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Playlists Built on Moods Rekindle Enthusiasm for Collecting Music on CD Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 July 2005
I have been buying more and more music lately after spending a good year or so trying to organize and manage the vast collection I have amassed on CD, DVD-Audio, SACD and beyond. Between iTunes and a Firewire hard drive at work, a ReQuest Fusion 250 music server at home and an iPod for the car, gym and airplane – I learned quickly that I could have massive amounts of music at my fingertips nearly everywhere I go. The question is – am I any better off for it?
Just having a massive collection of music on a storage device doesn’t mean that you are headed directly to musical heaven. You can prove my point by searching a collection of music by a genre like jazz and hitting "random". While the smooth sounds of John Coltrane and Miles Davis might just be the cure after a long day at work, the second that geeked-out fusion jazz song comes on your iPod or server, your mood is ruined.

This brings me to the idea of moods. Many of the most logical searches like Album and Genre don’t get you the desired effect – the need to program playlists becomes increasingly important and intimately personal. Recently, I have been using the ReQuest’s web browser feature to manage a number of different moods that I have started as playlists on my server. My “After Work Chill” is probably the most popular one of the group and it includes hand-selected electronic, jazzy, chill out music with an international flair. This past Fourth of July weekend, I sat down with my laptop and dedicated a good three hours to quality control on this playlist, literally rebuilding it to ensure no crappy songs that ruined my mood made the list. My original mistake was to think that you can simply drop an entire artist into a playlist and have it sound just the way you want it to. In the case of my After Work Chill list, an artist like Thievery Corporation basically defines the list. Nearly every song they remixed, wrote or song-styled made the grade. However other artists like Groove Armada didn’t make cut, despite being listed in a very similar genre. I found myself walking around this past weekend with a legal pad taking notes on songs I wanted to remove from the playlist to keep the quality control at its highest.

Beyond my After Work Chill playlist, I developed more mood-oriented lists, including “Jobim and Friends,” “Roots Rock Reggae” and “Bacara.” The last of those is named after one of my and my girlfriend's favorite mission style resort-spas in Santa Barbara. It is a gorgeous property right on the coast that has a distinctive Spanish-California mission style and is a perfect escape from Los Angeles for a long weekend. In their lobby they have live Spanish guitarists strumming compelling yet never too excitable, classically inspired tunes. It is the perfect backdrop for getting your relax on. Upon deciding I wanted to recreate their audio mood, I went searching in my collection for music that fit the bill. I had some Andres Segovia that worked, but it was lacking the depth in the category that is needed to make a playlist that can create a mood for an afternoon or a dinner party. This led me to Amazon, where I spent another few hours searching for both Spanish guitar and Brazilian jazz music to populate my Jobim and Bacara playlists. By the time I was done, I had dropped $350 mostly on CDs that were $6.99 each. What was difficult was actually finding the best music of the genre and avoiding buying the same song over and over again. Amazon’s “List Mania” was of great help, since people had taken the time to compile their favorite CDs in a genre or subgenre. What is hard to believe is that you can’t easily buy entire genres of music from record retailers or labels. If budget isn’t my first concern, why aren’t there the top 100 Brazilian jazz titles of all time for sale for, say, $899. I would pay that, especially if I could pick and choose discs so I didn’t repeat anything in my collection. While labels are so caught up in selling music by the download, they aren’t really looking at how to sell music in larger quantities for those who are looking to build large, well-organized collections.

My playlists are getting better and better and I am back to buying more and more music, as well as entire collections from private parties. My enthusiasm is renewed to collect records again, based around the idea that I listen to music differently now than I did in the audiophile days. With not enough music in high-resolution surround, there simply isn’t enough reason to sit attentively and listen to the newest, greatest record in 5.1 surround simply because few of them are released this way. With the help of my Meridian AV preamp and its excellent Trifield mode, I am able to create smooth-sounding, faux surround from my ReQuest server that truly sets the mood.

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