Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Pandora's BoxiPad

Even her. With a complete context of bluegrass music. What isn't in Pandora?

DISTRACTIONS. If you're not forty-ish or over, go away. You already know about this. Though maybe not its tremendous brilliance and depth. I'm talking about the internet radio application called Pandora (thanks, Marge). It reminds me of The Boomer Bible. It's a mirror. Depending on who you are, it 's just a convenience, a way to hear the music you loved when you were young. But if you're curious and alive, it's a continuously expansive wonder, an opportunity for entertaining education on a grand, perhaps even encyclopedic scale. I think it's the single greatest computer application since PhotoShop, but we all know I'm no longer to be trusted on technology matters. My wife has to program my cellphone for me. Thirty years in the computer business just plain wore out in my case. I'm obsolete. Why this post is aimed at people exactly like me. Aging men who don't see what all the consarned excitement there is about devices like the iPad. I'm thinking, for example, of the commenter who said he'd read the humor books I recommended but no longer wanted to read anything or have anything to do with anything MSM-ish except reruns of the good old TV series like, well, I forget which ones, but you get my point.

Some of you cranks have laptops. Fine. I'm assuming a start from Ground Zero instead, just to show you the minimum price of admission. One iPad, $399. One aftermarket speaker set with subwoofer and a jack that plugs into the earpiece hole, $49.99. Speakers like this are highly directional, but they're good and if you put your shoeless socks on the floor, you can feel the bass beat. Oh. Yes. The Pandora internet radio application. Free.

Reward? Infinite. Can't listen to radio anymore? You get to define your own radio stations by entering the name of a performer, song, or composer. Wikipedia calls it a limitation that you don't automatically get any of these when you start playing your station. They're wrong. What you get is a radio station. That's the magic of it. You are listening to radio. The songs you hear are closely related in some way to what you asked for, but the relation can be temporaneous, historical, antecedent, or derivative. You can skip ahead or object via thumbs down to a song on your station you don't think belongs, yet you're discouraged from doing so because for each and every song played, you get a history of the artist(s), which amounts to an invitation to an education in the music you most like. Wow.

Whatever music you like, it's all here. Researching this post, I've defined stations for the Rolling Stones (thanks, Dave), and, uh, gasp, here goes: Ronnie Spector, Puccini, Miles Davis, Tom Waits, Mozart, Bonnie Tyler, Doris Day, Johnny Cash, Edith Piaf, Hazel Dickens, Robert Johnson, Benny Goodman, Gorecki, Bernard Herrman, the Supremes, Bush, Sinatra, Smokey Robinson, and even a little known composer of Gregorian chants. They're all there.

On the iPad, you get to read everyone's biographies, from Beethoven to Bush. And the copy is well written, usually longer than the song being played.It's not deep in real musicology, but it's invaluable in delineating webs of influence, prior, contemporary, and lasting. What I can't list is all the names and works that show up on each station, filling in a context we all know is always there -- who influenced who when and why this song is related to the last -- but after a day of exploring this thing seriously for the first time, I can report that my mind is seriously blown. I love it.

No matter when you were a kid, get it.

No matter what genre you love, get it.

No matter how pissed off you are and think nothing can ever restore your soul, get it.

The sound quality is absolutely magnificent. Youtube is no substitute. Just make sure you spend the $50 bucks for decent speakers.

You ladies saddled with nasty old men like me can file your thanks in the usual place, the Comments section.

The rest of you? Sorry. It take us longer to catch up. But some of us are trying.

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