like with Neverending Playlist, using the interface is as simple as typing in an artist’s name. This will cause the website to generate a web of other acts that are acoustically similar. Now, both of these websites seem as if they’re meant to cater to the “comfort zone”, but they can also be powerful tools of music discovery when used alongside other sites.

So how can you use Every Noise at Once, Neverending Playlist and Music Map in conjunction to create the ultimate music exploration experience? First, use Every Noise to find a genre. Any genre will do, as long as you aren’t thoroughly familiar with it already. How about some “Eurovision” or “electroclash”? Take a good deal of time to listen to that genre’s respective ENtro and make mental notes of artists in the playlist that seem particularly interesting to you. Then, listen to more of those artists’ work through Neverending Playlist in order to become more familiar with them. Afterwards, visit Music Map to find other artists that you may like. Repeat the steps of this process as you see fit, and enjoy your magnificent adventure through the bountiful, expansive world of music!

Jonathan Pinon is a senior at Verona High School who performs with the Marching Maroon & White, Concert Band and Verona Jazz & Beyond. This piece first appeared in “The Fairviewer”, the student news Web site at Verona High School. 

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